British Board of Film Classification

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Controversial Decisions

Occasionally there will be strong arguments for passing material that challenges aspects of BBFC policy, or for passing a film at a lower age rating than might be expected eg Saving Private Ryan (1998). In this case, the educational benefits of making the work available to early teens outweighed the likelihood of upsetting some viewers.

Sometimes films attract enormous pre-publicity for their treatment of controversial themes. In such instances, further viewing will usually be recommended by the Examining team, and the work may also be seen by the Presidential team. In some instances, expert opinion will be requested eg legal or psychological.

In 1997, The Lost World: Jurassic Park was shown at test screenings before hundreds of primary school-age children in order to test its suitability for a PG rating. Lolita (1997) was the subject of expert professional opinion owing to the difficulties implicit in its theme.

In 2001, a single cut was made to the French film Baise-moi (2000) and in 2002 another French film, Irreversible, was passed 18 uncut, in spite of a protracted rape scene. The film was assessed by a consultant psychologist, and although it presented some challenging issues, it did not breach the BBFC's Guidelines.

The BBFC's decision to award The Dark Knight the 12A rating resulted in much press coverage and complaints from members of the public, who thought the violence was too strong to be contained at that category.

Information about the age rating of many films past and present which have attracted interest or been considered landmark decisions can be found within the Case Studies section. More information about controversial films can also be found within the History section of the Student Guide.

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