Are Film Ratings becoming too Lenient?

We speak to the President of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to find out why the board seems to classify films more leniently in recent years.

Perhaps the reason that Paddington’s ‘PG’ rating caused so much controversy was because, in general, film classifications seem to be getting softer.

Cast your mind a few years back – films like Billy Elliot were given an age certificate of ‘15’ for ‘foul language’ and American Beauty was deemed to be only suitable for viewers over the age of 18.

Now, compare that to the classifications given to films today.

Think about The Dark Knight, Jack Reacher and The Hunger Games – these films contain the glorification of knives, misogynistic violence and child murder, yet somehow, they’re are ‘suitable’ for children of all ages (under 12’s must be accompanied by an adult).

Now doesn’t that Billy Elliot age certificate seem harsh by today’s standards?

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Furthermore, films seem to require much more explicit content in order to earn an ‘18’ age certificate. For instance, the difference in violence between American Beauty (1999) and Drive (2011) is completely disparate – yet somehow, they were both given the same rating. Have the BBFC become more tolerant of gory violence?

It seems that the benchmarks on what classifies a film as a ’12’, ’15’ and ’18’ has changed dramatically over the years. If The Dark Knight was released 15 years ago, would it haven gotten away with a rating of 12A? Similarly, if American Beauty was released today, would it have been given such a strict rating?

Here’s what the President of the BBFC, Patrick Swaffer, had to say about the changing nature of film classifications:


In short, he neglected the notion that film classifications were becoming more lenient. However, he did say that classifications are reflective of the social attitudes during the time of their release.

So for instance, in the 80’s, society was comparatively less concerned with racism, and thus, films containing racist content weren’t classified particularly strictly. If a film with similar content was classified today, it’s likely that it would have a much stricter rating due to society becoming much less tolerant of racism.

Similarly, today, people seem to have a higher tolerance to gore and violence, and thus, films have to be exceptionally violent before they’re rated with an age certificate of ‘15’.

What do you think? Are film ratings becoming more lenient? Is this a good or a bad thing? Let us know by taking part in our polls!



Pictures: British Board of Film Classification, Charlie StaplesIMP Awards (American Beauty)Dan Chapman, IMP Awards (The Terminator), Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., AJCham, IMP Awards (Dark Knight), IMP Awards (Jack Reacher), Empire Design, IMP Awards (Hunger Games), IMP Awards (Terminator 3) 

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