Why Britain Keeps Giving Classic Movies New Ratings

The British Board of Film Classification has been busy.

Last year, the group rerated more than 30 older films to meet contemporary standards. In February, it gave a stricter rating to “Mary Poppins” because of racial slurs. And last week, it began using an updated set of guidelines after surveying thousands of British moviegoers to gauge shifting public attitudes.

Based on that survey, the new guidelines acknowledge that audiences have grown more lenient about depictions of cannabis use but are more concerned about intense violence and, for younger viewers, bad language.

“We follow what people tell us, and we update our standards as societal attitudes change,” said David Austin, the board’s chief executive.

When distributors rerelease movies in theaters, on streaming services or on DVD, they may be required to resubmit the films to the ratings board. Many voluntarily choose to do so, Austin said, in hopes of receiving a lower rating or to ensure that the rating matches the content. What was once considered acceptable onscreen may no longer be.

Under the newest guidelines, the board said, both the 2018 Transformers movie, “Bumblebee,” and the 1963 James Bond classic, “From Russia With Love,” would be rated 12A instead of PG if they were resubmitted for updated ratings.

(The ratings for theatrical releases are U, for universal; PG, for parental guidance; 12A, 15 and 18, for certain age restrictions; and R18, for pornographic content.)

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