Sometimes, an age rating believed to be incorrect can cause backlash, confusion, outrage, and/or ridicule. This is an incomplete (and constantly growing) list of age rating decisions that were considered controversial when originally announced.
You may list decisions of any type of media.
Note that this is not based off personal opinion - age rating decisions that led to online backlash from fans, made the news, etc. should be posted here, not just any age rating you think is incorrect.
Adult Swim Edit
- FLCL - A newspaper "Your Voice" column in Tacoma, Washington published a complaint from a mother over the show's TV-PG rating. Various anime message boards expressed distaste and backlash towards the mother, partially because her information was incorrect. While some television guides did list the show as TV-PG, Adult Swim's actual broadcast was rated TV-14.
- The Walking Dead - The Parents Television Council repeated complained about the show's TV-14 rating in its early seasons due to its level of violence and profanity. After the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, AMC rerated the show TV-MA.
- The Walking Dead - The Parents Television Council condemned the premier of season 7 due to level of violence that is shown in the new episode, the council demanded a new TV rating that shows that it is more violent then other TV-MA shows.
- Black Swan - The BBFC received 40 complaints in 2011 about the film's 15 certificate; the majority of complaints were over a lesbian sex scene that complainants thought was more appropriate at an 18 rating.
- Crash (1996) - After the BBFC passed the film uncut at 18, the Daily Mail published an article the next day claiming they had passed a "depraved sex film." The BBFC decision was overruled in Westminster, where the film was banned.
- The Dark Knight - The BBFC received 364 complaints in 2008 about the film's 12A/12 rating due to the level of violence/threat. The Daily Mail launched a (failed) campaign to get the BBFC to change the rating.
- Jack Reacher - The most complained about film to the BBFC in 2013 with 26 complaints due to parents thinking the film was too violent/sadistic for a 12A/12 rating.
- Minions - A significant amount of complaints from parents occurred due to a scene in which the minions play with a noose that appeared in both the U-rated film and trailers.
- Mr. Turner - A shot of "clenching buttocks" during a moderate sex scene received 19 complaints saying it was too strong for a 12A/12 rating.
- Mrs. Doubtfire - There was significant controversy over the film being originally rated 12 (there was no 12A category at the time), as theaters talked about turning away "hundreds of tearful family groups." Some local authorities overturned the BBFC rating and awarded it a PG certificate. A cut version was rated PG and released in theaters again several months later.
- Paddington - The film's PG rating surprised the original author, which several news outlets such as The Guardian reported on. A number of parents also complained the decision was 'overprotective'.
- The Secret World of Alex Mack - An article on Digital Spy explained the bizarre 15 rating for this children's series, which the BBFC explained was due to a scene where the main character hides inside a tumble drier.
- Spectre - The most complained about film to the BBFC with 40 complaints, who felt that the brutality in the film (including an implied eye-gouging) was too much for the 12A/12 certificate.
- Sweet Sixteen - The film's use of very strong language led to its 18 certificate, a decision criticized by the general public as too harsh. In Inverclyde and Scotland, the BBFC decision was overruled and the film was rated 15 in theaters.
- Watership Down - Complained about several times every year since its release by the BBFC due to its level of violence/intensity for a U rating; the head of the BBFC has said if the film were resubmitted today it would be reclassified PG.
- The Woman in Black - 134 complaints were filed by parents who thought the film was too scary for a 12A/12 rating, which led to the BBFC rewriting their rules on horror at categories lower than 15.
Central Board of Film Classification (India) Edit
- The Jungle Book (2016) - The board was ridiculed for giving the film a U/A rating based off its frightening content. The film's music composer spoke publicly, saying it was simply "the times" which led to the film's U/A certificate.
- 2048: Read Only Memories - An enhanced version of the original Read Only Memories was rerated T after the original was rated M, despite multiple instances of the F-word appearing in-game. After complaints, the ESRB changed the rating back to an M.
- Bully - Notorious anti-violent video game figure Jack Thompson complained about the T rating, calling it a "nuisance" and "Columbine simulator", to the point of attempting to get the game banned in Florida as a public nuisance. The judge ruled in favor of the game.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - After the game was rerated M due to the discovery of more violence and topless graphics hidden in the game, a number of articles were written criticizing the modders and questioning how far the ESRB could go classifying content that was technically inaccessible in-game. (see full explanation on Wikipedia)
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - After the "Hot Coffee" mod was discovered, the ESRB was accused of deception and not rating the content in the game properly, despite being unaware of the game's content level. On the contrary, there were some who felt an AO rating for a cartoonish, fully-clothed depiction of sexual intercourse was taking things too far.
- Grand Theft Auto V - Several articles have been published claiming the game should have been rated AO, as it is widely considered to be one of the most explicit console games ever released.
- Halo - Widely considered to be too tame for an M rating due to its low level of blood and general impact being significantly lower than other M-rated games. Halo 5 was the first game in the series to receive the T rating.
