British Board of Film Classification

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12A and 12

What does the 12A symbol mean?

Films classified 12A and video works classified 12 contain material that is not generally suitable for children aged under 12. No one younger than 12 may see a 12A film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult. Adults planning to take a child under 12 to view a 12A film should consider whether the film is suitable for that child. To help them decide, we recommend that they check the BBFCinsight for that film in advance.

What's the difference between 12A and 12?

The 12A requires an adult to accompany any child under 12 seeing a 12A film at the cinema. This is enforced by cinema staff and a cinema may lose its license if adult accompaniment is not enforced for children under 12 admitted to a 12A film. Accompanied viewing cannot be enforced in the home, so the 12 certificate remains for DVD/Blu-ray, rather than the 12A. The 12 is also a simpler system for retailers. It means they cannot sell or rent the item unless the customer is over the age of 12.

Is there a lower age limit for a 12A film?

No. However, the BBFC considers the content of 12A rated films to be suitable for children aged 12 and over, and we would not recommend taking very young children to see them. Works classified at these categories may upset children under 12 or contain material which many parents will find unsuitable for them.
Adults planning to take a child under 12 to view a 12A film should consider whether the film is suitable for that child. To help adults make this decision, we provide BBFCinsight for all films.

How important is the tone of a film at 12A or 12?

The overall tone of a film or video, and the way it makes the audience feel may affect the classification. For example, a work which has a very dark or unsettling tone which could disturb the audience would be less likely to be passed 12A even if the individual issues in the film were considered acceptable under the BBFC Guidelines. Similarly, if a work is particularly positive or reassuring this may stop it being pushed up a category from 12A to 15.

Will there be uses of strong language in a 12A or 12 work?

The BBFC's Guidelines state that strong language (e.g. 'f***') may be passed at 12 or 12A, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency and any special contextual justification. Aggressive uses of strong language may result in a film or DVD being placed at the 15 category. There is some allowance for puns on strong language at this category.
There may be moderate language (e.g. uses of terms such as ‘bitch’ and ‘twat’ at 12 or 12A).

What about discrimination?

Any discriminatory language or behaviour will not be endorsed by the work as a whole. Aggressive discriminatory language (for example homophobic or racist terms) is unlikely to be passed at 12A or 12 unless it is clearly condemned.

Do 12A films contain sexual behaviour?

Sex may be briefly and discreetly portrayed at 12A or 12. Verbal sex references should not go beyond what is suitable for young teenagers. Comedy may lessen the impact of some moderate sex references or innuendo but frequent crude sex references are unlikely to be accepted at this category. There may be nudity in 12A films but nudity in a sexual context should only be brief and discreet.

Sex and sex references are treated the same irrespective of sexuality

What sort of violence can I expect in a 12A or 12?

At 12A, moderate violence is allowed but it should not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood, but occasional gory moments may be permitted if they can be justified by their context (for example brief sight of bloody injury in a medical drama).

Action sequences and weapons may be present at 12A or 12, and there may be long fight scenes or similar. Weapons which might be easily accessible to 12 year olds (such as knives) should not be glamorised in 12A and 12 works.

Sexual violence, such as scenes of rape or assault, may only be implied or briefly and discreetly indicated at 12A and 12. Such scenes must also have a strong contextual justification.

Can horror films be passed 12 or 12A?

Yes, some horror films are passed at this category. Moderate physical and psychological threat is permitted at 12A or 12A as long as horror sequences are not too frequent or sustained and the overall tone is not disturbing.

What about other issues like imitable behaviour or drugs at 12A or 12?

Dangerous behaviour (for example hanging and suicide) may be present in 12A or 12 works but will not dwell on detail which could be copied or present those activities in a manner that children are likely to copy.

Anti-social behaviour should not be endorsed.

There may be infrequent sight of drugs misuse in a 12A or a 12 but the portrayal should not be glamorised or provide instructional detail.

How can I find out more about a specific 12 or 12A work?

Please check the BBFCinsight for the film or video you are thinking of watching. You may find BBFCinsight on this website or on our free App as well as on film posters, DVD and Blu-ray packaging, and on some listings. You will also find it attached to some film and video content which is available to download. It provides comprehensive information on exactly why a film or video has been given a particular category. All the issues are discussed in detail and parents in particular can use this information to make informed decisions when choosing viewing material for their children.

A guide to BBFCinsight is available here.

There are some answers to frequently asked questions about the 12A rating here.

For the full text of the BBFC Guidelines at 12 and 12A please click below.

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