Why 'Rocky' and 'Flash Gordon' had their British ratings changed

British Board of Film Classification updates ratings every four or five years

Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. Courtesy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has updated its ratings of several popular films including Flash Gordon, Rocky, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings.

The films all originally had a PG or parental guidance classification but this has changed to 12A, meaning that under 12s should not watch unless accompanied by an adult.

“We talk to over 10,000 people every four or five years to ensure our policies remain in step with parental expectations and societal standards on an ongoing basis,” BBFC chief executive David Austin said.

"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.”

The commission said Flash Gordon's 12A rating was due partly to the film’s inclusion of “discriminatory stereotypes”, perhaps referring to the East Asian villain Ming the Merciless, who was played by Swedish-French actor Max von Sydow.

Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone, also had its ratings bumped up because of “moderate violence, mouthed strong language and domestic abuse”.

Peter Jackson’s first The Lord of the Rings entry is also now 12A for “moderate fantasy violence and threat”, bringing it in line with its sequels which have the same classification.

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back went from a U (suitable for all ages) to PG because of “moderate violence and mild threat”.

However, not all films had their ratings increased, as 2001’s The Fast and the Furious had its classification lowered. It was originally a 15 but went down to 12A because of “infrequent strong language, moderate violence and sex references”.

Updated: July 8th 2021, 1:11 PM