- Hatred - Many complaints said that the game was rated AO simply for marketing, as the violence appeared to them to be no more graphic than M-rated games in the past, and the merciless killing theme had been permitted in the M-rated Postal series.
- Mass Effect - A Fox News report claimed the game contained "full digital nudity and sex" and should have received an AO rating. A game expert argued that the reality of the scenes was "the side of an alien boob" part of a small sexual situation. This fits more with the BBFC description of the game, rating it '12' for "moderate violence and a moderate sex scene".
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies - The first game in the series to receive an M rating, which caused confusion due to it appearing to contain the same content as previous T-rated games. (It is possible the 3D increased the impact for the ESRB.) Further controversy/confusion was caused by the game receiving a PG rating by the Australian OFLC, indicating that the content level was widely considered to be the same as previous games.
- Soldier of Fortune - In a very rare occurrence, the Canadian province of Ontario overrode the ESRB rating and awarded the game their own "Restricted" rating, as they felt the extreme violence was too much for minors to have access to.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl - One of the most complained about ESRB decisions of all time; many consumers were confused by the T rating considering the game only featured mild cartoon violence and featured popular children's characters such as Mario and Pikachu. It is important to note, though, that the game was ultimately rated T for the realistic graphics and some of the darker scenes in the story mode.
Kodansha Comics Edit
- Shugo Chara! - Manga Bookshelf reviewer Melinda Beasi repeatedly expressed confusion in both columns about manga for children and reviewing the series about the 13+ rating on the books, which she claimed alienated the younger readers the series was aimed at.
Ministry of Culture (France) Edit
- Blue is the Warmest Color - The film lost its operating visa after a Paris court ruled the 12 rating was inappropriate, as the film contained "realistic sex scenes likely to offend the sensibilities of a young audience."
- Sausage Party - A Christian values group challenged the 12 rating for the film, claiming it aimed to corrupt minors. A French court upheld the 12 rating, claiming the sexual scenes were highly separated from reality in that they were being acted out by animated food.
Ministry of Culture (Portugal) Edit
- Lingeries - A hardcore adult title originally released with a "12" rating due to the ratings board being misled into thinking it was a regular animated title. Made major news in Portugal.
- Momiji - A hardcore adult title originally released with a "6" rating due to the ratings board being misled into thinking it was a regular animated title. Made major news in Portugal.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- Boyhood - The IFC Center chose to ignore the R rating the MPAA gave the film (primarily due to its strong language), allowing "high school age patrons at our discretion" to see the film.
- Bully (2011) - Widespread backlash for the MPAA occurred due to the film receiving an R rating for strong language, despite the language being used in a nonfiction school setting showing how bullying is happening in schools. An edited version with three F-words was rated PG-13, which caused backlash from the Parents Television Council, as they considered this the MPAA "caving" and allowing R-rated material in a PG-13.
- Dumb and Dumber To - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- Frozen - A writer for Forbes wrote an article using the film to criticize the PG rating as a whole, claiming that just a short time ago it would have been rated G.
- G.B.F. - A number of news outlets reported on the outcry over the film's R rating, claiming it was based entirely off the homosexual themes in the film.
- Gremlins - Caused complaints from parents due to it being considered too intense for the PG rating. Was one of the films that led to the invention of the PG-13 rating.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- Iron Man 3 - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- The King's Speech - The MPAA was criticized for giving the film an R rating over a single scene where a man with a speech impediment discovers he does not stutter when he uses strong language.
- Men in Black 3 - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- Spectre - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - A lawsuit against the MPAA claimed the X rating violated New York state law on organizations applying standards arbitrarily. The jury were shown clips from various R-rated films the distributor accused of being more graphic than the X-rated Tie Me Up!. However, the jury upheld the X rating for the film.
- Transformers: Age of Extinction - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- Watchmen - Various Christian media outlets reported on the faith-based media ministry known as Movieguide filing a complaint with the MPAA claiming the film should have been rated NC-17.
- Whale Rider - Despite being widely considered a family-friendly film, it received a PG-13 over brief sight of a bong. Roger Ebert was the biggest criticizer of this decision, as his quote about taking kids to see the film was demanded to be removed from advertising by the MPAA.
- The Woman in Black - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past - Cited in a lawsuit about smoking in films rated lower than R leading to smoking-related deaths.
- Yoga Hosers - The film's initial R rating received backlash, as according to director Kevin Smith the rating was simply because of a drawing of a cartoon penis. Rerated PG-13 on appeal.
OFLC (Australia) Edit
- Azumanga Daioh (volume 1) - The distributor released a public statement about their surprise of receiving an MA15+ rating for adult themes. Many anime fans have ridiculed this decision, considering Azumanga is typically considered a family-friendly series and was classified much lower everywhere else. A post on Reddit's anime subreddit ridiculing the decision received over 2,000 upvotes.
