The motion picture industry’s Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, was instituted by Will H. Hays, then president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, in 1930.

The purpose of the Production Code was to establish a set of standards that would govern not only Hollywood movies but also protect family values at a time when mass media was newly developing.

The code sought to suppress explicit language, suggestive dancing, and scenes of bathtub-gin-soaked decadence.


What Is the hays code

What Was the hays code?

The Hays Code was a set of guidelines for movie content that regulated American films from 1930 to 1968.

The code stemmed from concerns about the perceived immorality of movies and their effects on young viewers.

It was named after Will H. Hays, who was president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945.

In 1930, the MPPDA set up the Production Code Administration (PCA), which would monitor films for moral content based on the Hays Code and issue certificates to those it deemed suitable for release.

While some filmmakers were able to skirt around these rules, by 1934 most major studios agreed to follow the PCA’s guidelines.

The PCA’s power would weaken in the 1950s, though it continued to exist until 1968, when it was replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system.



What Was The Purpose Of The Hays Code?

The code encouraged filmmakers to present wholesome images of women and families, conduct on-screen romance within the bounds of marriage, and portray criminals as unsympathetic figures.

The Production Code’s influence on film content waned substantially in the late 1960s with the easing up of censorship laws and filmmaking techniques that challenged conventional morality.

In the early days of Hollywood, nudity and profanity in films was common. Some of these films were successful at the box office, but others were seen as offensive to much of the population.

The censorship that resulted from this opposition led to the creation of a code known as the Hays Code.

The code called for basic standards of morality in film content and was enforced until 1968.

What Was The Production Code Of 1934?

The Production Code of 1934 was a set of moral guidelines that were enforced from 1934 to 1968 by the Motion Picture Association of America. It prohibited profanity, nudity, drug use, and miscegenation as well as any suggestion that the law could be broken.


The Hays Code is a much better-known name for this code. The first set of guidelines was adopted on March 31, 1930, after the studios were threatened with government regulation for their racy content.

This code was established by Will H. Hays, who was appointed by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 to head the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America. The code was instituted in order to avoid government censorship.

By 1932, all the major studios except Universal had agreed to the Production Code. The three major issues that needed to be addressed in the original code were:

1. The crime film was gaining popularity at this time and exhibitors started pressuring the MPPDA for a voluntary set of guidelines similar to those imposed by New York Mayor James J. Walker in 1927, restricting access to crime-related entertainment such as gangster pictures.

2. The Catholic Church urged an end to such films as The Sign of the Cross (1932) and others that it deemed blasphemy.


Hays Code Examples

The Hays Code was the informal name for the Motion Picture Production Code, the set of industry moral guidelines that governed the production of all theatrically released motion pictures from 1930 to 1968 in the United States. 

The MPPC was developed in 1930 after a series of Hollywood sex scandals and subsequent protests and boycotts by religious groups and women’s clubs.

It was administered by Joseph Breen, who served as the head of the MPPC from 1930 to 1954. The Hays Code was largely unsuccessful in its attempts to remove sexual content from motion pictures.


Hays’ office enforces the codes through letters of approval or disapproval sent by telegram to movie studios, production companies, directors, and actors.

His staff checked all scripts and had final authority on what went into production. In some cases movies that were made with no problems outside the USA were found objectionable once they came to America due to differing community standards.

For example, Jean Renoir’s French-produced American film Rules of the Game (1939) was given an American release in 1940.

The Hays Code was replaced in 1968 with the MPAA film rating system that is still used today. While the MPAA ratings don’t go as far as the original Hays Code did, they are still responsible for keeping much of Hollywood from “crossing the line.”

Hays Office Movies

Today, the Hays Office is best known for its moral code, but it was much more than a censor. It was one of the most powerful agencies in Hollywood.

The Hays Office had complete authority over every movie made during those years, and anyone who defied it risked losing their job. In this article, we’ll examine how the Hays Office worked, as well as how it affected films and filmmakers.

Hollywood’s Censor William Hays served as president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945. He created the MPPDA in 1922 after a Supreme Court decision dissolved the previous organization. 

