Parent’s Guide: How ‘The Black Phone’ Got Its R Rating

Parent’s Guide: How ‘The Black Phone’ Got Its R Rating

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

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

THE BASEMENT — Summer is made for big action movies 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 of pace for the summer movie season and the critical praise and weirdness of its release date has many people curious about horror/thriller.

The film has a 7.4 rating on IMDb and an 86% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an audience score of 89%. But what is in the film? How did it get its R rating, and is it something you want to see? That’s why I’m here.

I’m not here to tell you what I think of the movie or whether you or your older teenagers begging you to go see it should be allowed. I’m just here to let you know what to expect so you can make that decision.

Here’s how “The Black Phone” earned its R rating.


There’s no sex or nudity in “The Black Phone,” and it’s not really talked about. A joke is made at some point, but that’s about it. A possible reference to sexual violence is mentioned, but it is unclear what the threat refers to.


There is language in the film and that alone would have been worth the rating. There are about 15-20 F-words, but they almost all come together in a few outbursts across the film. Harsh language is not constant, but when it comes suddenly.

Besides being sporadic language, much of it comes from children. Most of the swear words are spoken by a preteen girl.


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

There’s a fair amount of gore and a bit of gore. The images include a bloody face after being continuously punched and the bloody knuckles that caused damage. There’s also a scene where a person is killed with an axe, and although it’s very brief, it’s quite graphic.

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


“The Black Phone” isn’t 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 disturbing.

The main themes of the film are child abduction and murder, child abuse, bullying and sexism. All of this isn’t always shown directly, but there are lingering 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 snorts cocaine. The latter isn’t overt and plays out more like a comedic trick than anything incredibly serious.


“The Black Phone” certainly deserved its R rating, but believe it or not, it’s a bit tamer than many horror films and it’s certainly toned down from slasher films.

The most important thing in the film is the central element of a serial killer which focuses on teenagers.

“The Black Phone” falls into a category I’ve dubbed “terror”. There are horror movies, but this is more of a terror movie that attacks your emotions and anxiety, instead of assaulting your eyes with blood, gore, and jump scares.

“The Black Phone” is officially rated R for violence, bloody imagery, language and drug use.

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John grew up around movies and annoys his friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much all things awesome, and those just happen to be the three things he writes about.

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