- Atelier Totori Plus: The Adventurer of Arland - A significant amount of confusion occurred due to the R18+ rating for "references to sexual violence", considering the original release of the game only received a PG rating.
- Bully - Media outlets in Australia reported on education minister Carmel Tebbutt planning to ask the government to review the game's M rating, encouraging parents to protect their children from being exposed to the game. However, no review ended up happening. In New Zealand, however, the publication was restricted to those of 13 years and above.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - The Australian Council on Children and the Media called for the MA15+ rating for the game to be reviewed, particularly for the game's depictions of terrorism, however decided not to submit a review for the game's rating in the end.
- Dead or Alive: Dimensions - The initial PG rating came under fire, with several news outlets publishing reports the game was "child porn" and had been banned in Sweden. The Review Board rerated the game with an M.
- Dragon Ball: Origins - The game's PG rating was revoked and initial copies recalled due to the OFLC's discovery of sexual references in the game not disclosed by Atari Australia. Rerated M for "sexual references".
- Embrace - Initially classified MA15+ for "strong nudity", which made news outlets in Australia due to the director being "shocked and outraged" by the rating, claiming the film was important for young people to see due to its theme of body positivity. Was classified M on appeal.
- Fable - A complaint was made by the Queensland Premier about the game's M rating, due to what the complainant interpreted as promotion of violence against women.
- Fallout 3 - The game was initially banned by the OFLC on account of power-ups determined to be too similar to drug use, a decision widely criticized by gamers. A modified version was classified MA15+.
- Fifty Shades of Grey - The most complained about film to the OFLC in 2015 with 18 complaints, all of which said the MA15+ category was too low due to the film's sexual themes.
- Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure - Initially classified MA15+, however the severe backlash from various Australian councils led to the decision being reviewed and the game being refused classification.
- Hannibal - Initially classified MA15+ and rerated R18+ after complaints from Christian groups over the film's level of violence. The film was again reclassified MA15+ in 2009.
- Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number - The decision to refuse classification to the game due to a brief scene of sexual violence came under fire. Classified R16 uncut in New Zealand.
- Land of the Lost - The most complained about film to the OFLC in 2009 with 39 complaints, all of which said the sexual references and language were too much for the PG rating.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (volume 1) - The MA15+ rating for "strong sexual themes" was a surprise to the distributor, considering initial advertisements had promoted the series with an expected PG rating, which led to backlash from disappointed young anime fans.
- We Dare - The Ministry for Home Affairs and Justice submitted an appeal for the OFLC to reconsider their PG rating on the game, however the decision remained. A campaign was started by Collective Shout to stop the game from being sold in Australia, however was unsuccessful.
OFLC (New Zealand) Edit
- Gal*Gun - Double Peace: The decision to ban the game was controversial among gamers and was reported on by multiple news outlets. Despite the game being passed uncensored in neighboring Australia as R18+, New Zealand's OFLC ruled it contained "the promotion/support of sexual exploitation of children and young persons" and "the use of coercion in the relation of sexual conduct."
- Into the River - Complaints were made about the book's explicit content, leading to the unique R14 classification to be used. The Auckland Libraries organization resubmitted the book to change the R14 classification, claiming it was making it more difficult to access the book and negatively impacted use of the book as a teaching resource. The book was briefly banned during this reclassification process. It was then reclassified Unrestricted by majority vote, despite the president of the Board of Review feeling it deserved an R18.
- Life of Brian - Similar to other countries, the R16 rating from the OFLC resulted in controversy, as Christian groups felt the film should be banned on account of blasphemy.
- Irreversible - The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards criticized the decision to award the film an R18 on appeal with no additional restrictions, as they considered the film homophobic and containing hate speech. The decision was upheld in review.
- Puni Puni Poemy - Banned in New Zealand due to what was determined to be "sexual exploitation of children", causing backlash on the distributor's message boards. Was classified uncut with an MA15+ in Australia. A fan of the series submitted an appeal, however it was rejected. All documents and information related to the classification by said fan can be seen here.
- Suicide Squad - Complaints from parents in New Zealand let to the film, originally cross-rated from Australia as M, being reviewed by the New Zealand ratings board and rerated R13.
- Castle Crushers - A number of parents' magazines and complaint articles about PEGI have complained about the game's 16 rating despite its very cartoony and mild violence.
- Mass Effect - The decision to give the game an 18 rating was ridiculed due to the BBFC giving the game a 12 rating.
- Rule of Rose - After exaggerated reports claimed the game contained themes of sadomasochism and child torture, PEGI was criticized by several media outlets for giving the game a 16 rating. PEGI referred to the reports as "nonsense", however this controversy led to the European release of the game being canceled.
- We Dare - After trailers suggested the game had a sexually explicit nature, PEGI was criticized by several media outlets for giving the game a 12 rating. Once the game was actually released, players found that the games were much more mild than advertised and the 12 rating was appropriate.