Trends in Explicit Portrayal of Suicidal Behavior in Popular U.S. Movies, 1950–2006



Trends in suicidal behavior portrayal in movies may reflect greater societal acceptance of suicide with potential adverse effects on adolescents. To assess the potential for such adverse effects, explicit portrayals of suicidal behavior and the ratings of films were coded in top-grossing U.S. movies from 1950-2006 (N = 855). Suicidal behavior portrayal in films increased linearly from 1950 to 2006. From 1968-1984, movies rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America had 5 times more highly explicit suicide behavior portrayals than did G/PG films. After the adoption of the PG-13 category in 1985, PG-13 and R films were indistinguishable on this measure. The results indicate the need for further study of the effects of suicidal behavior portrayals on adolescent movie audiences.