Can you guess how many complaints it took to make Mr Turner the most moaned-about film of the year?

The Oscar-nominated artistic biopic, starring Timothy Spall, was criticised by a number of viewers for clothed clenched buttocks and thrusting. But what number?

Artistic biopic Mr Turner earned an Oscar nom and a best actor award for Timothy Spall at Cannes, but now the big-screen hit – charting the life of painter JMW Turner – has been dubbed the ‘most complained-about film of the year’. And it’s thanks to some buttock clenching. 


The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has revealed in its annual report, which covers January to December 2014, that the 12A classified film generated the most feedback from cinema goers. Although it’s earned this accolade from just 19 complaints. 

Yes, 19 complaints about a sex scene has shot Mr Turner to the top, a position one might have assumed would be held by a nerve-shredding horror flick.

Spall’s “clothed buttocks are seen clenching vigorously, before the scene cuts to a close-up of his face and his thrusting head and shoulders”, the report writes of the scene in question. Although it notes that 19 complaints is a “very low figure for most complained-about film, and is a tiny proportion of those who will have seen it.” Indeed, the Box Office saw director Mike Leigh’s film take £3,495,765 worldwide. Cinema tickets may be pricey, but that equals a whole lot of ticket stubs. 

The report adds: “The scene is relatively brief and does not contain any nudity, but Turner does appear rather distressed. The act ends with shots of Turner sobbing, almost in an exhibition of self-loathing.”

The BBFC went on to clarify that the scene was deemed acceptable in a 12A film due to the “lack of nudity, the relative brevity of the scene and its importance in terms of narrative, and the audience appeal of the film”. 

“Context is central to the question of acceptability of film and video content. When considering context we take into account issues such as public expectation in general and the expectations of a work’s audience in particular.”

Behind Mr Turner came Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning biopic 12 Years A Slave, which charts the life of Solomon Northup, a free man sold into slavery in 19th century America. According to the report, 12 complaints about the violence, including sexual violence, were filed about the 15 classification film. 

“12 Years a Slave tells its story in a considered and responsible manner, and contains very little in the way of blood or injury detail,” the report states. “The scenes of violence in the film are strong but are contextually justified.”

Zac Efron and Seth Rogen’s Bad Neighbours garnered eight complaints due to the “language, drug references and sex scenes in the film” while 300: Rise of an Empire drew seven complaints for “scenes of violence, a strong sex scene and sexual violence”. Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer also had seven complaints for scenes of violence and, conversely, for scenes being cut to achieve its 15 classification. The BBFC confirms the distributors did seek guidance on “reductions required to attain a 15 classification” after they were advised that the film would “likely receive an 18 classification”.


In previous years complaints have been notably higher. In its report for 2008, the BBFC said that of the total 853 complaints, 364 were about the rating of The Dark Knight.