BBFC reveals why films including Flash Gordon and Rocky received new ratings

Flash Gordon, which was originally released in 1980, was the most complained about film last year, the board said.

Classic films including Rocky, Flash Gordon and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back have all received tighter ratings classifications due to changing tastes, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) said.

The body’s annual report for 2020 explained why the movies had been uprated, with many moving from Parental Guidance (PG) to 12A.

The former rating says a film should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older while the latter recommends no child under 12 should watch without being accompanied by an adult.

Max von Sydow
Max von Sydow starred in Flash Gordon, which attracted criticism for its portrayal of Ming the Merciless (Ian West/PA)

Of the 93 complaints the board received last year, 27 were regarding 1980 space opera film Flash Gordon.

The movie’s 40th anniversary re-release was reclassified up to 12A due to the inclusion of “moderate violence, language, sex references and discriminatory stereotypes”, the BBFC report said.

Flash Gordon’s main villain, Ming the Merciless, was of East Asian appearance but played by Swedish-French actor Max von Sydow.

Also uprated was 1976 boxing classic Rocky, which was moved from a PG rating on video to a 12A for the 2020 theatrical re-release. It had been classed as an A for its original cinema release, a rating which meant it was not suitable for children aged under eight.

The BBFC said its reclassification was due to “moderate violence, mouthed strong language and domestic abuse”.

The extended edition of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring was moved up to a 12A for its “moderate fantasy violence and threat,” the BBFC said, bringing it in line with the other two films in the trilogy.

Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Jackson directed The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, one of the classic films reclassified by the BBFC (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Elephant Man, the 1980 drama starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir John Hurt, became 12A for “moderate threat, upsetting scenes and injury detail”.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was also re-released and was classified PG for “moderate violence and mild threat”. It had been a U film, meaning it was suitable for all ages.

However, not all re-classifications resulted in stricter ratings.

The 1984 sports drama The Karate Kid was a PG with cuts for its original theatrical release and a 15 uncut on video since then.

The BBFC now deems it suitable for 12A uncut, for “moderate violence and drug references”.

And The Fast And The Furious, the first film in the blockbuster franchise, was rated 15 upon its release in 2001 but is now a 12A for “infrequent strong language, moderate violence and sex references”.

Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher starred in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which has been re-classified by the BBFC (Ian West/PA)

The report said 17 people complained about the PG rating for 2019 fantasy film Pinocchio.

Most felt the rating was not high enough, according to the BBFC.

The BBFC stood by the rating and said the film balances its darker moments with “comic interludes and a reassuring outcome”.

It added: “As such, these moments are not strong enough for a 12A rating and the film is classified PG.”

And there were nine complaints about Netflix’s controversial film Cuties, which attracted legal action in Texas over its alleged “lewd” depiction of children.

Cuties follows an 11-year-old Senegalese girl living in Paris who rebels against her conservative family’s traditions when she becomes fascinated with a “free-spirited dance crew”.

One complaint focused on the poster art shown before the release of the film while the rest were about the film itself, the BBFC said.

All complained about the sexualisation of children in the film.

However, the BBFC described Cuties as a “mature and thought-provoking coming of age drama that shows the influence that aspects of sexualisation in popular culture can have on young people”.

The BBFC said it was suitable for a 15 rating.

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