British Board of Film Classification

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Gravity

Film information

  • Gravity

  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón

  • Status: 12A uncut

  • Year: 2013

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Gravity is a science fiction thriller directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone  is on her first Space Shuttle mission, which goes awry when debris from a Russian satellite crashes into the shuttle, leaving it mostly destroyed and all but one other crew member dead. Stranded in space, Stone and mission commander Kowalski have to depend on creativity and cooperation in order to survive in space, with a limited oxygen supply and very few options for a safe return to Earth.

The film, in both the 3D and 2D versions, was submitted to the BBFC for classification for theatrical release in August 2013, with a 12A category request; a specific request can often be helpful in giving BBFC Examiners an idea of the target market that the film makers see for the film. The Examiners who age rated Gravity considered that the film was likely to appeal to a wide mainstream audience of both families and adults. They considered it similar in tone and theme (survival against natural elements and technological failure by human courage and spirit) to a sci-fi film like Apollo 13 (1995, rated PG) starring Tom Hanks, or the more recent sailing disaster movie with Robert Redford, All Is Lost (2013, rated 12A).  

Examiners identified the levels of sustained threat, some disturbing images of dead bodies, and the use of strong language in the film as the category-defining issues. Category-defining issues are those which secure the age rating, though many films feature other content which is discussed by Examiners, and might be of interest to parents or viewers. That information is always recorded in BBFCinsight. Examiners use the BBFC Guidelines, current research and the law as the basis for all decision making, also bearing in mind recent decisions on similar works.

There are regular scenes of quite prolonged threat throughout the film, initially from the accident that disables the space shuttle, and then as the surviving astronauts dodge debris from exploding space vehicles. These events cause explosions, bursts of flame and high speed buffeting by and bouncing off various space vehicles and crashing spacecraft. The detailed and convincing visual special effects increase the intensity and impression of the life-threatening scenes.

At one point there is also a brief scene of a woman who is close to drowning. While many of these sequences of threat are sustained, they demonstrate an overwhelmingly positive message about the human will and ability to survive.

Two dead bodies in space have sufficient injury detail to be the type of disturbing images that audiences might not expect to see in a film below a 12A rating. Both bodies are frozen: a man with his nose broken off, leaving only a hole in the middle of his face, and a woman whose face is intact, but with frosted and milky looking eyes. The images – which are bloodless - are shown a couple of times, but relatively briefly, and are clearly intended to illustrate the seriousness of the accident.

The bad language in the film is mostly quite mild (such as ‘shit’ and 'sonofabitch'), but there is also a single use of strong language ('f**k') used by one of the astronauts as they express frustration and stress. It is not directed at anybody in particular. BBFC Guidelines for 12A at the time that the film was examined stated that ‘Moderate language is allowed. The use of strong language (for example, ‘fuck’) must be infrequent.’

Despite the sometimes intense scenes of threat, and the potentially disturbing images of dead astronauts, BBFC Examiners advised that a classification of 12A would meet general audience expectations of a thrilling but ultimately positive film like Gravity. The BBFC therefore rated the film 12A with short BBFCinsight of ‘sustained moderate threat, disturbing images and strong language’. The longer form BBFCinsight explains the key issues in more detail, without giving any plot spoilers.

The DVD Blu-ray version of Gravity was submitted to the BBFC for classification in late 2013. As it was identical to the theatrical release, it was passed at 12 with the same BBFCinsight.

Gravity won several Academy and BAFTA awards during 2013. It was selected for the Into Film Festival 2014.