Welcome to the BBFC Case Studies. They are all written by BBFC staff and explore how and why works were rated, cut or even banned.
Please note that all our Case Studies and From The Archive files are subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,) without prior written permission of the BBFC. You should email us if you wish to reproduce any of these materials.
The film Case Studies tell you why we did what we did and offer background information that you won’t find anywhere else. Find out why some films and BBFC decisions were discussed in the news media, what works were complained about, and which ratings were praised. You can also browse our From The Archive studies which showcase fascinating historical artefacts from our archives and listen to our popular Podcasts.
Some like A Clockwork Orange are works you will definitely have heard of. Others like Freaks are lesser known but important films. And some are films like Juno and Fight Club that you might have seen but had no idea they caused a stir when submitted to the BBFC. We provide Case Studies for all films we introduce as part of our longstanding relationship with Film Education’s National Schools Film Week. Though we no longer rate video games there are some video games case studies which should offer an historical view of how we treated some well-known video games.
We regularly update the Case Studies, and add new titles several times a year. We welcome suggestions for new Case Studies, but, as each one takes a while to research and write, we prioritise requests. You can email us to suggest a Case Study.
If you are researching a specific title and would like access to the BBFC's paper file archive this may be possible depending on the age of the work. You can request access to our archive in Education resources.
Genre: Drama, Thriller, War
Pasolini's final film, Salo, transposes the Marquis de Sade's notorious eighteenth century novel, '120 Days of Sodom', to Mussolini's short lived fascist republic of Salo at the end of World War Two. In the film a group of young people are rounded up by Italian fascists, taken to a secluded house...
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Severance is a British horror film with a comic edge about a group of workers from an arms company sent on a team-bonding exercise in some remote Hungarian woods who find themselves being terrorised and then picked-off by a band of local soldiers. The film is a second horror offering from its...
Shank is a low budget British feature set in London in the not too distant future. The city has ‘gone to hell’, is suffering a severe food shortage and is overrun by gangs of teens fighting and killing each other for the poor quality food available.Shank contained several classification issues...
Shifty is a debut feature from writer/director Eran Creevy. Set in the outskirts of London, it charts the relationship between two friends: Chris, who is returning for a visit to his old neighbourhood after four years living away, and Shifty, the charismatic young drug dealer of the title.
In his autobiography What the Censor Saw (London: Michael Joseph, 1973), former BBFC Secretary John Trevelyan stated that “If mental illness is treated seriously […] it can be entirely acceptable as material for a film, but if treated sensationally I would find it totally unacceptable.”
Solaris is a 1972 film from the acclaimed Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev, Stalker) and its history with the BBFC provides an insight into how classification issues are balanced with an appreciation of, and regard for, a particular work’s appeal and address.
Genre: Action, Fantasy
The BBFC announced in September 2000 that it would look at the possibility of making the 12 cinema category an advisory category, like U and PG. This was in response to complaints from parents - particularly whenever a new James Bond film came out - who felt that they were better placed than the...
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Sam Peckinpah's 1971 film, Straw Dogs, has been described by critics as a kind of 'Cornish Western', transferring Peckinpah's usual concerns about violence and masculinity from the Wild West to the West Country of England. Dustin Hoffman plays an American professor, David Sumner, who moves away...
Danny Boyle's Sunshine is set fifty years in the future, as a team of specialised engineers set off on a mission to drive a giant nuclear bomb into the sun in an attempt to reignite the dying star. The film explores the tensions amongst the crew members, as various problems arise and they are...
Sweet Movie is a 1974 political satire by Dusan Makavejev, director of the notorious WR - Mysteries of the Organism. The film cuts between two separate stories, each focussing on a female character. One story concerns a Canadian beauty queen who escapes from her rich but perverted husband to...
The film Sweet Sixteen deals with the life of teenager Liam (Martin Compston), growing up in the tough estates of Greenock, Scotland. This gritty, realistic portrayal of contemporary working class life by the acclaimed British director Ken Loach gained much critical acclaim; nominated for the...