What does the 12a film classification mean and what will your children be able to see?

What does the 12a film classification mean and what will your children be able to see?
What films will you be able to take your children to the cinema (Picture: Getty)

The 12a film rating replaced the 12 rating in 2002 which enables children to see more graphic films at the cinema if accompanied by an adult.

12 with Parental Guidance (12A) means that the BBFC (The British Board of Film Classification) have classified the film unsuitable for children under 12.

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However they may still watch the film, as long as they are accompanied by someone over 18 at all times during the showing.

What does the 12a film classification mean and what will your children be able to see?
Moderate language may be used in a 12a film (Picture: Getty)

Advice is given regarding the content of the film and the adult must decide if it is appropriate for the accompanying under-12.

For adults unsure whether the film is suitable for the child, they are recommended to check the BBFCinsight for that film in advance.

A guide to BBFCinsight is available here.

The BBFC also states that no one younger than 12 may rent or buy a 12 rated video work.

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What types of films will children now be able to watch?

The 12A rating is given to films that contain themes that are deemed suitable for young teenagers.

Graphic scenes of sex and violence will not be shown, however the films will be more graphic than the PG and U-rated film classification that children under 12 have previously been able to watch.

The BBFC state nudity is allowed, but will be brief and discreet if shown in a sexual context.

Violence must be moderate and they must not dwell on detail, with no emphasis on injuries or blood, while strong swear-words should be rare and justified by context.

BBFC's guidelines:


Discriminatory language or behaviour must not be endorsed by the work as a whole. Aggressive discriminatory language or behaviour is unlikely to be acceptable unless clearly condemned.


Misuse of drugs must be infrequent and should not be glamorised or give instructional detail.

Imitable behaviour

No promotion of potentially dangerous behaviour which children are likely to copy. No glamorisation of realistic or easily accessible weapons such as knives. No endorsement of anti-social behaviour.


There may be moderate language. Strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification.


There may be nudity, but in a sexual context it must be brief and discreet.


Sexual activity may be briefly and discreetly portrayed. Moderate sex references are permitted, but frequent crude references are unlikely to be acceptable.


There may be moderate physical and psychological threat and horror sequences. Although some scenes may be disturbing, the overall tone should not be. Horror sequences should not be frequent or sustained.


There may be moderate violence but it should not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood, but occasional gory moments may be permitted if justified by the context. Sexual violence may only be implied or briefly and discreetly indicated, and its depiction must be justified by context.

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