1. These Guidelines have been prepared to raise awareness and understanding of the Board's film classification process. This is not a legal document and is not intended to limit in any way the Board's exercise of functions under the Films Act (Cap 107). While care has been taken to define the content concerns and classification categories, the Board reserves the right to classify any film in such manner as it deems fit.
2. The following guidelines serve as a basis for classifying films, drama, documentaries and TV series on free-to-air TV, subscription TV and video-on-demand. It will enable subscription TV and free-to-air TV to adopt the same ratings for films which have been classified by the BFC for the cinemas and video release.
3. Classification Guidelines aim to reflect community standards, while ensuring that due consideration is given to the film’s artistic, educational or literary merit. The purpose of classification is to protect the young while allowing more choice for adults.
4. When making a classification decision for a film, the Board takes careful consideration of the film’s content as well as all other relevant factors and concerns. The description of each of the classification categories and the indication of the suitable audience in terms of age may be found in these guidelines. To clarify the usage of words in the guidelines, a glossary of terms is included.
5. There are six ratings in film classification. They are:
- G - General
- PG - Parental Guidance
- PG13 - Parental Guidance for Children below 13
- NC16 - No Children below 16 years of age
- M18 - Mature 18, for persons 18 years and above
- R21 - Restricted to persons 21 years and above
6. G, PG and PG13 categories are advisory ratings while NC16, M18 and R21 are enforceable by law. Cinema operators are required to obtain a licence to screen NC16, M18 or R21 films. They should ensure that the age restriction is enforced.
7. In exceptional cases, a film may not be allowed for all ratings (NAR) when the content of the film undermines national interest or erodes the moral fabric of society.
8. In general, the Board’s classification decisions are guided by the following principles/considerations:
- Generally accepted social mores
- Need to protect the young
- Racial/religious harmony
- National interest
- Treatment of theme, content and context
- Evaluation of impact
Generally Accepted Social MoresEdit
Films screened must be sensitive to community standards of morality and decency, as well as social norms acceptable to the general public.
Need to Protect the YoungEdit
For the lower ratings, particular attention will be paid to content that may be harmful to or unsuitable for the young.
As Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious society, films that denigrate any racial or religious group, or create misunderstanding or disharmony amongst the races are not allowed for all ratings.
Films deemed to undermine public order, national security and/or stability will be disallowed for all ratings.
Treatment of Theme, Content and ContextEdit
How a film is classified depends on its theme or message, presentation of content, and the context in which scenes are presented.
Evaluation of ImpactEdit
The impact of a film or a scene will be evaluated based on the presentation, duration, frequency, degree of visual and audio details, and their cumulative effect.
The impact may be stronger where a scene:
- Is shown in greater detail; uses close-ups and slow motion
- Uses special effects such as lighting, sound, colour, or size of image to heighten emotions
- Is prolonged and/or frequent
- Is more explicit than implied
- Is realistic rather than stylised
- Is one in which the local audience can identify with
- Is visual rather than verbal or written.
In addition, films produced in a 3D format heighten the viewing experience and will be assessed for impact. They may be considered for a higher rating.
10. In classifying films, due consideration will be given to the artistic, educational or literary merit of the film.
Major Content ConcernsEdit
11. This part of the guidelines spells out content concerns that are applied in different degrees at all classification levels. The seven major content concerns are:
- Drug Use
Theme and MessageEdit
The theme (subject matter or topic) and message are important in the classification of a film. The acceptability of a theme is determined by its suitability and treatment i.e. the way it is presented and the context in which scenes are presented. Suitability and treatment of a theme is especially important for the lower classification ratings as they have an impact on the young. Films dealing with mature content (e.g. drug use, prostitution or homosexuality) would generally be classified as NC16, M18 or R21.
(i) The depiction of violence may frighten, unnerve, unsettle or invite imitation, especially from children. Therefore, only mild portrayals that are relevant to the plot may be allowed in films meant for children. For the higher classifications, a stronger depiction of violence is permitted if it is justified by context.
(ii) The concerns in violence are:
- Depiction of graphic/gratuitous violence
- Normalising the use of violence as a solution to resolve problems;
- Depiction of violent gangster behaviour (e.g. self mutilation rites);
- Emphasis on violent techniques/acts (e.g. methods of torture, gang fights, combat techniques);
- Encouraging aggressive and sadistic attitudes towards infliction of
pain and violence;
- Explicit and prolonged sexual violence or erotic portrayal of sexual
Nudity is not allowed for a G rating. Rear nudity is allowed in PG films if it is discreet, justified by context and not meant to titillate. Side nudity in a non-sexual context is allowed under PG13. Upper body frontal nudity in a non-sexual context is allowed under NC16. Full frontal nudity may be allowed for M18 or R21, if it is justified by context and without gratuitous close-ups.
