Rocky and Flash Gordon are among classic movies to have had their ratings tightened by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

The move from Parental Guidance (PG) to 12A is “as a result of changing standards in society,” the body said.

Flash Gordon’s “moderate violence, language, sex references and discriminatory stereotypes” were cited, along with domestic abuse in Rocky.

The BBFC reviews its classifications every four to five years.

BBFC chief executive David Austin said in the body’s annual report: “We talk to over 10,000 people every four-five years… to ensure our policies remain in step with parental expectations and societal standards on an ongoing basis.

“As a result of changing standards in society, it’s not infrequent that a distributor will submit something to us that we have classified in the past, but which we need to take a fresh look at under our current guidelines.”

Actors Sam J Jones and Timothy Dalton in a scene from the film Flash Gordon, 1980.
Flash Gordon from 1980 starred Sam J Jones (front right) and Timothy Dalton (on the ground)

The PG rating says a film should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older while 12A recommends children under 12 shouldn’t watch without being accompanied by an adult.

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

The movie’s 40th anniversary re-release was reclassified up to 12A partly due to the inclusion of “discriminatory stereotypes”.

The BBFC did not say what the stereotypes were. However Flash Gordon’s main villain, Ming the Merciless, was of East Asian appearance but played by Swedish-French actor Max von Sydow.

‘Moderate violence and mild threat’

Boxing classic Rocky from 1976, starring Sylvester Stallone, was moved from a PG rating on video to a 12A for the 2020 theatrical re-release.

Swedish actor Max von Sydow as Emperor Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon
Swedish actor Max von Sydow as Emperor Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon

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. The other two films in the trilogy already had a 12A rating.

“Moderate threat, upsetting scenes and injury detail” also saw The Elephant Man, the 1980 drama starring Sir John Hurt and Sir Anthony Hopkins, have its rating tightened.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in The Fast and the Furious from 2001
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in The Fast and the Furious from 2001 has been downrated from 15 to 12A

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was also re-released and was classified from a U (suitable for all ages) to PG for “moderate violence and mild threat”.

‘Not strong enough for a 12A’

But not all re-classifications led to a stricter ratings. The Fast And The Furious, the first film in the blockbuster franchise, was rated 15 when released in 2001 but is now a 12A for “infrequent strong language, moderate violence and sex references”.

The report said 17 people complained that the PG rating for 2019 fantasy film Pinocchio was not high enough.

But 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.”

The cast of Cuties
Cuties has created controversy over its depiction of children

And there were nine complaints about Netflix’s controversial film Cuties, which sparked 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 therefore considered it was suitable for a 15 rating.

Source: BBC