Published: 28th March 2024

Our new Classification Guidelines are here

Following our largest-ever public consultation, we’ve launched our latest Classification Guidelines.

At the BBFC, it’s our job to help families and audiences choose the content that’s right for them. Every piece of content we classify is done so in accordance with Classification Guidelines, which we update every four to five years to ensure that our work continues to reflect the expectations and values of people across the UK. 

That’s why, in 2023, we embarked on our largest-ever research project. We spoke to 12,000 people, including parents and caregivers, grandparents, educators and young people, to find out what matters most to them when it comes to classification. 

Using a variety of research methods, including cinema screenings, focus groups, teen film parties and online surveys, we gained invaluable insights into their views, concerns, and expectations. All of this has directly shaped our latest Classification Guidelines, which set the framework for all of our classification decisions for the next five years.

Here's what we found and what's changing:

  • People told us they are more concerned about depictions of violence across all age categories, especially in scenes where the violence is intense, impactful, realistic or tonally dark. In future, this means we’re more likely to err on the side of caution when a film or series sits on the borderline between two categories.

  • People support our existing approach to classifying drugs, with two exceptions. Audiences have become slightly more relaxed about cannabis misuse at 12A/12, so long as it’s not glamorised, endorsed, instructional or frequent. People also felt our current policy on solvent misuse is too restrictive. Following expert advice, we’re going to reflect this going forward.

  • People want us to tighten up on sex at the 12A/12 / 15 border, especially if sex scenes contain nudity, sexual detail or are prolonged. Content showing this is now more likely to be rated 15. We also found people are more lenient towards some verbal and visual sex references at 15, so long as they’re not pornographic in nature. 

  • Parents told us they’re concerned about the normalisation of bad language for younger audiences, and want us to tighten up on language at PG. Terms which have misogynistic or sexualised connotations, such as ‘son of a bitch’, ‘bitch’, ‘whore’, ‘dick’, ‘dickhead’, ‘pussy’ will be rated 12A/12 regardless of context.

  • Audiences are comfortable with the relaxation of standards across most areas when it comes to trailers, especially at the junior categories (U, PG and 12A/12). This may also include isolated use of strong language (‘f**k’) in trailers at 12A/12 if the language is not aggravated.

In addition to our new guidelines, we’ve created BBFC Guides designed to help start important conversations and improve understanding of BBFC classification issues, such as discrimination, drugs, and sex, in an easy-to-read format.

Each bite-sized guide provides an overview of how we classify different issues and what they mean at each age rating, alongside a collection of film case studies. Take a look here

The new BBFC Classification Guidelines will come into effect from 1 May 2024, and are available to read and download in full here.