United Kingdom Movie Ratings

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has the responsibility of providing British movie ratings along with British video ratings. Using an employed board of 16 examiners and 3 senior examiners, each movie is usually viewed by 2 people who apply one of the following classifications:

Rating Description
U Universal, suitable for all.
PG All ages admitted, but Parental Guidance is recommended. It is the board's policy that movies rated "PG" should not disturb a child of about 8 years of age or older; however, "parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset young or more sensitive children."
12 No one under 12 years of age may see a "12" film or rent or buy a "12" video.
15 No one under 15 years of age may see a "15" film or rent or buy a "15" video.
18 Suitable only for adults. No one under 18 years of age may see an "18" film or rent or buy an "18" video.
R18 To be supplied only in licensed sex shops to adults of not less than 18 years of age.

The BBFC's movie ratings are not enforced by national legislation, leaving local jurisdictions the power to overrule the movie ratings provided by the BBFC. For instance, David Cronenberg's Crash was rated 18 by the board, yet banned from exhibition by some local jurisdictions (notably Westminster).

However, in 1984, the BBFC was deputized as having authority to provide video ratings necessary for the new Video Recordings Act. To this day, the BBFC's ratings provide legislated control over the sale and rental of videotapes and DVDs throughout the U.K.

With this responsibility, the BBFC has recognized the inherent differences between video and theatrical viewing. For instance, young people may view a video repeatedly, allowing them to more accurately mimic undesirable behaviors such as illegal drug use. As well, it is understood that a video may be watched without adults present, and is shown with far less control than a theatrical presentation. As a result, the BBFC may classify movies released on video into a more restrictive rating than when the same movie was available in theaters.

Further, with new DVD technologies providing additional content such as deleted scenes, documentaries, and production commentaries, the BBFC is determined to account for all content on a DVD disc and provide one classification. Thus, a DVD may be classified more restrictively due to sexual, violent, or profane content in this extra material.

At this time, the BBFC is only rating videogames that have strong sexual or violent themes, or those that encourage or simulate sex, violence, or criminal activity.

British Board of Film Classification
3 Soho Square
London, U.K.
020 7440 1570

Information extracted from the BBFC website and interview with BBFC representative Sue Clark.