Scene Intensity Rating Scale Overview

What is the Scene Intensity Rating Scale?

The Scene Intensity Rating Scale (SIR Scale) is a guideline for rating individual movie scenes. Scenes are assigned a category and an intensity level. Categories (and sub-categories) cover:

  • Violence (non-graphic violence; graphic violence)
  • Sexual content (reference to sex; sexual content; crude sexual content; sexual nudity; non-sexual nudity)
  • Language (cursing & crude language; name calling; vain reference to Deity)
  • Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use
  • Themes that might be of concern to viewers
Intensity is rated from a level 1 (low) to a level 5 (extreme). Definitions and examples are listed for each category and intensity level. (There are two exceptions: 1) Graphic Violence, and 2) Sex with Nudity. Because these categories are more vivid and explicit, their intensity levels range from 4-8.)

Violence in movie scenes

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Sexual Content in movie scenes

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Language in movie scenes

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Drug and Alcohol Use in movie scenes

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What are the basic guidelines for the intensity levels 1-5?

The SIR Scale is very detailed, so it will be helpful to remember these basic guidelines for rating the intensity level of a particular scene. With examples from the non-graphic violence category, here are the basic guidelines:

  • 1 is the lowest possible intensity that might bother the most conservative people. Another way to think of it is behavior that you don’t want young children to mimic, such as friendly punches.
  • 2 has depictions that are mild and not emotionally charged, or unrealistic, such as cartoon violence.
  • 3 is when something becomes emotionally charged, such as a heated argument or a car chase.
  • 4 is when something becomes strongly emotionally charged, such as aggressive conflict or tense near-death situations.
  • 5 is the most extreme or intense situation that people can imagine for a particular category, such as a battle scene. (Note: the category of Graphic Violence and Images is more severe than Non-Graphic Violence and it includes more extreme situations. See the SIR Scale for specifics.)

What assumptions are used when assigning intensity levels?

When assigning Intensity Levels to individual scenes, we make certain assumptions:

1. If you don't want your ten-year-old to see bloodless killing (non-graphic violence level 5), then we assume you don't want that ten-year-old to hear references to killing either. Therefore, we will mark any references to killing as an intensity level 5. These scenes would all be marked as non-graphic violence level 5:

  • A man chases another man through a forest and kills him from a distance with a gun.
  • Three people chase and kill a man. The kill is not shown but there is ominous music.
  • A doctor tells a teenage girl that a man was killed by a wild animal.
This enables you to completely skip the theme of killing, even though not every level 5 scene contains killing (it might only contain references to killing).

2. If a movie is about a particular subject, we don't mark content containing that subject. For example, the movie 28 Days, starring Sandra Bullock, is about drug and alcohol addiction and rehabilitation. It would be unrealistic to mark every drug-related scene in that movie. It is assumed that anyone watching 28 Days would not mind seeing references to and use of drugs and alcohol, but viewers might not want to see other scenes, such as sexual content.