Many of the jokes in “Guardians of the Galaxy” use crass language as a punchline. Name-calling and profanity proliferate both movies. The movie still hadn’t used the f-word.

Well, until now.

In a newly released clip from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” Peter Quill — the Star Lord — uses the f-word when talking to Nebula. Collider said this seems to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first use of that word. James Gunn said it would be the only use of that word in the series, so the film could maintain its PG-13 rating.

Let’s look at when profanity started in movies, how films are rated and what profanity usage means for entertainment.

The F-word has taken over TV

When did profanity start in movies?

When movies were first invented, it was something of a wild West territory. Without standardization as to what was acceptable on screen, profanity started early in the history of Hollywood. The roaring ’20s, which included what’s called “pre-code Hollywood” saw mild profanity in film.

The adoption of the Hays code changed that. NPR reported that the Hays code was a set of standards adopted in 1930 which among other things, prohibited the use of profanity within movies. Until it ended, the Hays code was akin to the rating system currently used. Then, in 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America developed a rating system.

Original ratings of films were G (general audience), M (mature), R (restricted to 16 and over unless accompanied by a parent) and X (restricted to 16 and over).

The MPAA’s rating system is as follows, per CNBC. They gather employees with children aged between 5 and 15, and who have diverse political and religious views as well as geographical and economic backgrounds. The idea of it is to be representative of most American parents. Then, the films are rated based on their reactions.

As culture has changed, so have interpretations of film rating standards as well as the actual rating standard itself.

Since 1984, when the rating of PG-13 was invented, the use of a f-word typically triggered a PG-13 rating and if it was used more than once, it would typically cause the film to be rated R, according to The Baltimore Sun. That was in 2003 and now 20 years later, f-words are becoming more common in movies.

Profanity in public: What Americans really think

Do films have more swearing in them?

Generally speaking, the American public has become more accepting of profanity. When reporting on a Deseret News/Harris X poll, Jennifer Graham said, “A majority of us say it doesn’t bother us to hear profanity in public, with fewer than a quarter saying it bothers us a lot.” Graham said there’s a generation gap when it comes to acceptance of profanity in public.

As for movies, swearing in films has increased as well. A 2009 study from Brigham Young University analyzed profanity in films made for teenagers from 1980 to 2006, and found a trend of increased profanity in those movies.

More recently, VidAngel analyzed profanity in television and movies in 2022. In an article published on, VidAngel indicated the overall states put profanity usage at “37 counts of profanity, blasphemy and foul language per hour.” Overall, the company said, “movies and TV shows in 2022 had nine times more profanity, blasphemy and foul language than those in 1980.”

Since 2000, VidAngel said offensive language has increased 173%. As usage has increased, mixed feelings and controversy around ratings has arisen.

According to a Harris X poll in 2017, per the The Hollywood Reporter (language warning), around a third of the American public wouldn’t see a movie if they knew about specific profanities being used in the movie ahead of time.

Other members of the public think profanities can add to a movie. No Film School said, “Since swear words tend to draw attention to themselves, using them can draw attention to a crucial scene, a character, or particularly important information.”

The use of profanities has sparked controversy around rating systems. When the movie “The King’s Speech” came out, some thought the R-rating (primarily given for language) was too harsh. A writer at The Los Angeles Times questioned the consistency of ratings and argued the MPAA has been too lax on violence while being too strict on language.

An article published in the BBC examined “The Wolf of Wall Street” in context with other films. That movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, is notorious for its frequent profanity uses. The article investigated whether it made sense to give the same rating to a film like that which has a profanity score in the hundreds compared to a film like Philomena which has a profanity score of two (and the rating eventually changed).

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The most profane movie is “Swearnet: The Movie” with 935 f-words of all-time, according to Collider. Jonah Hill has used the most swear words of any actor.

Why is the f-word popular used in movies?

The American public has become more accepting of profanities. It’s likely that as society has changed in this way, movies have changed, too.

Even though more adults use profanities and are accepting of them than they were previously, they still generally don’t approve of their children hearing swears. The Guardian reported, “Most parents don’t want their kids hearing them swear with only 1 in 5 admitting they are comfortable using strong language in the home.” They also don’t want to see it increased in entertainment that their children watch.

Americans are split on their feelings towards profanity in entertainment. Statista published results of a survey in 2019, 24% of Americans are bothered by profanity “a lot” and 22% are bothered by profanity “some.” Twenty-seven percent are not bothered at all by profanity while 21% are not bothered too much by profanity.

Regarding profanities, Melissa Henson, director of programs for the Parents Television and Media Council, per the Deseret News, said “There will always be a segment of people that are uncomfortable with that language, I think we’re all the worse for it.”