Up until that point, government agencies had been responsible for making sure that movies were appropriate for audiences.


When censorship was passed to private organizations in 1922, Hays became its head censor. The first main goal of the MPPDA under his leadership was to enforce federal regulations on movies.

It wasn’t easy; like many people in positions of power then and now, Hays had to deal with a lot of pushback from industry members who didn’t want to follow his rules or pay his fees.

Motion Picture Production Code

The MPPDA’s Production Code spelled out what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States.

The Production Code spelled out a number of specific prohibitions, such as those against vulgarity, nudity, sexual innuendo, drug use, and strong profanity.

The Production Code sought to avoid government regulation and to prevent a general atmosphere of prurience and caution on the part of theater owners. It was drafted in 1930 and enforced on July 1, 1934. 

The code was fiercely debated between producers who demanded artistic freedom and those who insisted upon strict adherence to traditional moral standards.

In 1968, after years of minimal enforcement and a change in leadership at the MPAA, many previously forbidden subjects could be portrayed in films.

Origins Of The Hays Code

The idea behind the Hays Code was to make sure that Hollywood movies were proper and decent enough to avoid corrupting audiences with their sexual content, violence, and other immoral actions. 

This meant no more risque “shocking” scenes that could turn an audience’s head, such as nightmarish images in German Expressionist films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922).

The Hays Code began as an informal list of suggestions in 1922, but it became much more strict after Hays became head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) in 1927. By 1930, it had become a full-blown set of rules dictating what could and couldn’t be shown on screen.

The Production Code Administration (PCA), a branch of the MPPDA, policed film production and forced filmmakers to adhere to its standards.

How Did The Hays Code Come About?

The first major motion picture industry censorship occurred during World War I when the US government censored any anti-war sentiments from films.

In 1918 several states enacted laws banning foreign films from being shown within their borders without first submitting them to government censors who would decide if they were acceptable for public viewing. 

These censorship laws were followed by a wave of public protests against the content of Hollywood films.

Sensationalist news stories appeared in newspapers across the country about how Hollywood was corrupting America’s youth with sex, drugs and violence.

The Hays Code In Action

If you love classic Hollywood movies, then you probably know about the Hays Code.

The Hays Code came into existence because movie theaters were losing audiences due to offensive content. 

In fact, several cities in America had banned films that depicted nudity or other unacceptable subject matter.

When someone wanted to attend a movie that had been banned in their city, they would often travel to another city just to see it. This caused theatres to lose business., 


Because of this, they asked Will H. Hays to create a list of rules that all movies should abide by if they wanted to be shown in theaters.


The Hays Production Code Demise

The “Hays Code” was in place until 1968, and it effectively created a large body of films that were conservative in their storytelling but rich in melodrama, glamour and kitsch.

The code itself wasn’t terribly restrictive, and it affected only what could be seen or heard in films. Producers could still tell whatever sorts of stories they chose. But it did have a major influence on how those stories were told.

Many films fell foul of the code, leading to cuts or bans before they could be released to theaters. As film scholar Thomas Doherty points out in his book The Hollywood Red Scare

“Politics, Film, and the First Amendment , the threat of censorship could influence filmmakers even without strict adherence to the code — directors knew what they could get away with and what they couldn’t, and they steered clear of anything that might bring down the wrath.”

The New Hollywood Revolution

It’s been more  than a decade since the film industry was shaken up by the biggest shift in its business model since the introduction of sound. 

In 2006, YouTube came along and started letting people upload their own videos for free.

Tens of thousands of people did, and then millions. More and more content was being uploaded to the site every day, which meant that people were watching it.

And watching and watching and watching. By some estimates, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute – a number which is only set to grow as smartphones get better at shooting video.

YouTube is currently Google’s fastest growing revenue generator (not counting AdWords, but including Google Play).


The new Hollywood revolution has been led by no-budget digital natives who have been making films on their laptops. Films like Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project cost next to nothing to make but have grossed millions at the box office.

More recently we’ve seen the rise of web series like High Maintenance, which has been lauded by the New Yorker and Burning Love, which has been featured on Entertainment Weekly.

Ready to learn about some other Film Movements or Film History?