U Universal – Suitable for all
It is impossible to predict what might upset any particular child. But a ‘U’ film should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over. ‘U’ films should be set within a positive moral framework and should offer reassuring counterbalances to any violence, threat or horror.
If a work is particularly suitable for a pre-school child to view alone, this will be indicated in the Consumer Advice.
Discrimination - No discriminatory language or behaviour unless clearly disapproved of.
Drugs - No references to illegal drugs or drug misuse unless they are infrequent and innocuous, or there is a clear educational purpose or anti-drug message suitable for young children.
Horror - Scary sequences should be mild, brief and unlikely to cause undue anxiety to young children. The outcome should be reassuring.
Imitable behaviour - No potentially dangerous behaviour which young children are likely to copy. No emphasis on realistic or easily accessible weapons.
Language - Infrequent use only of very mild bad language.
Nudity - Occasional natural nudity, with no sexual context.
Sex - Mild sexual behaviour (for example, kissing) and references only (for example, to ‘making love’).
Theme - While problematic themes may be present, their treatment must be sensitive and appropriate for young children.
Violence - Mild violence only. Occasional mild threat or menace only.
PG Parental Guidance – General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Unaccompanied children of any age may watch. A ‘PG’ film should not disturb a child aged around eight or older.
However, parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset younger or more sensitive children.
Discrimination - Discriminatory language or behaviour is unlikely to be acceptable unless clearly disapproved of or in an educational or historical context. Discrimination by a character with which children can readily identify is unlikely to be acceptable.
Drugs - References to illegal drugs or drug misuse must be innocuous or carry a suitable anti-drug message.
Horror - Frightening sequences should not be prolonged or intense. Fantasy settings may be a mitigating factor.
Imitable behaviour - No detail of potentially dangerous behaviour which young children are likely to copy. No glamorisation of realistic or easily accessible weapons.
Language - Mild bad language only.
Nudity - Natural nudity, with no sexual context.
Sex - Sexual activity may be implied, but should be discreet and infrequent. Mild sex references and innuendo only.
Theme - Where more serious issues are featured (for example, domestic violence) nothing in their treatment should condone unacceptable behaviour.
Violence - Moderate violence, without detail, may be allowed, if justified by its context (for example, history, comedy or fantasy).
12A/12 – Suitable for 12 years and over
Exactly the same criteria are used to classify works at ‘12A’ and ‘12’.
These categories are awarded where the material is suitable, in general, only for those aged 12 and over. Works classified at these categories may upset children under 12 or contain material which many parents will find unsuitable for them.
The ‘12A’ category exists only for cinema films. No one younger than 12 may see a ‘12A’ film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult, and films classified ‘12A’ are not recommended for a child below 12. An adult may take a younger child if, in their judgement, the film is suitable for that particular child. In such circumstances, responsibility for allowing a child under 12 to view lies with the accompanying adult.
The ‘12’ category exists only for video works. No one younger than 12 may rent or buy a ‘12’ rated video work.
Discrimination - Discriminatory language or behaviour must not be endorsed by the work as a whole. Aggressive discriminatory language or behaviour is unlikely to be acceptable unless clearly condemned.
Drugs - Any misuse of drugs must be infrequent and should not be glamorised or give instructional detail.
Horror - Moderate physical and psychological threat may be permitted, provided disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained.
Imitable behaviour - Dangerous behaviour (for example, hanging, suicide and self-harming) should not dwell on detail which could be copied, or appear pain or harm free. Easily accessible weapons should not be glamorised.
Language - Moderate language is allowed. The use of strong language (for example, ‘fuck’) must be infrequent.
Nudity - Nudity is allowed, but in a sexual context must be brief and discreet.
Sex - Sexual activity may be briefly and discreetly portrayed.
Sex references should not go beyond what is suitable for young teenagers. Frequent crude references are unlikely to be acceptable.
Theme - Mature themes are acceptable, but their treatment must be suitable for young teenagers.
Violence - Moderate violence is allowed but should not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood, but occasional gory moments may be permitted if justified by the context.
Sexual violence may only be implied or briefly and discreetly indicated, and must have a strong contextual justification.
15 – Suitable only for 15 years and over
No one younger than 15 may see a ‘15’ film in a cinema.
No one younger than 15 may rent or buy a ‘15’ rated video work.
Discrimination - The work as a whole must not endorse discriminatory language or behaviour.
Drugs - Drug taking may be shown but the film as a whole must not promote or encourage drug misuse. The misuse of easily accessible and highly dangerous substances (for example, aerosols or solvents) is unlikely to be acceptable.
Horror - Strong threat and menace are permitted unless sadistic or sexualised.
Imitable behaviour - Dangerous behaviour (for example, hanging, suicide and self-harming) should not dwell on detail which could be copied. Easily accessible weapons should not be glamorised.
Language - There may be frequent use of strong language (for example, ‘fuck’). The strongest terms (for example, ‘cunt’) may be acceptable if justified by the context. Aggressive or repeated use of the strongest language is unlikely to be acceptable.
Nudity - Nudity may be allowed in a sexual context but without strong detail. There are no constraints on nudity in a non-sexual or educational context.
Sex - Sexual activity may be portrayed without strong detail.
There may be strong verbal references to sexual behaviour, but the strongest references are unlikely to be acceptable unless justified by context. Works whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation are unlikely to be acceptable.
Theme - No theme is prohibited, provided the treatment is appropriate for 15 year olds.
Violence - Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. The strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic or sexualised violence is also unlikely to be acceptable.
There may be detailed verbal references to sexual violence but any portrayal of sexual violence must be discreet and have a strong contextual justification.
18 - Suitable only for adults
No-one younger than 18 may see an ‘18’ film in a cinema.
No-one younger than 18 may rent or buy an ‘18’ rated video.
In line with the consistent findings of the BBFC’s public consultations and The Human Rights Act 1998, at ‘18’ the BBFC’s guideline concerns will not normally override the principle that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment. Exceptions are most likely in the following areas:
- where the material is in breach of the criminal law, or has been created through the commission of a criminal offence
- where material or treatment appears to the BBFC to risk harm to individuals or, through their behaviour, to society – for example, any detailed portrayal of violent or dangerous acts, or of illegal drug use, which may cause harm to public health or morals.
This may include portrayals of sexual or sexualised violence which might, for example, eroticise or endorse sexual assault
- where there are more explicit images of sexual activity which cannot be justified by context. Such images may be appropriate in ‘R18’ works, and in ‘sex works’ (see below) would normally be confined to that category.
In the case of video works (including video games), which may be more accessible to younger viewers, intervention may be more frequent than for cinema films.
Sex education at ‘18’ - Where sex material genuinely seeks to inform and educate in matters such as human sexuality, safer sex and health, explicit images of sexual activity may be permitted.
Sex works at ‘18’ - Sex works are works whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation. Sex works containing only material which may be simulated are generally passed ‘18’. Sex works containing clear images of real sex, strong fetish material, sexually explicit animated images, or other very strong sexual images will be confined to the ‘R18’ category. Material which is unacceptable in a sex work at ‘R18’ is also unacceptable in a sex work at ‘18’.