Nudity featured in health programs such as breast-feeding can be rated PG, PG13 or NC16 depending on its portrayal and treatment. More explicit portrayals including child birth could be given a higher rating.
The level of sexual activity allowed on screen depends on the explicitness and frequency of the activity, its relevance to the storyline and the target audience. Generally, depictions of sexual activity are not allowed for G, PG, PG13 and NC16.
Scenes depicting sexual activities such as sado-masochism, bondage or sexual violence will be subject to strict review and may only be allowed under a higher rating, depending on the treatment and context. The content should also not be gratuitous or excessive.
Films likely to encourage deviant sexual activities such as pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia are not allowed for all ratings. .
Films that depict a homosexual lifestyle should be sensitive to community values. They should not, promote or justify a homosexual lifestyle. However, non-exploitative and non-explicit depictions of sexual activity between two persons of the same gender may be considered for R21.
Content considered to be pornographic or obscene in nature is not allowed for all ratings.
Coarse language and gestures with sexual connotations are not allowed in G films as they are easily imitated by young children. In PG13 films, expletives such as ‘fuck’ may be permitted if infrequent. Stronger language is acceptable in NC16 films. When classifying M18 and R21 films, consideration would be given to the degree of offensiveness (i.e. vulgarity and religious association) and frequency of such language.
Films with dialect content are allowed on a case-by-case basis. Chinese films meant for theatrical release should generally be in Mandarin, in line with the Speak Mandarin Campaign.
Clear, instructive details are not allowed in G, PG and PG13 films as they can be imitated by the younger audience. Such scenes are more acceptable for higher ratings if they are justifiable by context. Portrayals glamorising or encouraging the use of illegal drugs are not allowed for all ratings. .
Classification of horror films will take into consideration the impact and shock effect of such films to ensure that younger audiences are protected from disturbing materials.
12. Documentaries will be classified in accordance with the general principles and content concerns expressed in this document. If the information/content is distorted or misrepresented, or requires maturity to comprehend and discern the message and/or intent, the documentary may be given a higher rating.
13. Film ratings are usually accompanied by consumer advice. Films classified PG may be given consumer advice where necessary, for example, in the case of violence. Films rated PG13, NC16, M18 and R21 must carry consumer advice.
14. Rating and consumer advice must be clearly visible and legible in publicity materials including website synopses, advertisements in newspapers and magazines. This is to provide more information for consumers to make informed decisions. It also serves as a guide to parents about the suitability of a film for their children.
15. All trailers of films must be submitted for classification. Where the trailer content is not suitable for a general audience, a higher rating will be imposed. Trailers classified as NC16 and above can only be exhibited to persons who meet the stipulated age requirement.
16. Trailers rated PG13 should not be shown prior to a G-rated or PG-rated film, or in public places such as video walls.
17. Trailers of NC16 and M18-rated films may be screened during films of a lower rating and/or at cinema lobbies and at video walls. However, in all cases, the content should be suitable for a general audience, including children. Trailers for R21 films can only be shown before films of the same rating. Film distributors should also observe any conditions imposed by the BFC on the screening of the trailers.
18. To avoid offending unsolicited viewers and attracting the under-aged, stricter content standards are applied to publicity materials. These materials include posters, banners or billboards displayed in public places, advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Publicity materials for all ratings should conform to community standards and should not offend the general public. Detailed guidelines for print publicity materials are available on the MDA website at http://www.mda.gov.sg/wms.ftp/filmguidelines_promo_materials.pdf.
19. Once a film is classified, posters displayed at public places should clearly display the rating and consumer advice. The display of posters and banners for R21 films should be restricted to cinemas licensed to exhibit R21 films. More sensitivity should also be exercised in the dissemination of publicity materials for films in the lower rating categories as they can be displayed in public places where young audiences are exposed to them.
Periodic Review and Implementation of GuidelinesEdit
20. The Board will continue to review guidelines periodically in the light of changes in lifestyle, public expectations and concerns.
15 July 2011
GLOSSARY OF TERMSEdit
Coarse language: Crude and/or offensive language lacking refinement or taste.
Denigrate: To belittle or distort in a negative way the character of a person/race/religion
Depiction: Representation, and/or portrayal on screen.
Detail: Treatment of or attention given to the amount of audio or visual information in the representation of a subject. Detail can include close-ups, repeated, prolonged or slow motion visuals.
Deviant sex: Sexual behaviour or activities that are not considered socially acceptable. Examples are paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and orgies.
Discreet: Subtle, not explicit, lacking in details and close-ups.
Disturbing: Upsetting or troubling.
Drug abuse: Improper or excessive use of drugs.
Excessive: Beyond reasonable limits, especially in terms of detail, duration or frequency.
Expletive: An exclamatory word or phrase that is obscene or profane.
Explicit Language or depiction with strong details, usually relating to sex and violence.
