Shocked At The Movies

I don’t usually watch Rated R comedies. Well, except for the times when I do. Like just recently. Then I remember why I don’t watch Rated R comedies.

I didn’t make this a strict rule for my life. It’s more of a general guideline. For some reason, as soon as I start making rules I want to break them. They’re like a siren song beckoning me to the rocks.

In the past few years, the “Restricted” rating has become progressively unrestricted. It’s one thing to have the freedom to break new ground and it’s another thing to default to the shock factor for cheap laughs. It’s the latter that many times takes the place of genuine humor.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a few genuinely funny parts in this particular movie.

But overall, it reminded me of why I’m hesitant to watch Rated R comedies.

Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m becoming a prude. I mean, kicking a guy in the crotch is one thing but a scene showing a man fully nude as a joke? That’s not funny or clever, it’s just trying to cash in on the shock factor. I don’t remember exactly when we started equating raunchy with funny but now I’m stuck with images I can’t unsee.

My therapist will be hearing about this one.

I’m not a fan of using a bunch of rules to determine “clean living”. But staying away from Rated R comedies has proved to be a pretty good boundary for me. But what I also realize is what works for me, may not work for everyone. I know some people who do extensive research before even watching a PG-13 movie. I know others who stay away from movies all together. I can respect both of those decisions.

But the difference between a rule and a boundary is when you break a rule, you have to suffer punishment and when you cross a boundary, you experience a consequence.

Rules set an external standard and boundaries set an internal standard.

I’m not going to punish myself for watching that movie. Becoming intimately acquainted with a naked man against my will was enough of a consequence for me to learn my lesson.


Question: How do you make decisions about the movies you watch?

[photo: Sarah_Ackerman Creative Commons]

  • Steve Martin

    That is an excellent rule, Tony.

    You can get plenty of filth on any channel at just about any time of the day.

    What is routinely on tv today would have been unthinkable to air 40 years ago.

    And then to have to pay to see more of it, and worse…no thanks.

    Turner Classic movies for me.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      It’s actually more of a boundary, Steve. Like I said in the article, if it was a rule I would be tempted to break it all the time. I differentiate a rule from a boundary in relation to punishment and consequences, respectively.

  • Matt @ The Church of No People

    There are lots of movies I wish I hadn’t seen, just because they were not worth the time they took away from me. I’m finding myself to be a lot pickier than I used to be about how I spend two hours.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Yeah, I have to be pickier these days. Partially because of the stuff I just don’t want to have to see and partially because I have to guard my free time.

  • Christy McFerren

    Ha ha, I bet I know which R Rated Comedy you were unfortunate enough to witness! I got the same consequence stuck in my head. Ew.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Yeah…sorry for the reminder. :/

  • Moe

    I have been criticized for watching “The Walking Dead”. Some say that this is a “demonic” show and such. Yet, the same person that says this watches R and NR movies that include nudity, and soft porn. I scratch my head and go drink some coffee (not worth getting into a fist fight over this).

    If I know a movie contains nudity, I want to stay away from it. I don’t mind blood, gore, and a movie where coffee is being spilled (oh the horrors). But I know how much my flesh is attracted by the beauty of the female anatomy. The mind is a powerful thing and those images can be dangerous. I don’t push my boundary to other people, but I expect people to understand them.

    * I have watched Game of Thrones, which I love, but their nudity and sexual scenes have really bothered me. Since I watched season 1 on Apple TV and season 2 on HBO app, I had the capacity to skip those scenes.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Such a great point, Moe. We each have different things that prick our conscious more than others. I totally agree with you on the nudity part, including male nudity!

      I tried to watch Game of Thrones but I just couldn’t get into it.

      • Moe

        oh no. I don’t mind male nudity at all. ( I keed, I keed) LOL.

      • Shalom

        I can say the same thing for True Blood. Though it’s not a movie but a TV series and from what I hear it has a lot of sex scenes. That is enough of a turn-off for me.

  • Devan

    Great article Tony! Tripp and I are definitely the ones who google movies before we see them, because well, we don’t want to be shocked or left feeling violated at the expense of just not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. I think everyone should have a plan when it comes to mainstream media, what they will and will not watch, but more than anything, know themselves well enough to know what is and isn’t beneficial for them. What I take away from your article the most is just that. Everything is permissible but not all things are beneficial!

