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From the Archive

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.

 

Taking a look at Examiner reports for two unique David Lynch films

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It is interesting to see how the Examiners at the time balanced their understanding of the images and stories Lynch presented in his work with their analysis of the particular moments which they considered might have a strong impact on certain sections of  the cinema audience.

Temple of Doom

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Steven Spielberg’s film was submitted to the BBFC for classification in April 1984. The reports published here detail the concerns Examiners had about a number of moments in the film. The sequence in the ‘Temple of Doom’ of a sacrificial victim having his heart ripped out, plus various attacks...

Terminator 2: The BBFC judgment

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The film was seen by the BBFC in a rough cut version in June 1991 and, as one of the Examiner reports shows, the film sat on the 15/18 borderline. Guild Film Distributors were advised that scenes in the psychiatric hospital (detailed in the accompanying cuts) would need to be reduced to achieve a...

The BBFC and University of Westminster celebrate 100 years of cinematic history

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The exhibition features early BBFC artefacts such as images of the first BBFC Presidents, T.P O’Connor’s 43 Rules for Deletion as published in 1916, through to cuts books from the 1950s and original film examiner reports. The BBFC’s history will be shown in parallel, and intersecting with, that of...

The Exorcist

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Submitted to the BBFC in January 1974 this tale of demonic possession was one of a number of controversial films to be seen by Stephen Murphy, BBFC Secretary 1971-1975. The BBFC passed The Exorcist ‘X’, without cuts, and in the letter published here Murphy explains to a concerned local council the...

The Lion King

Tags: animation, disney, lion, king, children

The Lion King came to the BBFC for classification in July 1994 and was classified U. It followed shortly after the Disney hit Aladdin in 1993, which was classified U for scenes of mild threat. Like Aladdin, BBFC Examiners considered The Lion King to contain similar levels of mild threat as well as...

The Mummy

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A script written by Jimmy Sangster was sent to the BBFC in February 1959 prior to shooting.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

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"Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life". So claims Jean Brodie, played by Maggie Smith in the 1969 film adaptation of Muriel Spark's novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Set in 1930s Edinburgh the film introduces us to Miss Brodie, a girls' school teacher who has a...

The Terminator

Tags: terminator, archive, bbfc, science, fiction, action

When the film was submitted the distributor expected an 18 classification and therefore asked for any cuts advice that would help them to achieve a 15. Examiners viewing the film appreciated the appeal to 15 year olds, but were hesitant to suggest cuts to such a tightly edited film.Some cuts were...

Thunderball

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The film was submitted to the BBFC in November 1965 but our work with the film began earlier in the year. In April 1965 Eon Productions sent a shooting script to the BBFC for advice on how the finished film might be considered for classification. The letter published here details the BBFC’s...

Total Recall

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Total Recall is based on the Phillip K. Dick short story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ and follows the the unravelling double life of Douglas Quaid/Hauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the ensuing liberation of the oppressed Martian colony being manipulated by Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox).

Touch Of Evil (1958)

Tags: bbfc, archive, drama, thriller

Touch Of Evil, Orson Welles' final Hollywood film, is a dark story of a Mexican narcotics detective, Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston), and his wife Susie (Janet Leigh), who become embroiled in a world of crime and corruption as Miguel’s investigations into narcotics rings bring him into conflict...