When Harry Met Sally

And Got the Wrong Rating

Release: July 21, 1989

U.S. Rating: R

Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: Nora Ephron

Title Characters: Billy Crystal (Harry) and Meg Ryan (Sally)

Storyline (by Greg Bole): Harry and Sally meet when she gives him a ride to New York after they both graduate from the University of Chicago. The film jumps through their lives as they both search for love, but fail, bumping into each other time and time again. Finally a close friendship blooms between them, and they both like having a friend of the opposite sex. But then they are confronted with the problem: “Can a man and a woman be friends, without sex getting in the way?”

Source: IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098635/?ref_=nv_sr_1)


“When Harry Met Sally” is a classic love story that seeks to answer the age-old question of whether or not men and women can just be friends. A balanced mix of humor, drama and sexual tension saturates this beautiful piece, and viewers are left experiencing a wide range of emotions.

As much as I LOVE this film, the only thing I take issue with is the R-rating that was issued by American censors. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), R-rated, or, restricted movies, “Contain some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.” The Movies section of About.com further explained this rating by saying, “ This rating is given for strong and frequent language and violence, nudity for sexual purposes and the abuse of drugs.”

Honestly, I believe “When Harry Met Sally” was given its rating simply because of the amount of attention it pays to the oh-so-taboo topic of sex. Throughout the film, Sally and Harry engage in frank conversations about the role sex plays in friendships and romantic relationships, and one of the most memorable scenes comes when Sally fakes an orgasm in a restaurant in order to prove a point.

That said, it is worth noting that there are no “actual” sex scenes. At one point in the film, it is implied that Harry and Sally slept together, but “the deed” is never done on-screen. It is also important to realize that vulgarity is kept to a minimum, and alcohol only appears in social settings. IMDb gives a full report of such information in their “Parent Guide” for the movie.

As far as I’m concerned, “When Harry Met Sally” shouldn’t have been given more than a rating of PG-13. By giving the film a rating of R, we as a society are countering the efforts made in the movie to encourage the open, honest discussion of relationships. It is shown that sex doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room when a man and a woman are together, and friendship can (but doesn’t always have to) lead to something more.

Teenagers and adults alike NEED to be exposed to more of the candor seen throughout this film. We as a society could learn a lot from Harry and Sally about mutual respect between sexes. For example, even when Sally and Harry finally become a couple, Harry professes his love by listing specific parts of Sally’s PERSONALITY that he is drawn to. Throughout the movie, it is made quite clear that lust doesn’t have to permeate every aspect of a relationship between a man and a woman, and ultimately, sex ISN’T everything.

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