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Case studies

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.

 

Talk To Her

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar nominated drama is about a male nurse who is sexually obsessed with a female coma patient he cares for, and the relationship he builds up with the husband of a famous bullfighter who has also been hospitalised in a coma. It arrived at the BBFC in 2002 without a category...

Taxi Zum Klo

Genre: Drama

Frank Ripploh's autobiographical study of a homosexual teacher was first submitted to the BBFC in September 1981. The film focusses on the tension between the central character's professional life as a school teacher and his personal life in which he engages in gay sex with strangers, often in and...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ll - The Secret Of The Ooze

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, four anthropomorphic turtles named after Italian Renaissance artists and trained by a rat in martial arts skills, became a worldwide phenomenon in the late 1980s. Their origin lay in comic books, but soon translated into a hugely successful television series. The...

The Awakening

Genre: Drama, Horror

The Awakening is a British supernatural horror / thriller set in Britain after The Great War. It tracks Florence Cathcart, a writer who is famed for exposing hoaxes. She is particularly interested in uncovering charlatans who exploit vulnerable grieving relatives by pretending to speak to the dead...

The Bling Ring

Genre: Crime, Drama

Director Sofia Coppola’s 2013 drama, based on a true story, explores ideas of celebrity culture and narcissism. It follows a group of young Americans obsessed with celebrity and fashion, who break into celebrities’ houses and steal clothes, jewellery and other possessions.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Genre: Drama

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is an adaptation of a best-selling novel, which appealed both to young teenage and adult audiences. Set during World War II, it tells of Bruno, the young son of a camp Commandant. Unaware of the camp’s real aims, and bored after moving from his city home, Bruno...

The Damned United

Genre: Drama

The Damned United is a British drama adapted from the acclaimed novel by David Peace about the controversial football manager Brian Clough and his turbulent 44 days in charge of Leeds United in 1974.

The Dark Knight

Genre: Fantasy, Thriller

The Dark Knight came to the BBFC for classification in 2008, with a distributor request for a 12A age rating. The previous film in the superhero series, Batman Begins (also starring Christian Bale and directed by Christopher Nolan), was classified 12A in 2005. In the USA, the MPAA had already...

The Devils

Genre: Drama

Ken Russell's film, based on Aldous Huxley's 1952 documentary novel The Devils of Loudon, was first seen by the BBFC in an unfinished 'rough cut' on 27 January 1971. At around the same time, this 'rough cut' was also shown to senior executives from Warner Brothers, the film's distributor.

The Double

Genre: Drama

The Double is a British drama about a man who finds his life being taken over by someone who looks exactly like him, but with a very different personality. Directed by Richard Ayoade, the film is an interpretation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella of the same name, and transposes the story of...

The Elephant Man

Genre: Drama

The Elephant Man is a black and white film based on the life of Joseph Merrick, a 19th Century Englishman with a congenital disease that left him facially disfigured and forced to live as a sideshow freak.  It explores in particular his relationship with a doctor, Frederick Treves.

The Evil Dead

Genre: Horror

Sam Raimi's low budget horror film tells the story of a group of young people who intend to spend some time at an isolated log cabin in the woods. Soon after arrival, they inadvertently unleash the forces of darkness and, one by one, are turned into rampaging zombies. Luckily for the special...

The Exorcist

Genre: Horror

William Friedkin's powerful adaptation of William Peter Blatty's bestselling novel was submitted to the BBFC at the beginning of 1974. The film tells the story of a young girl who is possessed by a demon.The film had already courted controversy in the US where it had supposedly provoked fainting,...

The Falling

Genre: Drama

The Falling is a British drama, directed by Carol Morley. Set in the 1960s, it depicts a mysterious fainting epidemic that develops amongst a group of students at a strict girls’ school, following a traumatic incident with one of the pupils.

The Hunger Games

Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy

The Hunger Games is the film adaptation of the first in Suzanne Collins’ international bestselling trilogy set in a futuristic, dystopian world. Even before the film’s submission to the BBFC for classification, the Hunger Games novels were extremely popular, particularly amongst 11-14 year olds,...

The Killer Inside Me

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of Jim Thompson’s noir crime novel arrived at the BBFC with some pre-publicity buzz. The BBFC was already aware of the film’s reputation, due to the general strength of the violence and sex, and a specific scene in which the lead character viciously beats Joyce -...

The Killing Of Sister George

Genre: Drama

In contrast to its subsequent reputation, The Killing Of Sister George has very reputable antecedents. A successful stage play by British author and Daily Telegraph theatre critic Frank Marcus, it had been performed both in London’s West End and on Broadway. The play won the Evening Standard Award...

The Last House On The Left

Genre: Horror

Wes Craven's first film as director, The Last House On The Left, was produced in the United States in 1972. A loose re-working of Ingmar Bergman's Virgin Spring, it tells the story of two teenage girls who are abducted, tortured and murdered (and in one case raped) by a group of psychopaths. The...

