Fifty Shades of rating: How film boards around the world have certified the erotic movie

From France to Malaysia, certificate 12 to Banned, "sentimental tale" to "sadistic pornography", here's how Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele's exploits have been rated

Fifty Shades of Grey – and almost as many of opinion… The big-screen adaptation of EL James’s bestselling erotic novel is hotly-anticipated, mildly interesting or positively unwelcome, depending on where you live (and, of course, whether you subscribe to the views of your country’s official film board).


From France’s 12-rated “sentimental tale” to Malaysia’s banned “sadistic” “pornography”, here’s how various countries have rated and classified the exploits of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele…

United Kingdom

Rating: 18 – suitable only for adults (UK’s strictest certificate)

British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) says: “Strong sex and nudity, along with the portrayal of erotic role play based on domination, submission and sado-masochistic practices… There are also strong verbal references to such practices and the instruments used” 

Other recent films given an 18 rating: Gone Girl, Peter Greenaway’s Goltzius and the Pelican Company (18 certificates are relatively rare in the UK these days) 

United States

Rating: R – those under 17 can watch if accompanied by an adult (but presumably won’t be asking mum and dad to take them)

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) says: “Strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.” But refrains from calling the film “clearly adult”, which would have resulted in an NC-17 certificate.

Other recent films given an R rating: Kingsman:The Secret Service, American Sniper


Rating: 12 – prohibited from being shown to minors under 12

Le Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC) says: “[It] isn’t a film that… can shock a lot of people… Fifty Shades of Grey is really a romance, we could even call it a bleuette – a sentimental tale… The director handled the sex scenes very skilfully and limited them to the bare minimum. It’s more the subject itself, this S&M relationship, which pushed us to restrict the movie for audiences under 12.” 

Other recent films given a 12 rating: Blue is the Warmest Colour, Porn in the Hood


Rating: R21 – suitable for adults aged 21 and above (Singapore’s strictest certificate)

Singapore’s Media Development Agency (MDA) says: “The film is more appropriate under a R21 rating where the Classification Guidelines permit ‘stronger and more explicit portrayal and exploration of mature themes’… Overall, the sexual scenes are treated in a sensuous manner. While mild bondage and whipping are depicted, the scenes focus on the characters’ sexual arousal through their facial expressions and do not depict the sadomasochistic aspect of these acts.”

Other recent films given an R21 rating: Gangnam Blues


Rating: Banned

Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF) says: “[The film is more] pornography than a movie.” The Board made its decision in light of scenes it perceived to be outside of natural sexual behaviour: “The content is more sadistic, featuring scenes of a woman being tied to a bed and whipped.”

Other recent films banned: Exodus: Gods and Kings, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Noah, The Wolf of Wall Street


Fifty Shades of Grey opens in UK cinemas on Friday 13th February