Curriculum links: This case study can be used for those studying 'Content of Critical Approaches to Film: Section A: Contemporary British and US Film - Contemporary US film' on the A-level OCR specification.
This hotly anticipated sequel to one of the most successful franchises of all time arrived at the BBFC just a few days ahead of its release date on 17 December 2015.
Although it may seem unusual for the film’s distributor - Walt Disney Pictures - to submit the film for a rating so close to its release date, it’s quite common for this to happen, particularly with big blockbusters.
The distributor submitted Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a 12A category request.
The film was viewed by BBFC Compliance Officers and senior members of the BBFC who concluded that the requested rating could be issued.
On the 7 December 2015, the film was rated 12A for moderate violence and threat.
A lot of the violence in the film is likely to be very familiar to audiences, including younger children. The film features lots of exciting aerial dogfights, laser blast fights and lightsaber duels, none of which is visually detailed or results in any blood or injury detail.
However, a couple of stronger moments stood out to our compliance team, including sequences in which characters are killed with lightsabers, with sight of a laser beam protruding through a character’s body, and a moment in which a lightsaber burns against a character’s skin, causing lasting injury. Although these more detailed examples of violence are infrequent, the focus on characters’ pain and suffering in these moments place the issue of violence at 12A.
The film also contains scenes of occasional moderate threat, including during prolonged scenes of intense action violence; scenes in which characters are held at lightsaber point and interrogated using the Force also provide another example in which the film emphasises victims being in pain and anguish. As a result, we considered the threat to be category defining at 12A.
Other classification issues include infrequent use of very mild bad language (‘hell’, ‘damn’).
For further information about the film’s classification issues, read our ratings info.
If you want to find out more about how the BBFC rates Star Wars films, check out our podcast.