Why do we have a 12A?

This page is about the history of 12A. For info about our current Guidelines for 12A please look here or watch our advert below. The advert was made to tell the public exactly what 12A means, and to explain to parents that they can find out more about why films get their ratings by looking at BBFCinsight.

Watch our 12A advert

What is the history of 12A?

12A is the newest certificate. It was launched in 2002. Issues in 12A films tend to be moderate, though there can be some strong content (for example occasional swearing). Early 12As include Spider-man and The Bourne Identity. You can read more about the history of age ratings in the UK and all the different certificates there have been on our timeline. You can read our Guidelines for 12A here, or browse through the latest releases on this site where you will be able to read about why new 12A films got their age ratings.

12A is advisory, which means that as with U and PG, parents can make up their minds about whether they think a film is suitable for you. 12As are stronger than PGs and Us though. When BBFC Compliance Officers recommend a film should be a 12A this means they think it is suitable for children aged 12 and over. However, your parents may decide that you are likely to enjoy a specific film.

Once you are 12, you can go to see a 12A at the cinema without your parents.

Has there always been 12A?

For many years there was no certificate which referred to 12 year olds. Films which were suitable for older children and younger teenagers were rated at PG, or sometimes rated at 15.

Many parents, teachers and children understand the 12A age rating very well, but it is worth remembering:

1. There used to be a certificate called 12 for cinemas but there isn't any more. There is a 12 certificate, but it is only for DVD, Blu-ray or downloads.

2. There is no 12A certificate for DVD or Blu-ray. If a film was 12A at the cinema, and the exact same version is sent to be age rated for DVD or Blu-ray it gets a 12.

3. Some people who remember 12s think that 12As are family films and 12s are stronger films. This is wrong.

What was the old 12 certificate for cinema?

The 12 for cinema no longer exists. Your parents and teachers might remember when there used to be 12 films in the cinema. Famous examples are Batman  or Titanic which they may have been to see. When they did go to a 12 at the cinema it worked in the same way as going to see a 15 or an 18 now. Anyone who went to see a 12 had to prove they were 12 or over - even if their mum or dad didn't mind, they were still not allowed to go and see a 12 on their own.

For many years parents told us that they wanted to make the decision themselves, and that they were the best judge of whether their 10 or 11 year old would enjoy a 12 film. The BBFC researched this idea and decided to introduce a new certificate for cinemas which allowed parents to choose. They called it 12A with the A standing for 'Advisory' or 'Accompanied'.

Are 12s stronger than 12As?

No. There has never been a choice between 12 and 12A at the cinema. Before 12A was launched in 2002 films which were suitable for 12s and over were given a 12. After 12A was launched films that were suitable for 12s and over were given a 12A. However, because the rating was advisory, or optional, parents could take younger children if they wanted.

So why is there still a 12 certificate on DVDs and downloads?

The old 12 rating now only exists for films and other things you watch at home. This makes it simpler for the people who sell or rent films (whether that's on DVD, Blu-ray, or download). Legally, the person who sells you a 12 DVD or download, or who rents you a 12, has to ask your age when you buy or rent it. If you are younger than 12 then your parent or guardian would have to rent or buy it for you.