I’ve got an annoying, near-religious habit of checking IMDb when I watch literally anything. I can’t help but gobble up cast lists and other useless knowledge. It’s a compulsion left over from the days of weekly bar trivia; you never know when someone will challenge you to a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or wonder out loud when American Graffiti came out (1973! Look, a teenage Ron Howard!). IMDb is known for listing goofs, facts and quotes, but the really fun part is the Parents Guide.
What’s the Parents Guide? IMDb’s parental resource that details every instance of sex, violence, scary moments, substance abuse and foul language in a TV episode or movie. What’s fun about it is that it describes iconic but NSFW scenes in the vaguest possible family-friendly language, all while keeping it spoiler-free. The entries are user-submitted, then checked and approved by what’s called the Database Content Team. There are rules about phrasing: only technical terms; nothing explicit. “Please use phrasing such as ‘oral sex’ rather than colloquial terms,” warns the Parents Guide help center.
It’s a legitimately useful tool for sniffing out surprises so you know what you’re getting into. If needles give you panic attacks, for example, you can pre-scan an episode of Grey’s Anatomy to avoid potential triggers—which is awesome! But it’s also a goldmine for pervs and prudes alike. Parents are meant to use it to determine what their kids should and shouldn’t view, but I can’t help but imagine teens using it for its opposite purpose: finding out which movies have boobs in them before they pick something on Netflix.
Often, the Parents Guide is so sensitive about possible offenses it comes off as wildly censorious and puritanical—think a whole community of Helen Lovejoys shaking their fists.
Take, for example, the guide to the American version of The Office, whose Sex & Nudity section reads like it was written by Angela herself. It began with a warning (since removed) that pregnant Jenna Fischer’s breasts were bigger than usual. (As Vulture TV critic Kathryn VanArendonk noted, “I cannot get over the idea that breasts could be seen as the most problematic thing about a show whose protagonist is Michael Scott.”) Another warning for The Office: “The character, Oscar, turns out to be gay.”
Anyway, let’s get to know the Parents Guide by playing a fun game. Can you guess these famous movies (many of them R-rated) just from their NSFW warnings? I posted a bunch of Parents Guide screenshots below, so read through them carefully, then scroll down slowly for the answer.
1) The One Where Cucumber Is Used to Create Comedy
First off, this entire section is gold:
And one gem from Violence & Gore:
Can you guess it?
The sex doll scene was probably the giveaway. It’s 2003’s Old School.
2) The One Where a Man Is Implied to Be ‘Masterbating’
That’d be 1983’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The real gem in this parents’ guide is how one user described Phoebe Cates’ famous pool scene:
Thank the lord—no impressionable youths are going to witness any “masterbating” here. Let’s move on.
3) The One With 300 ‘Fuck’s
Only for the Parents Guide do people actually count each punch and shot. It’s good to know someone’s face hit the car seat exactly five times—no more, no fewer. If you can handle only four face slams, GET OUT.
Yes, that psychopath is Joe Pesci and the film is Scorsese’s Goodfellas, which also contains 300 “fuck”s, 22 “shit”s, 13 “prick”s, seven “bastard”s and four “goddamn”s. Thanks, Parents Guide!
4) The One With a Nude Cardboard Mermaid With Fishbowl Breasts
Remember college? This would be 1978’s Animal House, whose creation was lovingly documented in Netflix’s 2018 biopic A Futile and Stupid Gesture.
5) The One With Very Seductive Dance Moves
Another National Lampoon entry! This one is 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, remembered in the Parents Guide for some boob-staring, seductive dance moves, mean dogs and butt shooting.
6) The One With a Burning Butt Candle
Another Scorsese entry: 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which got a “severe” rating in not just the Sex & Nudity category, but also Profanity and Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking. Here’s how three more iconic scenes are described:
7) The One With Drinking Throughout and Blood Going Everywhere
Sounds grisly. But as Patrick Swayze says in the iconic Road House, “pain don’t hurt.”
The other, milder warnings for this 1989 flick are gems as well: As a user notes in the Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking section, “The movie is about a bouncer so of course there will be drinking throughout.” Drinking! In a movie where a guy gets his throat ripped out? Unbelievable. Somewhere out there, a worried dad is stopping his kid from watching Road House because of the beer consumption, even though he really wanted him to see that laryngeal kill.
8) The One Where a Man Exposes His Penis (Not His Real One)
If “all very consensual” wasn’t a big enough clue, the third entry here gives it away. I still want to know who the monumental final scene of Boogie Nights and counted every second Mark Wahlberg’s monstrous rubber dong was onscreen so they could warn parents that an R-rated movie about the porn industry gets a little spicy.
9) The One With Close-ups of a Butt in Shorts
Sounds tough, because this is definitely not a sexy movie. But how about now…
This Parents Guide feels deeply sexist. It’s concerned with the corruptive force of a zebra bikini wallpaper, but how the heck does it omit SHIRTLESS JEFF GOLDBLUM?!
Yeah, yeah, it’s 1993’s Jurassic Park. The dino violence gets some pretty rad descriptions in the Parents Guide, of course:
10) The One Where a Man Blames 9/11 on the Jews
The Parents Guide for 2006’s Borat has too many gems to count.
11) The One With Many Graphic Scenes
What’s this “strong threat”? Nazis! It’s Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds—whose gruesome, climactic final scene, where Hitler is shot and killed and his cadaver obliterated beyond recognition by gunfire in an astounding act of revisionist history, is described here as…
12) The One That’s a Very Emotional, and Powerful Film
An easy one: This is American History X, starring Edward Norton as a neo-Nazi who… well, actually, let’s just let the Parents Guide sum up the entire plot as tactlessly as possible.
13) The One Where Her Butt Is Seen
Hmm. What about the nudity?
Yikes. Butts seen? Better avoid this one then. Unless… unless it happens to be a two-and-a-half-hour historical drama that spans the latter half of the 20th century?
Damn right it’s Forrest Gump.
14) The One Where a Man in a Jock Strap Walks Across a Rope Over a Pool Full of Alligators, a Raw Chicken Hanging From the Strap, Alligators Snap, He Falls Into the Pool, an Alligator Grabs the Chicken and the Man Runs Out of the Pool and Is Nearly Grabbed by Another Alligator
Presented without comment.
This is basically the entire film—virtually every scene is detailed here. Yes, it’s 2002’s Jackass: The Movie. I’m just living for this spoiler: “In a deleted scene, Rake Yohn, who hates mustard, flies into a rage when Bam covers him in mustard.” Shoot, I thought it was safe up to that point.
15) The One Where a Man Is Intercepted by an Alien Pointing a Laser Gun at Him, in an Establishment
Let’s end on an easy one.
This is as non-spoilery as I could find for Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope. Aliens with laser guns? Sounds like a riot!
But why watch it when you can just read the Parents Guide?