The Memo: British Board of Classification updates its ratings standards

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British Board of Film Classification updates its rating standards

Tyler Rigby - 2 April 2024

Every four to five years, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) surveys the public to see if the nation’s mood has shifted in such a way that classification must be altered for films released in the United Kingdom. It’s worth noting that age ratings for films are a legal requirement in the UK, so the BBFC is obligated to ensure that all classifications are in line with the standards they have set. (Though, in the US, such rating systems are voluntary and are not legally enforced by any particular institution.) 

Reaction to drug use has taken a liberal swing with the presence of cannabis in Reinaldo Marcus Green’s biopic Bob Marley: One Love, about the eponymous musician and icon, being used as a key example. Before, the Marley film would have received a rating of 15 for its depiction of drug use but, under the new guidelines, it’s been given a 12A rating. On the flip side, there's expected to be a slight crackdown on sex, violence, certain graphic language and depictions of suicide. In particular, sexual violence in film remained a huge concern for survey respondents, as was the general depiction of sex that young teenagers can access in films rated a 12A.  

It's not just newer releases that the BBFC will be classifying, but older releases as well. For example, after its 60th anniversary, Mary Poppins was reclassified from a U to a PG due to discriminatory language. Likewise, the 1963 James Bond ClassicFrom Russia with Love, will likely see its rating bump up from PG to 12A due to its extensive violence.