XWe have detected your location as outside the U.S/Canada, if you think this is wrong, you can choose your location.

Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Behind the Scenes at the BBFC

Film Classification from the Silver Screen to the Digital Age

ISBN 9781844574766
Publication Date December 2012
Formats Paperback Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher British Film Institute

Established by the film industry in 1912 as the nation's only official and independent classifier of the moving image, the British Board of Film Classification (originally the British Board of Film Censors) has long been a source of fascination – and sometimes a bone of contention – for filmgoers, film-makers and industry figures. This new book, published in the BBFC's centenary year, traces the fascinating history of film classification, censorship and controversy in Britain, and marks an unparalleled collaboration between the BBFC and leading film critics, historians and cultural commentators.

These writers, given unprecedented access to the BBFC's archives, chart the organisation's history alongside the cultural, social and political forces that have helped shape it. Together they explore shifting public attitudes towards cinema's portrayal of sex and drugs, horror and violence; the different perspectives of the BBFC's successive leaders; the impact of controversial decisions, and the ever-changing nature of moving image distribution and exhibition.

The book also features unique case studies, written by BBFC staff, focusing on significant films that have provoked debate and controversy both within the BBFC and more widely – Battleship Potemkin, The Snake Pit, A Clockwork Orange, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and many more.

Behind the Scenes at the BBFC: Film Classification from the Silver Screen to the Digital Age gives an entertaining and invaluable insight into changing attitudes to what counts as offensive, shocking or harmful over the last century, and shows how the work of the BBFC shapes what we see on screen.


  • Long-listed Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards

EDWARD LAMBERTI is Information Services Manager at the BBFC and a PhD candidate in the Film Studies department
at King's College London.

Associate Editors: Jason Green, David Hyman, Craig Lapper and Karen Myers.

Foreword; M.Kermode
Preface; Q.Thomas
Introduction; E.Lamberti
Censorship Under Siege: The BBFC in the Silent Era; S.Brown
'The People's Amusement': Cinemagoing and the BBFC, 1928-1948; R.James
From The Snake Pit to the Garden of Eden: A Time of Temptation for the Board; S.Chibnall
The Trevelyan Years: British Censorship and 1960s Cinema; T.Hargreaves
Wake of the Flood: Key Issues in UK Censorship, 1970-1975; S.Simkin
The Poacher Turned Gamekeeper: James Ferman and the Increasing Intervention of the Law; G.Osborn & A.Sinclair
More Than Just a 'Nasty' Decade: Classifying the Popular in the 1980s; S.Barber
Head-On Collisions: The BBFC in the 1990s; J.Petley
'The Last Days of the Board'; R.Duval
The Director's Commentary; D.Cooke
On the BBFC in the Digital Age; G.Lemos, J.Carr, G.Hawthorn, S. Sedley & A.Phoenix
Case Studies by BBFC Staff:
Battleship Potemkin; A.McDowell
Island of Lost Souls; K.Myers
The Snake Pit; D.Hyman
Caged; J.Green
Cape Fear; D.Hyman
Blowup; E.Lamberti
A Clockwork Orange; K.Myers
WR: Mysteries of the Organism; C.Lapper
The Panic in Needle Park; M.Perkins
Shivers; D.Hyman
The Tin Drum; C.Lapper
Christiane F; C.Lapper
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; E.Lamberti
Licence to Kill; E.Lamberti
International Guerillas; J.Green
Mikey; J.Green
Ichi the Killer; M.Perkins
Lilo & Stitch; J.Green
9 Songs; C.O'Brien
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; K.Myers

SIAN BARBER Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
SIMON BROWN Kingston University, London, UK
JOHN CARR OBE Advisor on child protection
STEVE CHIBNALL De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
DAVID COOKE Director of the BBFC
ROBIN DUVAL CBE former Director of the BBFC
TRACY HARGREAVES University of Leeds, UK
GEOFFREY HAWTHORN University of Cambridge, UK
ROBERT JAMES University of Portsmouth, UK
MARK KERMODE BBC film critic
GERARD LEMOS Vice President of the BBFC
GUY OSBORN University of Westminster, UK
JULIAN PETLEY Brunel University, London, UK
ANN PHOENIX Institute of Education, University of London, UK
STEVIE SIMKIN University of Winchester, UK
ALEX SINCLAIR University of Westminster, UK


'This book thoughtfully presents current practices in the frame of past contexts as part of an ongoing debate about what audiences might want from 'their' classifiers.' - Sight & Sound
'This is a key book and I would reckon that it is a must for any library used by staff and students engaging with British Film and British filmgoing. It is well produced with an accessible layout.' - Media Education Journal 'The history of the BBFC, as documented in this fascinating new book, is littered with controversies, scandals and accusations of butchering great works of art...The book spans the entire history of the organisation, from silent film, through the 'video nasties' furore of the 1980s right up to the present day. It is well researched and written from a number of perspectives, both from within and outisde the BBFC.' - Cinema Retro
"A remarkably accessible history, which may appeal especially to readers interested in film distribution, British film history but equally to readers outside the sphere of film and media studies with a broad interest in issues of censorship as a well written history of a unique case study." - Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Add a review