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The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is an organization that rates both motion pictures and videos (and, also, an increasing number of video games). The rating system was introduced in 1913 and also rates videos. Because one county's view of a film is different from another county's view, county authorities are ultimately responsible for film ratings for cinema showings in their area. County councils often ignore the BBFC-advised rating, and rate films with another BBFC certificate in their county only, e.g.: the BBFC rates a film as 15 but the County council gives the film a 12A rating in their county. Rating certificates from the BBFC for movies are not legally binding, ex., someone younger than 15 may see a 15-rated movie, whereas those for videos are. British cinemas generally stick closely to these ratings policies, and a young person may often be asked for proof of age if deemed younger than the rating for 12A, 15, or 18 movies.

The current BBFC system is:

  • Uc (Universal Children) Suitable for all, but especially suitable for children under 4. Used for video only. Retired in 2009. Equivalent to G in the United States.
  • U (Universal) Suitable for all. (The board states that while they cannot predict what might upset a particular child; a 'U' film should be suitable for audiences aged 4 and older). Equivalent to higher G and low PG.
  • PG (Parental Guidance) General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children. (It is the board's policy that movies rated 'PG' should not disturb a child of about 8 years of age or older; however, parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset young or more sensitive children). Equivalent to high PG, and in some cases, PG-13.
  • 12A (12 Advisory) Recommended for 12 years and older. People under 12 years must be accompanied by an adult. Used only in cinema, replaced 12 in 2002. Equivalent to low PG-13.
  • 12 Recommended for 12 years and older. Anybody under 12 may see it (at home), as long as parents of guardians say they can. Nobody younger than 12 may rent or buy a '12' rated video. 12 was discontinued for cinema in 2002, and was replaced by 12A. Equivalent to low PG-13.
  • 15 Suitable only for 15 years and older. Nobody younger than 15 may see a '15' film in a cinema. Nobody younger than 15 may rent or buy a '15' rated video. Equivalent to high PG-13 and low R.
  • 18 Suitable only for adults. Nobody younger than 18 may see an '18' film in a cinema. Nobody younger than 18 may rent or buy an '18' rated video. These films may contain strong language, strong sexual contact and strong blood and gore. Equivalent to high R and NC-17.
  • R18 (Restricted 18) To be shown only in specially licensed sex cinemas, or supplied only in licensed sex shops, and to adults only. These films contain sexually explicit or pornographic content.

Video works that are given 12, 15, 18, or R18 certificates are legally restricted, and it is against the law (enforced by every council in the UK, but not by the Board itself) for anybody under age to obtain such material.

Films may receive a different rating when released on DVD/video to that at the cinema, for example, a film rated 12A at the cinema may get a PG, 12, or a 15 on DVD, depending on what content is in the video. It is not unusual for certain films to be refused classification, effectively banning them from sale or exhibition in the UK. Sometimes compulsory cuts are made to films, such as cuts to sexual violence and animal cruelty. Any media which has been refused a classification certificate in any category is banned. Banned works are called rejected.

Videos deemed by their distributors to be exempt under the Video Recordings Act 1984 may bear the mark E (for exempt), though this is not a rating and the BBFC does not maintain a symbol. 


British Board of Film Classification (BBFC)
BBFC U BBFC PG BBFC 12A BBFC 12 BBFC 15 BBFC 18 BBFC R18

Defunct certificates: A | H | X | AA | Uc | PG-12

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