On-screen killing in Hollywood movies in 2006

I wanted to compare the data from player-directed killing in commercial PC games to killing in Hollywood movies. So in a similar process I went to Box Office Mojo – Link and found the 100 highest domestic grossing films of 2006. Then except for the first 10 or so movies (where I used my own judgement) I went to Rotten Tomatoes to determine each movie’s genre. I also used Rotten Tomatoes whenever I couldn’t determine whether a movie had killing.

Since there are no “players” in a movie, the criteria I used for determining whether a movie had killing was whether it contained any on-screen murders. Movies where natural disasters killed humans on-screen were counted as not containing killing. “Murder” is used broadly, under any conditions whether it be war or interpersonal homicide or accidental manslaughter.

Of the 100 highest domestic grossing films of 2006, 34 contained on-screen killing. Of those, 17 were Action/Adventures, 9 Horror, 7 Drama, and 1 Science-Fiction. Of the 66 films which did not contain on-screen killing, 34 were Comedies, 18 Dramas, 9 Childrens, 4 Action/Adventures, and 1 Horror.

The biggest surprise for me is the 17/4 ratio of Action/Adventure films while Dramas had a 7/18 ratio. Apparently it’s difficult to have action and adventure without killing, yet murder and drama don’t mix nearly so well.

Very disturbing is that the MPAA does not list murder as a justification for a movie’s rating. It includes murder under the category “violence”. Sometimes it puts modifiers on violence like “extreme violence”, “graphic violence”, or “carnage”. What’s disturbing is that they base the ratings on the director’s treatment of the violence rather than on the content of the violence. So if there’s a horrible murder but the director cuts quickly away that might be called “violence” while if there’s an open fist fight shown by slow-motion closeup that would be called “graphic violence”. Perhaps you are aware of the MPAA’s justification for this treatment – it remains a mystery to me.

The 34% murder rate tallied by the commercial movie industry is quite low compared to the 79% tallied by the commercial games industry in the same year, especially considering that the requirement of player-directed killing is more strict than the movie requirement of merely containing killing on screen (for example, a minor character can commit the murder instead of the protagonist or villain). Examining the genres, one notable fact is that Comedy is not a commercial gaming genre, existing as a secondary element in some games. Horror films are more common than horror games. While there is a substantial market for children’s software including entertainment titles, commercial releases that are widely reviewed never fall under that category. The other notable difference in the content of the mediums is that war movies are fairly rare (though that seems to be changing with the progressing Neoconservative monstrosities), while war games are very common.

Even though relative to the games industry the movie industry has a very low rate of killing, that one-third of movies contain on-screen killing still seems very high.


One Response to “On-screen killing in Hollywood movies in 2006”

  1. 2011 Killing Rate in Video Games « You’re in Your World Now Says:

    […] 2006 Hollywood Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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