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Exactly. Great thoughts on this, Devan. I used to have no filter at all with movies. I realize it even more now when I watch old movies that I used to love and I think, “Wow, this was my favorite movie?”

      It’s a heart thing though. It’s not about living by rules but living by the Spirit inside of me.

  • Sundi Jo Graham

    I can related. I went with my boyfriend to watch “Ted” and felt so guilty for not getting up and leaving in the middle of the movie. I had to repent for sure and remember why I don’t see rated R movies.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      I know that feeling, Sundi. For whatever reason, the rated R thing affects me most with comedies. Mostly because they depend on shock factor and raunchiness, rather than actually being clever. It’s like comedies have regressed into grade school and the more gross or offensive, the more funny they think it is.

      Or maybe I’m just getting old. :)

      • Sundi Jo Graham

        We’re not getting old. We’re getting wiser. :)

      • Bridget

        “It’s like comedies have regressed into grade school and the more gross or offensive, the more funny they think it is.”
        Yes! I do have to wonder if it’s me, or if culturally our ideas of what’s funny has changed (degraded, in my opinion). Somebody is watching those movies, and it’s not just grade school kids.

  • Bambzi

    Hi Tony,
    A timely article!
    I came to this conclusion several weeks ago. I began to accept action that were ungodly and used the excuse ‘As long as I’m not doing it’. After prayer (major repenting) I brought back this boundary.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      I believe that’s all a part of growing and maturing. It’s not about punishment but about reaping the consequences of your decisions. When you prayed about it, you felt ready to bring back the boundary. That was a heart decision, not a rule decision. Thanks for sharing this, Bambzi.

  • Ryan Haack

    Love the description of the distinction between rules and boundaries, Tony. Great post.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      It something that really changed my life once it hit me.

  • Shalom

    I agree with Devan below. Watching previews and/or trailers are sure way to find out if a movie is for me or not. I saw the trailer for “Ted” and immediately I was turned off. Its creator Seth McFarlane also created Family Guy and with that show, some jokes are fine but some really crosses the line. I have to say that from all my experience watching movies, the values that I hold dearly always come first, so if a movie or its trailer does not conform to any those values, I don’t watch it. I used to crumble under peer pressure, but as I got older, I learned that my values come first.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      I admit that I’m not always the most diligent in watching trailers or getting feedback on a movie ahead of time. I’m getting better at it because I’ve found myself watching more garbage than I wanted.

  • Emily_Maynard

    Love your distinction between a rule and a boundary, Tony!

    I think destructive ideas can hide in any movie, even G rated ones. It’s vital to cultivate an understanding of what adds to your life and try to stick to those things rather than just drawing a line at particular ratings.

    I happen to be particularly sensitive to violence in movies, so I have learned that it’s okay to say “no thanks” to a movie, even if it gets rave reviews from people I respect, because I know it’ll mess me up. Part of maturing is learning what works for you and what doesn’t and being able to stick with it without disrespecting other people’s choices.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      “Part of maturing is learning what works for you and what doesn’t and being able to stick with it without disrespecting other people’s choices.”

      I couldn’t have said it better myself, Emily.

    • Bridget

      “I think destructive ideas can hide in any movie, even G rated ones.”
      I agree. Kids movies have a lot of ideas contrary to my worldview, and they’re often disguised as something wholesome. With a G rated movie we’re also less likely to have our guard up — for ourselves or our children.

  • Jim F.

    My wife and I decided years ago that we would not watch R rated movies – it was a boundary that we choose for a number of reasons – but the main one had to do with nudity and sexuality but also language to some extent. It also had to do with having children and not having them walk in on us watching something with nudity or language. Generally – any movie that was R that I have wanted to see comes on TV eventually without the nudity and most of the language. It is a boundary that has been tough to keep at times but one we are glad we have kept with and we also do some research on PG-13 movies to see if we think we should see them. Good article Tony!