The Last Temptation Of Christ

Genre: Drama

Submitted for classification in 1988, this dramatisation of the adult life of Christ attracted notoriety some time before it reached the BBFC. Press reports suggested that the film would contain a 'blasphemous' scene in which Christ fantasises on the cross about making love to Mary Magdelene.

The New York Ripper

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Lucio Fulci's 1982 ‘giallo’ arrived at the BBFC’s offices, for classification for cinema release, in December 1983. By that point, three of the director’s horror titles had already become embroiled in the ‘video nasties’ moral panic.

The Punisher

Genre: Action

The video game The Punisher; was submitted to the BBFC in December 2004. The game had already caused some controversy in the USA, where the original version was given an A.O. rating by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The A.O. (Adults Only) is a severe restriction on the marketing...

The Skin I Live In - La Piel Que Habito

Genre: Drama, Thriller

La Piel Que Habito – The Skin I Live In is a Spanish language thriller adapted from the novel 'Mygale' by Thierry Jonquet. Directed by Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar, it tells the story of a surgeon who is pioneering a new type of plastic surgery, and who has a very complicated personal and family...

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Genre: Horror

Tobe Hooper's seminal horror film was first seen informally by the BBFC's Secretary, Stephen Murphy, on 27 February 1975.  Murphy regarded it as a good, well-made film but felt strongly that the level of  terrorisation, particularly towards the end of the film, and the film's focus on 'abnormal...

The Trip

Genre: Drama

Roger Corman's The Trip was first viewed by the BBFC in 1967.  Sadly, the BBFC's records for that viewing have been missing since the late 1960s but we do know the film was formally refused a classification on 5 September 1967. 

The War Of The Worlds

Genre: Action, Science Fiction

The War Of The Worlds (1953) is the first film version of H.G. Wells’s 1897 science fiction masterpiece, a radio broadcast of which had caused widespread panic in 1938. The first two-thirds of the 60-minute radio show, directed by Orson Welles, sounds like a news bulletin and thousands of people...

The Wicker Man

Genre: Horror

The Wicker Man is a low budget British horror film from 1973 that over the years has acquired the status of a cult movie and has been dubbed the “Citizen Kane of horror movies” by Cinefantastique magazine.

The Wild Bunch

Genre: Western

Sam Peckinpah’s seminal western The Wild Bunch was first submitted to the BBFC in 1969. The film is set in 1913 and concerns a gang of aging outlaws under the leadership of Pike Bishop (William Holden).

The Wild One

Genre: Drama

Laslo Benedek’s 1953 film was one of the most controversial of its era, as it was released in the time of a ‘moral panic’.  Post war American and British teenagers alarmed their elders in a way that was probably unprecedented and from which we still see some of the ripples in popular culture today...

The Woman In Black

Genre: Horror, Thriller

The Woman In Black is a film version of the 1983 ghost story by Susan Hill, written in the style of a traditional gothic novel. Set in late Victorian/early Edwardian times, it follows a young lawyer who travels to a remote rural village, where he discovers a vengeful ghost responsible for the...

The Woodsman

Genre: Drama

The Woodsman follows a child molester as he attempts to rejoin society after some time in prison. This theme was one of the factors considered in classifying it 15, but it wasn’t the only issue discussed by examiners when they made their category recommendation.It was submitted in 2005 and along...

Them (Ils)

Genre: Horror

Them (Ils)  is a French horror / thriller film about a woman named Clementine, who finishes a week of teaching and heads home to the secluded house in the woods she shares with her novelist husband Lucas. That night the house seems to turn on them - doors slam, sharp objects materialize through...

This Is England

Genre: Drama

This is England was awarded an 18 certificate in 2007 for very strong racist violence. The film also contains some aggressive uses of very strong language. The use of the word 'c**t'  was exacerbated by its combination with the highly offensive racist terms ‘w*g’, 'P**i', 'n****r' and 'c**n'. 

Tormented

Genre: Horror

This British revenge horror/black comedy is director Jon Wright’s debut feature length film, which arrived for classification by the BBFC in November 2008. It is set in a modern British comprehensive school, where the lonely and overweight outsider, Darren Mullet, has just committed suicide after...

Trainspotting

Genre: Drama

Danny Boyle’s cult film about junkies in mid-nineties Edinburgh has a rather interesting history at the BBFC.

Trash

Genre: Drama

In February 1971, distributor Jimmy Vaughan (of Vaughan Films) asked the BBFC’s Secretary, John Trevelyan, to take an informal look at Trash, the latest production from the Morrissey/Warhol factory.  Trevelyan viewed the film with Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey on 26 February 1971 (Warhol and...

Tsotsi

Genre: Drama

Acclaimed world cinema hit, Tsotsi is an adaptation of a novel set in Johannesberg. It tracks the redemption of its central character, Tsotsi, a mean criminal who is widely feared in his area of town, and forced to live in a shanty town after the death of his mother to AIDS. The work looks both at...