The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has officially named Joker the most complained-about film of 2019.
According to the annual report, the DC movie received 20 complaints regarding the film’s age 15 classification, asserting it should have had an age 18 rating due to its “violence and tone.” Others have even argued that the BBFC should have banned the film altogether.
For anyone unaware of the plot, Joker is an origin story based on the famous DC comic character of the Joker, Batman’s arch-nemesis. Directed by Todd Phillips with Joaquin Phoenix as the notorious villain, the film sees Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man with a condition in which he bursts out into uncontrollable laughter, spiralling out of control in 1980’s Gotham City. Almost a psychological thriller in genre, the film is known for its departure from previous DC films due to its dark, violent tone.
It is primarily because of this departure in tone that the film has received the title of the most complained-about film of 2019. Audiences believed the violence depicted on screen warranted the film a rating of 18 rather than the BBFC classification of 15.
In defence of Joker‘s age classification, the BBFC reminded audiences of its guidelines, stating: “There are scenes of strong violence in the film that include stabbings and shootings, with accompanying bloody injury detail. They do not, however, dwell on the infliction of pain or injury in a manner that requires an 18.”
When the film first came out, the adaptation was condemned for its portrayal of mental illness and political themes. The strong and shocking violence also made it controversial at the time, with the strongest scene being that Fleck stabs a man with a pair of scissors before bashing his head repeatedly against a wall. However, despite this, the film was nominated for 11 Oscars at the 2020 Academy Awards including Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Director. Joaquin Phoenix took home the Best Actor gong for his portrayal of the iconic Gotham City villain.
Todd Phillips has also previously defended the depiction of violence in the film as he stated: “Isn’t it a good thing to put real-world implications on violence? Isn’t that a good thing to take away the cartoon element of violence that we’ve become so immune to?…it seems actually very responsible to make it feel real and make it that weight.”
Aside from Joker, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Alita: Battle Angel, Bumblebee and Shazam were also amongst the list of last year’s movies that received criticism regarding the BBFC rating versus the adult themes and violence the films contained.
Words by Lucy Lillystone