Parent’s Guide: How ‘The Black Phone’ got its R-Rating


Ethan Hawke is "the Grabber" in Universal/Blumhouse's "The Black Phone," rated R, which opens Friday.

Ethan Hawke is “the Grabber” in Universal/Blumhouse’s “The Black Phone,” rated R, which premieres Friday. (Universal Studios)

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

THE BASEMENT – Summer is perfect for big action films like “Jurassic Park”, “Independence Day” or “Top Gun: Maverick”. But what about a horror movie? The creators of The Black Phone said, “Why not?”

The Black Phone is a rare change for the summer movie season, and the critical acclaim and the oddity of the release date have piqued many people’s curiosity about the horror/thriller.

The film has a 7.4 rating on IMDb and a critic rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes with an audience rating of 89%. But what’s in the movie? How did it earn its R rating, and is it something you’d like to see? That’s what I’m here for.

I’m not here to tell you my opinion on the film or whether you or your older teens who are asking you to see it should be allowed to see it. I’m just here to let you know what to expect so you can make that decision.

That’s how “The Black Phone” got its R rating.


There is no sex or nudity in The Black Phone, nor is it really talked about. A joke is made at one point, but that’s about it. A possible reference to sexual violence is mentioned, but it is not clear what the threat refers to.


There is some language in the film and that alone deserves the rating. There are about 15 to 20 F-words, but they come through the film almost all at once in a few bursts. The harsh language is not constant, but when it comes all at once.

Aside from being a sporadic language, much of it originated with children. Most of the swearing is uttered by a teenage girl.


The threat of violence is present throughout the film and actual acts of violence are similar to the language in the film. They don’t happen all the time, but when they do, they hit you hard.

There’s a fair amount of blood and some gore. The images include a bloodied face from being repeatedly beaten and the bloodied knuckles that caused the damage. There’s also a scene where a person is killed with an axe, and although it’s very short, it’s quite graphic.

There are several bullying scenes with children hurting other children and blood is present.


“The Black Phone” is not afraid to walk down dark alleys. It’s a horror movie, after all, and it hopes to scare you. It’s effective there, but it’s also quite annoying.

The main themes of the film are child abduction and murder, child abuse, bullying and sexism. All this is not always shown directly, but there are persistent themes and some images that are certainly disturbing.

substance use

Alcoholism is a plot point in the film with one of the characters, and there are two scenes where a character is snorting cocaine. The latter isn’t overt and is played out as a comedic twist rather than something incredibly serious.


The Black Phone certainly deserves its R rating, but believe it or not, it’s a bit tamer than a lot of horror movies, and it’s certainly toned down compared to slasher movies.

The biggest thing in the film is the central element of a serial killer that focuses on teenagers.

“The Black Phone” falls into a category I’ve dubbed “terror.” There are horror movies out there but this is more of a terror movie that attacks your emotions and fears rather than attacking your eyes with gore, gore and terror.

“The Black Phone” is officially rated R for violence, gory visuals, language and some drug use.

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John grew up watching movies and teases friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He’s also passionate about sports and pretty much anything great, and coincidentally those are the three things he writes about.

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