Film ratings

What is a 12A? What is a 12?

The 12A rating is only used for films shown in cinemas. Films rated 12A are suitable for children aged 12 and over. However, people younger than 12 may see a 12A so long as they are accompanied by an adult. In such circumstances, responsibility for allowing a child under 12 to view lies with the accompanying adult.

The 12 rating is only found on videos and DVDs. No one younger than 12 may rent or buy a 12 rated video or DVD.

We use exactly the same rules to rate films at 12A as we use to rate videos and DVDs at 12.


Nothing in any film or DVD should break the law. Compliance Officers sometimes suggest films are given a higher rating or even cut if there is anything which could be harmful. This is true at all the age ratings.

The tone of a work, how it makes an audience feel, is very important, even for the 12 categories. Compliance Officers have to think about what 12 year olds will know from school and their friends, what they understand about the world, and what concerns them the most. If a film is especially upsetting, or has a mature theme or adult tone, it may not be suitable at 12 or 12A.

The lasting impression the film gives the people watching it is important too. Viewers of 12 years and over can often cope with more complicated storylines and difficult ideas than younger children watching U and PG films. These might be heroes who do bad things, upsetting events or themes that aren’t always easy to talk about.

Compliance Officers only recommend a 12 or 12A if they think 12 year olds would be fine to watch them. If they think a film or DVD is fine for younger children (eg 10 and 11 year olds) they recommend those films be rated PG.

Age rating issues for 12A & 12:

•    Theme - Mature themes are acceptable, but their treatment must be suitable for young teenagers.

•    Language - The use of strong language (eg 'f***') must be infrequent. Racist language used as abuse is also a concern.

•    Nudity - Nudity is allowed, but it must be brief and discreet if there is any suggestion of sex.

•    Sex - Sex can be suggested. Sex references may reflect what 12 year olds are likely to have heard about from school, but there should be nothing unsuitable for young teenagers. Frequent rude sex references may not be allowed.

•    Violence - Violence must not dwell on injuries or blood. Sexual violence may only be implied or briefly and discreetly indicated.

•    Imitable techniques - Dangerous techniques (eg combat, hanging, suicide and self-harming) should not dwell on things which can be copied or appear pain or harm free. Easily accessible weapons should not be shown as glamorous.

•    Horror - There can be some threat and menace, including scary scenes which are intense or last a while. Only occasional gory moments can be shown.

•    Drugs - Any misuse of drugs must be infrequent and should not be shown as glamorous, or attractive, or teach viewers how to take drugs.

•    Discrimination - The film or DVD as a whole must not approve of language or behaviour that would offend a person’s religion, colour, gender, sexuality or disability. Aggressive use of this type of language and behaviour is unacceptable unless it is clearly disapproved of.