Exploitative: Appearing to take advantage of or abuse the situation for the enjoyment of viewers or for sensationalism; lacking moral, artistic, or other values.
Fetish: An object, an action or a non-sexual part of the body which gives sexual gratification.
Gratuitous: Materials which are unwarranted or uncalled for, and included without the justification of a defensible story-line or artistic merit.
Horror: A strong feeling of fear or distress that is inspired by images or acts that are frightful and shocking.
Implied: Depiction of a subject in which an act or thing is inferred or indicated without actually being seen.
Incite: To stir up or provoke strong emotions and actions.
Intensity: The degree or extent to which a subject matter is acute or strong (The intensity of a scene depends on the duration, the audio/visual effects, language, context and the proximity from which the shot was taken).
Justified by context: Where the depiction is relevant and necessary for the integrity and continuity of the film.
Mature themes: Issues dealing with adult life, including adultery, alternative lifestyles, promiscuity, suicide, drug dependency, etc.
Moderate: Depiction that features some details and may have some impact that is kept within reasonable limits, which is generally acceptable.
Nudity: Nudity can consist of frontal or rear nudity, above and below the waist for both sexes. It is determined by the details of nudity shown, and also by other factors including the duration of visuals, repetition, close-up shots and clarity.
Offensive: Material that causes outrage or disgust to most people.
Pornography: The depiction of erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement.
Sexual activity: An act performed with another for sexual gratification. May include foreplay.
Sexual Connotation: Words or gestures that imply sexual activity.
Sexual violence: The act of sexual assault or aggression, in which the victim does not consent e.g. rape.
Sexual simulation: Imitation or enactment of sexual activity that is not real but looks realistic.
Strong: Detailed depiction likely to have high impact on viewers.
Suggestion: Mild, discreet treatment of a subject in which an act or object is hinted at, generally through discreet manner, rather than the whole picture.
Tone: The quality of mood, such as sadness, humour, menace, lightness, or seriousness.
Transvestism: The lifestyle in which a person adopts the clothes and behaviour of the opposite sex for purposes of emotional or sexual gratification.
Treatment: The way in which material is handled or presented.
How a film is rated depends on seven classifiable elements: theme, violence, sex, nudity, language, drug and substance abuse, and horror.
G Themes are suitable for viewers of all ages. Content should promote positive social values e.g. family bonding, respect for the elders.
PG Themes should be suitable for children below 13 years. Themes should generally have a low sense of threat or menace, and be justifiable by context. Special attention should be paid to their Impact on children. Crime, violence, juvenile delinquency and promiscuity should not be glamorised or promoted.
PG13 Themes should be suitable for young teens between 13 and 15. Darker themes can be allowed. Crime, violence, juvenile delinquency, and promiscuity should not be glamorised or promoted.
NC16 Portrayal of mature themes (e.g. gangsterism and transvestism) may be allowed, provided they are treated with discretion and appropriate to those 16 years and above.
M18 Stronger portrayal and exploration of mature themes are allowed. Homosexual theme/content as a sub-plot may be permitted, if discreet in treatment and not gratuitous.
R21 Stronger and more explicit portrayal and exploration of mature themes are allowed. Films that portray, as a main theme, same-sex marriages or parenting will be subject to strict review.
NAR Themes that promote issues that denigrate any race or religion, or undermine national interest will not be allowed. Themes that glorify undesirable fetishes or behaviour (e.g. paedophilia and bestiality) are not allowed. Promotion or glamorisation of homosexual lifestyle.
G Mild portrayals of violence are allowed. The occasional mild threat or menace is acceptable if justified by context. No portrayals of dangerous or harmful behaviour that can be easily imitated by children.
PG Moderate portrayals of violence without details, may be allowed, if justified by context. Portrayals of violence should not dwell on cruelty, infliction of pain or torture of any kind.
PG13 Moderate portrayals of violence with some details, may be allowed, if justified by context. Portrayals of violence can include some infliction of pain and injury but should not be detailed, intense or prolonged.
NC16 The portrayal of infliction of pain and injuries may be allowed with some details of blood and gore but should not be prolonged or frequent. Explicit sexual violence is not allowed.
M18 Realistic depiction of violence and gore with strong impact is allowed if justified by context. However, the portrayal should not be excessive, gratuitous or exploitative. Stronger portrayals of sexual violence may be allowed if justified by context, infrequent or without strong details.
R21 Strong and realistic depictions of violence and gore are allowed if justified by context. Depiction of torture can be allowed, if not exploitative or gratuitous.
NAR Detailed or gratuitous depictions of extreme violence or cruelty. Detailed instructions on methods of crime or killings.
G No sexual activity is allowed. Portrayals of affection (e.g. brief kissing) can be allowed.
PG Sexual activity may be implied, and should be infrequent. Only mild displays of affection (e.g. kissing and caressing) and mild sexual innuendoes are allowed.
