This month, Raiders of the Lost Ark turns 40 years old. The action-adventure movie, which stars Harrison Ford as archaeologist Indiana Jones, made its debut on June 12th 1981 and all these years on it still remains one of the best-loved films of the 1980s.

Ahead of its 40th anniversary, the movie has been resubmitted for classification in UK cinemas and as a result, it has been given a new certificate by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) – one higher than before. Previously classified as a ‘PG’, Raiders of the Lost Ark is now a ‘12A’ in the UK.

When the movie was originally released in UK cinemas back in 1981, it was granted an ‘A’ certificate (a now defunct classification), which at that point in time meant the movie was not suitable for audiences under the age of 8-years-old. The film was then reclassified in 2004, and again in 2012, by which point it was awarded a ‘PG’ certificate.

In the UK, if a film is given a ‘PG’ certificate, it means it is suitable for general viewing. According to the BBFC, “unaccompanied children of any age may watch, but parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children.”

Under its new classification of ’12 A’ – which was granted in May 2021 – Raiders of the Lost Ark is now deemed suitable for audiences of 12 years and over. Children under the age of 12 can view the movie in cinemas, but by law “no one younger than 12 may see a ‘12A’ film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult.”

So, why has the movie been reclassified?

Image: ©Lucasfilm/Paramount Pictures
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Movies are resubmitted for classification quite regularly – specifically if they are being re-released at the cinema. With this being an anniversary year, this film is likely to be returning to cinema screens before the year is out.

Now, whenever a movie is resubmitted for classification, it is reclassified according to current guidelines. These guidelines are updated over time, so they differ to previous rules and criteria that existed in the past.

In the case of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the BBFC’s current guidelines have determined that in 2021, the movie should be a ‘12A’. Yes, many of us watched the movie under the age of 12 back when it was first released, but by today’s standards it no longer fits the same criteria.

In case you’re wondering, the BBFC has provided details of the more ‘adult’ orientated material in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which makes it unsuitable for the ‘PG’ certificate:

“In one scene ghosts appear and fly among the assembled crowd of people before a mystical power erupts, killing the onlookers and causing some people’s faces to melt or explode. There is close up detail of facial flesh, eyes and muscle liquifying and running off to reveal the skull underneath. Other scenes of threat include a hot poker being held close to a woman’s face as part of an interrogation, and a scene in which a woman finds herself surrounded by desiccated corpses.

“There are frequent scenes of moderate violence, including fistfights, gunfights, and chases. There is occasional sight of blood spurts and bloody aftermath detail, including a sequence in which it is implied that a man is struck by an aeroplane propeller, and a scene in which a man has been impaled on a wall by an archaic boobytrap.

“Mild bad language includes ‘son of a bitch’, ‘bastard’, ‘shit’ and the German term ‘scheiße’. A male villain surreptitiously watches a female captive’s bare back in a mirror while she changes her clothes, and there are brief, non-graphic references to selling women into slavery.”

Image: ©Lucasfilm/Paramount Pictures
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Now, I should point out, that at present this affects cinemas only – existing home video releases of Raiders of the Lost Ark retain the PG certificate (for now). But I should also point out, it’s not just Raiders of the Lost Ark which has been reclassified; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) has also been bumped up to a ‘12A’ certificate from a ‘PG’.

While these new classifications might surprise long-term fans, especially those who grew up watching the movies at an early age, it actually puts all of the Indiana Jones movies in line with each other. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) already carries a ’12A’ certificate, and has done since a cinematic re-release back in 2013, while Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) was granted a ‘12’ certificate when it made its debut in 2008.

So, what does this all mean? Erm… not much, really.

If you grew up watching the Indiana Jones movies back in the ‘80s, you can still enjoy them without giving it a second thought – I’m sorry to say, but your days of worrying about ‘12A’ certificates are long gone. As for modern day parents, you simply need to be mindful that all future screenings of the Indy films at your local cinema will carry the ‘12A’ certificate, so you’ll need to accompany your children to a screening if they are under the age of 12.

And now you know.

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Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about Raiders of the Lost Ark. For more nostalgia-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.

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