My BBFC Film Diary

During the Summer Holidays, we asked Shivam, a member of our Youth Panel, to keep a diary of the films he watched in a typical week.

As a member of the BBFC Youth Panel, I do watch films on a regular basis for my own enjoyment. I thought it would be very interesting to do a ‘film diary’ in order to act as a microcosm for what teenagers across the country are watching!


The first film I watched this week is a fantastic 1988 Dutch film named Spoorloos, also known as The Vanishing. The film was originally classified 12 in 1990 but was reclassified 15 on film in 2017 with the short ratings info ‘strong threat.’ Reclassification often happens with older films that are resubmitted to the BBFC for classification at a later date. The film is a classic mystery drama about a man who obsessively searches for his girlfriend after she goes missing on holiday, and is based upon the novella ‘The Golden Egg’ by Tim Krabbe. The film itself is infamous for its horrifying final act and agonisingly tense final 15 minutes, which film critic Mark Kermode labelled ‘the scariest moment in any film I have ever seen.’ It is a slow burn, for sure, but your interest is always kept intact due to George Sluizer’s engaging direction and interesting dialogue. The film is mainly shown from the perspective of the boyfriend – and as he plummets into insanity, the audience feels the same way. This film would appeal to anyone interested in psychological thrillers, especially those that dislike gore or violence as, while The Vanishing does have a dark and menacing tone, there’s a notable absence of on-screen violence.  You can read the BBFC long ratings info for the film.

10 Cloverfield Lane

I found myself on a psychological thriller/horror binge, as the second film I watched was the disturbing 10 Cloverfield Lane. It is a spiritual sequel to Cloverfield, a handheld found footage horror film about the arrival of a giant monster in New York City. This film is set in the same universe and has many similar themes, and stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. as two people incarcerated in an underground bunker after being told by the captor, played brilliantly by John Goodman, that there has been an apocalyptic event on Earth that has left it uninhabitable. 

I was surprised to see that the BBFC rated this film 12 with the ratings info moderate threat, violence, and infrequent strong language. This is because of the intensity of the film, and the brief scene of violence. I know that BBFC asked people to watch the film as part of its 2019 Guidelines research to see whether they agreed with the 12 rating. The research showed that the public thought the threat registered as ‘strong’ rather than ‘moderate’, particularly given the undertones of sexual threat. As a result, the BBFC have said that the film would now be rated a 15 under current BBFC guidelines,  if it were to be resubmitted. 

I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane for a plethora of reasons, particularly for John Goodman’s frightening and horrifying performance and I think the film is best placed for anyone over the age of 15. 


Leaving my horror binge behind, I decided to rewatch Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, a film entrenched in verisimilitude, bolstered by Frances McDormand’s beautiful and poignant performance as an aging nomad. The film is naturalistic and tranquil, and I truly enjoyed every second of it. The film is rated 12 with the short ratings info ‘suicide references, infrequent moderate bad language’. Read the long ratings info.

A fun fact – the film was classified R in the USA for ‘some full nudity’. This means it was rated higher in the USA than the UK. Although there are many similarities between what people living in the UK and USA expect to see in film content at particular age ratings, there are some key differences, so it’s not uncommon for ratings to differ between the two countries. In the case of Nomadland, the nudity is natural, brief and non-sexualised and thus well contained by the 12 rating. In fact, as the nudity is entirely natural, it may have been acceptable at PG where BBFC guidelines state that “there may be nudity but with no sexual context’.  

Another example of a film that was rated differently by the BBFC as opposed to the MPA is About Time by Richard Curtis. The film is a romantic comedy drama that is rated 12 for infrequent strong language and moderate sex references, but is rated R in the USA for ‘language and some sexual content’. This points to the differing attitudes on swearing between American and British audiences.  


The last film I watched this week, and arguably my favourite, was Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious, maximalist epic Traffic starring real-life husband and wife duo Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta-Jones, as well as Don Cheadle, Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Viola David & Dennis Quaid. This star-studded film examines the tenets of illegal drug trafficking from multiple perspectives and many storylines that may or may not overlap throughout the narrative. The film is shot in a handheld fashion inspired by the ‘Dogme 95’ film movement developed by Lars Von Trier & Thomas Vinterburg. I loved the complex and labyrinthine storytelling; the audience follows three narratives, each with various subplots and twists and turns, simultaneously. The film’s byzantine narrative is truly testament to Soderbergh’s fantastic direction skills, and, quite honestly, anything Catherine Zeta-Jones is in, I’ll love! This film would appeal to anyone interested in smart and engrossing political dramas and anybody who loves the power of filmmaking. Anybody who enjoyed this film would also enjoy Syriana (15) by Stephen Gaghan and  Short Cuts (18) by Robert Altman, as both films are very large in scope and have complex narratives. Traffic is rated 18 for drug misuse.