Review: How ‘Amsterdam’ earned its R rating

Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie in "Amsterdam," which opened in theaters Thursday.

Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie in “Amsterdam,” which opened in theaters Thursday. (20th Century Studios)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

AMSTERDAM — During this time of year, many people ask me, “What does this movie have in it?”

That’s because this is the time of year studios start releasing the films they believe will compete for the Golden Globes, Oscars and all the other awards. These movies often carry R ratings, but the content may be tamer than other PG-13 films. I’m trying to get ahead of it this year for all of you, and I will be supplying more reviews just like this one.

This review of “Amsterdam” won’t dive into my thoughts on the film; you and I can catch up about that later. This review will hopefully inform potential audiences what they can expect to see in the movie. Then you can decide if it is the kind of content you would like to see or if it is something you would instead pass on.

Here is how “Amsterdam” earned its R rating.


Sex is not a theme of “Amsterdam.” There are references to intimate couples, but no overt sexual talk or depictions exist. There is a moment when a woman wants to be intimate with a man, but he is uncomfortable and stops her. Other than a quick shot of the shirtless back of a woman, there is nothing sexual in the film.

In this category, “Amsterdam” is tamer than almost every PG-13 comedy or rom-com I’ve seen.


This is where I had assumed “Amsterdam” would earn its rating, but I was mistaken. There is virtually no foul language throughout the film, and there is one utterance of the F word toward the film’s end. Except for that one word, there is significantly less coarse language in this film than we have grown accustomed to in Marvel films.

Writer and director David O. Russell isn’t known for shying away from adult language, but he did in “Amsterdam.” With that one F word, it was a PG-13 mark for language; without it, the language was on by with a PG rating.


This is where “Amsterdam” earned its R rating. There isn’t much violence, per se, but there is imagery that can be uncomfortable. Multiple shots of open war wounds and of shrapnel removed from bodies.

While some of these depictions can be graphic, there are only a few scenes with them, while the rest of the film is relatively tame. When it comes to violence, I have seen much worse in PG-13 films like “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, but it’s the graphic depictions of injuries that changes things.

I don’t think these scenes will make anyone queasy, and it is not graphic for shock. The gory nature attempts to mimic reality and not gross people out.

Should it be rated R?

I have always been clear that I believe the rating system is broken. It is not broad enough, lacks clear rules and has no known consistency. My other issue is how the rating board appears to ignore context.

I’ll admit that the tone of “Amsterdam” is closer to an R rating, but the content is tame compared to so many PG-13 films I have seen. I do not believe “Amsterdam” deserved an R rating, but I also don’t think PG-13 is entirely appropriate. I believe there should be another rating between those two, and I would land the film in that realm.

“Amsterdam” is officially rated R for brief violence and bloody images.


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John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about.

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