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Films with rape scenes to receive higher age ratings under new rules

New guidelines mean films like The Duchess would receive a higher rating if classified today

Published: Friday, 18th January 2019 at 12:30 pm

Movies that depict sexual violence and rape will receive at least a 15 rating under new classification guidelines.


The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), who classify each movie with an age rating, announced the move following a survey of more than 10,000 people.

The change means that if classified today, Keira Knightley period drama The Duchess – in which a character is sexually assaulted – would be considered a 15, rather than its current 12A rating.

Repeated sexual references, “particularly those using pornographic language”, would receive an 18 classification under the new guidelines.

The BBFC’s study showed that 95% of teenage respondents said they wanted online streaming services to carry the same age ratings as cinemas and DVDs. Real-life scenarios – ones in which audiences feel could happen to them, like self-harm, suicide and discriminatory behaviour – were found to be particularly anxiety-provoking.

David Austin, Chief Executive Officer at the BBFC said, “[We know] that people are more comfortable with issues such as action violence, if it's in a way that they are expecting – such as a Bond or Bourne film. We are updating our standards around depictions of sexual violence and very strong sex references to reflect changes in public attitudes."

He added, “Over the last five years the way we consume film and video has changed beyond all recognition. That's why it's so important that there is consistency between what people watch on and offline”


The new guidelines will come into effect on 28th February 2019.

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