Blood and Cuts: The Goreless death of 18-Rated Cinema
Think of the most powerful movie scenes you can remember? The scenes that shocked and grabbed you. The moments that punched you in the gut. The takes that made you fall in love with Cinema. My guess is that they’re not from a kids film?!?!? For me, there’s something more raw, powerful and hard-hitting about the scenes and themes in 18-rated film that lesser certificates fail to match. Despite this, it feels like there are almost no 18-rated movies being released in the UK any more.
In Britain we have the following certificates for cinema-screened movies, issued by the BBFC (British Board Film Classification)
U: Universal – everyone can watch
PG: Parental Guidance
12A: Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult
15: Fifteen years and older
18: Eighteen years and older
Between 2003 and 2013 the number of films released in UK cinemas jumped from 587 to 994; a raise of 59%. U-rated films went from 60 (10% of all films) to 127 (13%), 12A went from 153 (26%) to 321 (33%) yet the number of 18-rated films has gone from 56 (9.5%) to 68 (6.8%). Of the 28 UK box office number 1 movies this year so far, only one – The Wolf of Wall Street – was an 18; and the last 18 before then was Dredd back in September 2012.
In reality, most of what comes out would be broadly categorized as either kids/family films (PG/U), teen/comedy films (12A), and thriller/horror films (15-18). Despite this, distributors seem hell-bent on cutting 18s down to 15s, 15s down to 12As, and 12As down to PG. It’s frustrating because you pay good money to see a film that’s been censored by the distributors to maximize the bums on seats – but the studios release the DVD as the higher certificate anyway.
Most notoriously, The Hunger Games dropped 7 seconds of ‘gore’ to limbo under the 12A bar. Doesn’t sound bad? Think how much more powerful it would have been with a little bit of blood or some realistic swearing in there! I zoned out of the ‘fighting’, as you saw someone hack into an opponent, and raise their weapon which was clean and shiny. Rubbish! Sure, it didn’t have to be another full-blown Battle Royale, but don’t sanitise it this much – at the end of the day, it’s kids killing kids!
A Good Day to Die Hard was another movie that was intentionally cut from a 15 to a 12A – by removing some violence and swearing. This is a franchise that started life as a genre-topping hard-18 action thriller, which has been diluted down to a family-friendly romp. You know what I say to that? “if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. Quit being a part of the fucking problem!!”
These films aren’t alone – Jack Reacher lost some violence to drop from a 15 to a 12A. Woman in Black was a 15 that got trimmed down to a 12. Robocop & Total Recall, both originally ultra-gory 18s were re-made as 12As. Machete was an 18, Machete Kills – 15… I’m sure you get my drift
But it’s not all bad news. Nebraska last year should have been a 12A, but for the term C*cksucker being deliberately left in by the director – Alexander Payne, step up and receive your bravery medal. And then there’s Airplane! A film that has been a PG for over 20 years, but was recently has been uppded to a 12A for the sexual references – I guess I picked the wrong day to look up film certificates.
Where did all the brash, bold, action-packed, risqué, sexy, and ballsy film-making go? And why the fudge are the Jackass Movies all rated 18?!?!?!?!
It’s interesting you say that because the majority of movies I’ve been seeing lately, such as Gone Girl or The Equalizer, were R-rated (in the US, 17 or older).
Rated-R in the USA is far broader than the UK. I would say that most Rated-R movies would get a 15 classification in the UK. Although Gone Girl is an 18 in the UK, and will probably be number 1 this weekend. POST TIMING FAIL.
Studios desperate to make sure that they get their money back in profit somehow. Wasn’t 12A first “invented” when the first Spider-Man film came out to make sure it was accessible to a wider audience?
I know they’re not great films, but it saddened me to see The Expendables rating slowly go down per film – seeing as I remember those action actors from their more gorier past.
Saw the last one recently. It’s like Die Hard but a faster decline – 18, 15, 12a. The latest one doesn’t even have any blood or swearing. Like a German sausage, it was the wurst.
And the first 12 was Batman. Something about superheroes?
Great post. I like your very first question. Definitely the scene that haunts me is the transformation in American Werewolf in London – truly horrific. Then of course we more recently got The Wolfman rated 15, with its pretty CG transformations – truly forgettable.
Totally agree. I wish the distributors wouldn’t pander to footfall and just let the film-makers do what they like. Censorship Schmensorship!
You make a good point with Hunger Games. Granted you don’t want to be Battle Royale, but the premise of this series suggests more of an R rating. You can still have this rating without being graphic or gratuitous. Very good article.
It’s kids killing kids at the end of the day. Having a 15 would be tame enough, but to make is a 12A is unforgivable.
Love this article. Not something I really thought about too much before, but now you mention it…
Every week I check the cinema listings it makes me angrier and angrier. 12A ‘Horror’ movies. PG ‘Action’ films. NONSENSE.
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Looks like we are on the same page here. The only thing I would say is lots of films from the 80s would drop a catergy these days if reassessed.