PG13 Sexual activity may be implied, and should be infrequent and brief. Sexual humour can be allowed. Sexual innuendoes, crude hand gestures and sexual imagery can be allowed if mild and infrequent.
NC16 Non-explicit depiction of sexual activities may be allowed but should not be detailed or prolonged.
M18 Sexual activity may be portrayed if justified by context, infrequent and without strong details. Depiction of occasional, mild sexual activity (i.e. kissing and hugging) between persons of the same gender may be permitted if justified by context and not gratuitous. Sexual violence may be allowed if justified by context, infrequent and without strong details.
R21 Simulated sexual activities are allowed if they are not excessive. Explicit images of sexual activity (e.g. masturbation, fellatio and sexual act) need to be justified by context. Explicit portrayals of sex between persons of the same gender are not allowed. Films likely to encourage an interest in abusive or unnatural sexual activity (e.g. paedophilia, incest and anal sex) are not permitted. Films with themes involving deviant sexual activities (e.g. sadomasochism, bondage, orgies or sex involving violence) will be subject to strict review and are likely to be disallowed.
NAR Exploitative or pornographic sexual acts. Depictions of obscene and/or unnatural sexual activities (e.g. bestiality, necrophilia and paedophilia). Real sexual activities (e.g. actual penetration, actual ejaculation). Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions or sexual activity including fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent.
G There should be no nudity.
PG Discreet portrayal of back nudity is allowed if it is brief and in a non-sexual context. Full frontal and side nudity is not allowed.
PG13 Discreet and fleeting side profile nudity may be allowed in a non-sexual context. Full frontal nudity is not allowed. However, infrequent portrayal of female frontal nudity of the upper body may be allowed only under exceptional circumstances and in a non-sexual context. For example, films which feature historical or dramatised events such as the World War II Holocaust, tribal ways of life, or health programmes.
NC16 Infrequent, brief and discreet portrayal of female upper body frontal nudity may be allowed in a non-sexual context.
M18 Full frontal nudity with moderate detail is acceptable if justified by context, and not excessive. No close up of genitalia is allowed.
R21 Full nudity is permitted but should not be excessive. Close ups of genitalia should be contextually justifiable.
NAR Exploitative and excessive nudity.
G No coarse language is allowed.
PG Infrequent coarse language is allowed if it is relevant and justified by context. Examples are "bitch" and “asshole”.
PG13 The word "f**k" is allowed if used infrequently.
NC16 Infrequent use of expletives such as “motherf**ker”, “cunt”, "chee bye", "lan jiao", "puki mak” and "pundai" may be allowed if justified by context and not impactful. Coarse language which offends community and cultural sensitivities should not be allowed (e.g. "kan ni na lao bu“). Continued aggressive use of strong language and verbal sexual abuse is unacceptable.
M18 Coarse language is allowed if it is not excessive.
R21 Frequent use of strong coarse language may be allowed.
NAR Language that denigrates religion or is religiously profane (e.g. Jesus F**king Christ).
Drug and Substance AbuseEdit
G No references to illegal drugs or drug abuse. Content meant for children should not promote consumption of alcohol and tobacco products.
PG Only discreet references to illegal drug use are allowed on the condition that such references do not promote or endorse drug abuse and should be justified by context. Content targeted at children should not promote consumption of alcohol and tobacco products.
PG13 Only discreet depictions of illegal drug use are allowed on the condition that such depictions do not promote or endorse drug abuse and should be justified by context. Content targeted at children should not promote consumption of alcohol and tobacco products.
NC16 Drug taking may be allowed if brief and infrequent. The film must not promote or encourage drug and substance abuse.
M18 Drug taking may be allowed with some details. The film must not promote or encourage drug and substance abuse.
R21 Drug taking sequences may be allowed but instructive details of illegal drug use are not allowed. The film must not promote or encourage drug and substance abuse.
NAR Materials glorifying or encouraging drug and substance abuse. Detailed and instructive depiction of illegal drug use.
G Treatment of horror should not be too realistic, or threatening, as it is likely to cause fear and anxiety among children. Horror tinged with humour may reduce the impact. Scenes of horror should be mild and not psychologically disturbing.
PG Frightening sequences should not be prolonged or intense. Horror tinged with humour and in a fantasy setting may be mitigating factors.
PG13 Depiction of horror can be more realistic and intense.
NC16 Films with disturbing or gory scenes without strong details may be allowed. Frightening scenes which are more prolonged may be allowed.
M18 Prolonged and/or intense sequences that invoke fear and/or terror may be permitted.
R21 Depiction of intense horror, and sustained threat or menace may be permitted if contextually justified. Portrayals of extreme abhorrent activity that may offend and cause great discomfort may be disallowed.
- Downloadable PDF of "Board of Film Censors Classification Guidelines" from the Media Development Authority website: