Although the film version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ toned down much of the explicit content from the books, one fifth of the film’s runtime is dedicated to sex scenes. An unprecedented 20 minutes of sexual content led to the Guardian dubbing it: “the raunchiest mainstream movie for more than a decade.”
The erotic content of the movie caused all sorts of censorship issues around the globe, so here’s a comprehensive list of who was allowed to see what and where.
In case you need reminding, here’s a steamy trailer for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.
No release - China
Due to draconian obscenity laws in China, Universal Pictures currently has no plans to even attempt a release of its erotic thriller in the Chinese market. Several dodgy Chinese video sites promised to stream it on the day of release but backed down at the last minute.
It seems even the pirates are scared of government censors, as a version of the film with Chinese subtitles was leaked on the web after release, but it had around 4-6 minutes of sex scenes edited out to meet local censorship laws.
Banned - Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, UAE, Papa New Guinea, Cambodia, India
‘Fifty Shades’ was denied certification in Malaysia by the local censorship board for its “unnatural” and “sadistic” content. The board chairman concluded it was “more pornography than a movie”.
An edited version of the film, which had been excised of all nudity and sex scenes, was similarly denied a certificate in India, with no specific reason given. The UAE, Kenya, Indonesia, and Cambodia all banned the film outright.
In Papa New Guinea, where the film was refused a classification, local campaigners asked filmgoers to donate the price they would have paid for a ticket to a domestic abuse charity instead.
The film was also banned in Russia’s majority-Muslim North Caucasus region but one city in the Stavropol Territory bucked the trend and kept showing it. A local blogger reported “busloads of people” were visiting the town just to see the film.
Shown for 1 week then banned - Nigeria
After getting a nationwide release in Nigeria, the film was pulled from cinemas after just one week by the National Film and Video Censors Board without explanation.
The NFVCB eventually released a statement to say they’d banned the film in the “public interest”. They apologised for letting it slip through the net promising to: “reaffirm its resolve to attend to submitted movies with utmost dispatch and the display of due diligence in its role as the industry gatekeeper.”
Censored – Philippines & Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe cinemas were allowed to show a censored version of the film, which used black circles to cover any offensive nudity and sexual content, but it was eventually pulled completely. One cinema said: “It was felt that heavy censorship would compromise the integrity of the film.”
"I just have to wait a week or so and I will be buying ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for $1 from the vendors," Harare resident Stam Zengeni told CBS News, “So no problem.”
Filmgoers in the Philippines also had to suffer the floating black circles with one local film blogger saying: “The sex scenes would have been more exciting if there were no black blobs hovering over pleasure points.”
“There was at least a handful of viewers who were curious about what butt plugs looked like who were sorely disappointed.”
All sex scenes removed - Vietnam
Local censors decided they didn’t want to appear too strict by giving it an outright ban, so they decided to cut the saucy scenes completely to meet its 16+ rating, except they didn’t warn the audiences first.
20 minutes of sex scenes were completely cut, rendering the plot incomprehensible and fans were apoplectic. “No one knew what was going on [in the story], especially if they had no idea about what BDSM is, or if they hadn’t read the book,” a local man told the Independent.
Lebanon, Singapore – 21 rating
Both Lebanon and Singapore gave ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ a 21 rating, which means unless you’ve hit the big “two one”, you’ll not be able to watch the film legally at all.
UK – 18 rating
The BBFC rated ‘Fifty Shades’ an 18 for “strong sex and nudity” and the “portrayal of erotic role play based on domination, submission and sado-masochistic practices.” This means you can’t see the film under any circumstances in the UK if you’re under 18.
USA/Canada – R rated
Many expected Sam Taylor-Johnson’s film to get an NC-17 rating in the States which would have stopped anyone under the age of 17 from the seeing the film in the cinema. Instead the MPAA gave it an R rating, which means if you’re under 17 and you want to see it you must be accompanied by a parent or an adult guardian. In Canada, it’s the same but it applies to under 18s.
That sounds like a fun night at the cinemas with your folks. