British Board of Film Classification

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An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

In memory of musician Joe Cocker OBE (20 May 1944 – 22 December 2014), we take a look at the film file for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), which won two awards for its theme tune Up Where We Belong, performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes.

Tags: archive, drama, romance

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) came to the BBFC for classification in August 1982. The story of a disadvantaged boy joining the Navy and determined to survive the gruelling thirteen week training course to become a pilot, clearly had appeal to older teenagers. A tale of determination and morality, the BBFC examiner report here highlights that teen audience appeal, but also the difficulty of containing the film's sex scene and strong language, at the available AA category. AA allowed children aged 14 and over to see a film and the next available alternative was the more restrictive X category, for those aged 18 and over.

At the time, the BBFC was on the cusp of revising its categories and introducing the 15 and 18 to replace the historic AA and X. The A category was also replaced by PG.

With the changes to the categories close to fruition, the distributor of An Officer and a Gentleman decided to delay the formal classification of the film until the new categories were introduced, hoping to secure a 15 rating. However, not all cinema-goers agreed that the additional year restriction between the AA for those aged 14 and up, and the new 15 certificate, was sufficient to contain the film's sex scene and strong language. We can see BBFC Director James Ferman respond to such a complaint in the letter available here. Ferman suggests strong messages about morality and determination in the film act as mitigating factors for the 15 rating. He also describes the film as containing valuable messages for young people of 15 who would be in their final year of compulsory education and also able, if they so wished, to join the armed forces themselves aged 16. The classification of the film for a mid teen audience in America, Australia and New Zealand is also highlighted.

The BBFC classified An Officer and a Gentleman 15 in December 1982.  It was released in cinemas in the UK in February 1983. The film won an Academy Award for best supporting actor, while the track Up Where We Belong, performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, won an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song and a BAFTA Film Award for Best Original Song.

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