Choosing Age Appropriate Films

Imagine the scene: You want to sit down and have a family evening watching a PG rated film, but your children think it’s too babyish and are desperate to see a 12 rated film. What do you do?

When it comes to choosing appropriate films for your child to watch, it can prove difficult. Whilst younger children tend to be happier watching films designed for their age group, as children get older they may be less satisfied. At school, on the Internet and on TV they hear of other films and often hanker to see them, even though they’re aimed at an older age range.

But despite any difficulties you may have, as a parent, you’re responsible for choosing films which are appropriate for your child’s age. It’s a well-used argument, but telling your child they can watch what they like when they’ve reached 18 is worth stating now and again! It’s hard to control what your kids may see at other people’s houses or when with friends, but when you’re at home, keeping the classification of films in mind is easier.

All films are classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). This means that they’re given a rating – Uc, U, PG, 12A, 12 or 15 – which helps viewers determine what age the film is suitable for and the type of content it will contain. This is great news for parents, as it helps make choosing age appropriate films a lot easier.

What The Ratings Mean


A film rated Uc is suitable for all children, but especially those aged under five years old. Examples of films with this rating include the Tweenies, Pingu and Teletubbies.


A film rated U or ‘universal’ means that it’s suitable for all ages of children. The theme of the films will be topics suitable for a younger audience; they’ll be very little bad language, only mild references to relationships, mild violence, no dangerous behaviour, no focus on weapons, no drugs and nothing too scary.

Examples of films rated a U are Wallace & Grommit: The Cure of the Were-Rabbit, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina and Garfield 2.


The PG rating stands for Parental Guidance. Films rated PG can be viewed by all ages, but may contain some scenes that are unsuitable for younger children. Any child may watch a PG rated film, with or without an adult, and it should be fine for children aged 8 and over. You may need to supervise watching with a younger child though.

The content may cover more grown up issues, they’ll be mild bad language, sex can be mentioned discretely, there can be stronger violence than in U films, no dangerous behaviour, no use of weapons that makes them look attractive, no mention of illegal drugs and frightening scenes shouldn’t be too long or scary. Examples of films rated PG include The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Stormbreaker and Lassie.


The 12A rating is only used with films released at the cinema, not on videos or DVDs. It indicates that the film is best aimed at children aged 12 and over, although parents can take under 12s along with them, as long as they are accompanied.

Content-wise, 12 films contain more mature content, some stronger language, sexual activity may be implied, some violence, some drugs and occasional gory moments. Examples of films rated 12A include King Kong, Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.


The 12 rating is now only ever seen on videos and DVDs. It works on the same basis as the 12A cinema rating, indicating to parents that a film is best suited to those aged 12 and over. No-one younger than 12 may rent or buy a 12 rated video or DVD and parents need to be responsible if letting under 12s view it.

Content-wise, 12 films contain more mature content, some stronger language, sexual activity may be implied, some violence, some drugs and occasional gory moments. Examples of 12 films (all of which were classed as 12A for cinemas) include Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Mrs Henderson Presents.


The 15 rating on a film shows that it’s only suited for those aged 15 or over. In a cinema only people aged 15 and older are allowed to see a 15 rated film, so don’t take younger children along. Likewise no-one younger than 15 may rent or buy a 15 rated video or DVD. The content in 15 films has more bad language, sexual references, nudity, violence and scary parts than films aimed at 12s and under. Examples of films classified as 15 include Miami Vice, Little Fish and The Weather Man.


Films rated 18 are only suitable for adults. No-one aged under 18 should see an 18 rated film in a cinema, or rent or buy an 18 video or DVD. The content often contains scenes of a sexual nature, bad language, violence, nudity, drugs and scenes that would be very scary for children. Examples of films classified as an 18 include Underworld Evolution, The Libertine and The Silence of the Lambs.