The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), before 1985 known as British Board of Film Censors, is a non-governmental organization, founded by the film industry in 1912 and responsible for the national classification and censorship of films within the United Kingdom.
During the video nasties scare of the 1980s, Mark Kermode wrote an academic defence of the film Last House On The Left in order to try and get the film passed uncut by the BBFC. Mark argued the film was an important moment in the evolution of American horror. In the end Mark was the star witness as the case went before a BBFC panel (which included Blue Peter editor Biddy Baxter), with the BBFC wanting 16 seconds of cuts. As a result of the Mark's evidence, the cuts... were doubled.
Although previously highly critical of the censors, Dr Kermode is on record as saying "it's come a long way from the bad old days of cutting, damaging and controlling the films that we see." The board is often referred to during reviews and the Good Doctors both use the BBFC app on their generic devices.
The BBFC's post-2002 approach of putting warnings on film certificates outlining any kind of troublesome content within eventually resulted - thanks to listener Peter in Gloucester - in the Guidance Game, in which listeners sent in mock-up warnings (for example, "contains prolonged and ill-advised tap dancing, incessant quirkiness and floppy hair") and Mark had to guess what they were (in this case, Elizabethtown).
Disappointingly for those who felt they had been tricked into seeing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street by trailers that failed to disclose the film's true nature, the BBFC does not issue an M certificate for movies which contains scenes of intense singing.
Mark later reviewed the entire Box Office Top 10 in this style, much to Simon's confusion - as Simon had asked for the actual warnings, not a whole bunch of ones made up by Mark ("contains strong Ed Norton and moderate Toby Jones").
The BBFC's appraisal of Clifford The Big Red Dog caused particular consternation, with the description of the film containing brief moments of characters doing "unkind" things. Simon, whose son had just been so frightened by Robots that they had had to leave the cinema, was insistent on finding out exactly what these unkind things were. Eventually an exasperated Mark admitted that he had completely forgotten about the scene in which Clifford is disemboweled with a chainsaw.
Please remember - 12 means 12. It does not mean bring your 8-year-old and use the cinema as a babysitting service.
Mark has noted how in recent times, some of the BBFC's guidance has brilliantly reviewed the film it is describing. This started with smaller descriptions like those for Mr Bean's Holiday ("contains irresponsible behaviour") and Bridge To Terabithia ("contains scary scenes with emotional distress") but over time became more elaborate, such as for X-Men Origins: Wolverine - "it is always obvious that we are looking at a fantastic world that has little in common with reality".