Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters turned 30 years old in 2014. Find out what BBFC Examiners thought of their first encounter with Peter, Egon, Ray and Winston.

Ghostbusters was submitted to the BBFC in June 1984 and classified PG for its language, innuendo and potentially scary scenes. Examiners noted suggestive innuendo involving Ray and a ghost, as well as an Exorcist-type sequence when the film’s female lead, Dana, levitates and speaks in a deep voice, her body having been inhabited by the demonic Zuul.

Ghostbusters remained at PG on video when it was submitted again in 1985, 1993, 1995 and 2009. However, when the film was resubmitted for cinema classification in 2011, it was classified 12A for moderate sex references and subsequently passed at 12 on DVD/Blu-ray.

The BBFCinsight for the 2011 submission of the film explains: “The BBFC's Guidelines at 'PG' state there may be 'Mild sex references and innuendo only'. The film contains a number of sex references, both verbal and visual, that exceed this allowance. Most notable is a scene in which it is implied that a ghost is performing oral sex on a man. As the man's trousers and zip are unfastened, the camera moves to his face as he sinks back on the bed with his eyes crossed in pleasure. Later, a woman who has been possessed by a demon rolls about on a bed with a man and tells him: "I want you inside me". Although these references were permitted at 'PG' in the 1980s, when there was no classification available between 'PG' and '15', they are now more appropriately classified at '12A' where the Guidelines state 'Sexual activity may be briefly and discreetly portrayed. Sex references should not go beyond what is suitable for young teenagers'.”

The Examiner report from 1984, available here, shows the level of acceptability of these issues at the PG level in the early 1980s. It is important to remember that, at this point the 12A certificate had not been introduced, so the choice was between a PG or a much more mature 15 rating. The BBFC Guidelines consultations with the public had also not yet been established, with the first consultation taking place in 1999, 15 years after the first submission of Ghostbusters. The addition of the 12A and 12 classifications between the PG and 15 levels, as well as more comprehensive research by the BBFC into public acceptability, has had an impact on a number of films classified around the same time as Ghostbusters. For example, another film passed PG – albeit with cuts - during the 1980s that is now classified 12A is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), while Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) was originally classified 15 for cinema release, but is now classified 12A.