    • Bridget

      We use ClearPlay ( which requires a subscription and special DVD player. It’s worth it if you watch a lot of movies at home. It allows a range of filtering for various things, which you can tailor to each movie. We also check the parent advisory on for potentially offensive content prior to renting a DVD.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Great point, Jim. And it’s usually pretty entertaining to see how they edit out scenes for TV! My sister and I have some classic movies quotes from redubs! :)

      • Jim F.

        Scareface is pretty funny with the redubs and they had to redub a lot in that one :)

  • InciteFaith


    This is a great post and I was kind of surprised you don’t watch R-rated movies. I’m beginning to learn that this is a trend in the Christian community.

    While I can’t say I completely remove R-rated movies from my viewing, I have been shocked lately by what’s shown on TV. I don’t watch TV often but when I’m working out there are TVs everywhere. Sometimes the music is blah so I’ll switch to TV & the filter is almost non-existent nowadays.

    Our mind is our most vulnerable organ and right now I’m pretty vulnerable. The more I think about something the more it takes control until I learned the method of replacement. The more I focused on the “I shouldn’t be doing this” feeling it just made me want to do it even more, so I replaced the urge with better thoughts. Admittedly, sometimes this does not work, but lately it has.

    I am not a fan of simply running away from temptation and hope it goes away because the more you run, temptation just catches up you eventually. But being able to replace my thoughts by either prayer, listening to worship music (I know, so Christianese, right?) or texting a friend & saying, “I need help” has been helpful.

    Romans 12:21

    • Tony J. Alicea

      To be clear, this boundary mostly applies to rated-R “comedies” for me. I don’t have as much of an issue with violence or even language if there is there is purpose for it. And I don’t make it a rule that I will NEVER make an exception to. But as a general guideline, I keep away from the comedies that get the R rating.

      • Bridget

        I’m with you here. A lot of comedies, even PG or PG 13, rely on bathroom humor or sexual innuendo for laughs. It’s a cheap substitute for real humor, and most of the time it’s not even funny.

  • Bill (cycleguy)

    I can’t remember the last time my wife and I watched a “comedy” at the theater. I think it might have been The Santa Clause 2. :) We go to the movies maybe 2-3 times a year and it is usually for an action movie (Avengers, Bourne, and the like). i saw the commercials for Ted and i was turned off my its stupidity and non-laughable laughs. Sort of how I feel about Letterman and that ilk.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Yeah, the previews for movies like Ted make me never want to watch anything other than a G-rated comedy ever again!

  • Jennifer Upton

    Think we saw the same movie. I knew friends of ours were paid extras in one scene so I assumed all would be well. I commented on the movie afer watching it, with my hands over my eyes, and the friend who was in it said “Yeah, we knew we would not be going to see us in that one!” Thanks for the warning friend, now I cannot unsee the seen.

  • Jason Vana

    I steer clear of movies with nudity and horror/gory movies. The movies with nudity for an obvious reason. Horror and scary gory movies – more of a personal reason. I used to deal with a lot of fear and anytime I see a movie like that, I struggle with it again. Now there are some gory movies I’ll watch, like Braveheart or really any war movie. But if it’s a gory movie that’s billed as scary – like slice and dice movies – then I stay away from them.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      I’m with you Jason. I stay away from nudity, like you and also the horror. I believe there is a very real spiritual element and when you expose yourself to that stuff, you leave a door open. I just don’t want to mess with that stuff at all.

  • Jason Wert

    Not to sound uber-Christian on this but I really let the Holy Spirit guide me on certain movies. A few years ago, I was really convicted about watching horror or supernatural movies & TV shows and stopped watching them. I just think setting up a guideline like some of my friends do (i.e. never watching an R rated movie, etc.) really is just setting up walls around ourselves as if we can’t trust we won’t run out and do something we know we shouldn’t do. There are a lot of great movies that have had R ratings…the Godfather I & II and The Shawshank Redemption to name a few…and there are R rated comedies (like Monty Python and the Holy Grail) that aren’t really so offensive as to not be watched.

    We just need to be wise in our choices and trust the Spirit within us to guide us.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Great point, man. Since we all have different things that affect our conscience, making a rule around a rating can be pretty subjective. The tone of R rated comedies as of late just haven’t been good for me so it’s a guideline but I also will break it if I feel like it’s worth it. Sometimes it pays off and other times it doesn’t.