Classic films including Rocky, Star Wars and Flash Gordon have been given higher classifications by the censors amid fears they will upset the so-called “snowflake” generation.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has uprated the films largely to 12A, which means that no child under the age of 12 can see the movie unless accompanied by an adult.
Most were previously Parental Guidance (PG), or its precursor A, which are classed as suitable for young children to watch alone but must not contain scenes to “unsettle” a child aged eight or over.
Even the 1936 classic The Show Boat, which was hailed as a progressive critique of racial injustice at the time, has fallen foul of changing social standards and increased sensitivity over race after the killing of George Floyd in the US. From being rated a U – suitable for children aged four and over – it was last year reclassified as a 12, largely because of the racist language used in the film.
Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless have fallen foul of the censors
Rocky starring Sylvester Stallone is also among the films deemed too upsetting to be a PG
The BBFC said it was simply reflecting “changing social standards” which it translates into guidelines for its teams of censors after conducting surveys of public opinion based on a 10,000-strong consultation.
Its most recent research found a “heightened sense of anxiety”, especially among young audiences over depictions of “real world” scenarios which they were concerned could happen to them. Behaviours cited were terrorism, suicide, self-harm and discrimination.
However, David Green, director of the think tank Civitas, said films risked becoming another casualty of “cancel culture.”
“The censors have lost sight of the sound moral messages that these films had at the time and allowed themselves to be distracted by modern sensibilities towards victimhood and grievance,” he said.
Rocky, which starred Sylvester Stallone as a small time club fighter who gets a shot at the world championship, was classified as an A by the BBFC in 1976 and has been PG on video ever since.
The sci-fi fantasy Flash Gordon, also classified as an A, and as a PG for video, was also upgraded to a 12A because of its for moderate violence, language, sex references and discriminatory stereotypes.
A scene from the 1980 science-fiction fantasy classic Flash Gordon
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, originally a PG, has been extended and has, as a result, been reclassified as a 12A, for its moderate fantasy violence and threat.
Even Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was reclassified from a U to a PG because of its moderate violence and mild threat.
In his report, David Austin, the BBFC chief executive, said: “The issue of discrimination is one of the core issues set out in our guidelines, and in 2020, the tragic death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests showed how important it is that discrimination be tackled and flagged up wherever it occurs.
“The 1936 film version of the musical Show Boat, which many people considered to be progressive in its depiction of race relations and racial injustice at the time of its original release, and which we rated U at that time, came into us again in 2020 on video.
“Some of the language, behaviour and stereotypes are not defensible at U under current guidelines, but given the historical context and dated nature of the work, we could accommodate the film at PG for outdated racist stereotypes and discriminatory language and behaviour.
“However, the extra features included several examples of racist language, necessitating a 12 rating.”
On the other hand, two films – The Karate Kid and the first of The Fast and the Furious series – went other way, downgraded from 15 to 12A due to infrequent strong language, moderate violence and sex references.