Photograph of the BBFC rating symbols

The BBFC rating symbols used for film industry regulation

The film industry in the UK is regulated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). The BBFC is responsible for classifying films that have a cinema and DVD release.

The BBFC uses published Classification Guidelines for certain age ranges, ensuring that the content of the film is age appropriate and that children or young people do not see films that are unsuitable for them.

The BBFC Classification Guidelines are based on regular research with the public and updated every 4-5 years. The research involves more than 10,000 people from across the UK, including teenagers. The Classification Guidelines are available on the BBFC website.

The classifications are:

  • U – Suitable for all
  • PG – Parental Guidance
  • 12A – Only used for films shown in cinemas and suitable for 12 years and over. However, people younger than 12 may see a 12A so long as they are accompanied by an adult
  • 12 – Video release suitable for 12 years and over
  • 15 – Suitable for only 15 years and over
  • 18 – Suitable only for adults

Occasionally film classifications create controversy.

When The Dark Knight was released, some film critics thought it was too violent for children.

This was a problem for the film's production company, Warner Bros., as the film was based on the DC Comic franchise, Batman, which is popular with younger audiences.

The BBFC gave the film a 12A certification meaning children under the age of 12 could see the film if accompanied by an adult.

Many commentators felt this rating was inappropriate given the film's tone and content, however it remained a 12A throughout its theatrical run.

A film is only reclassified if the company who owns it submits it to the BBFC for a new classification.

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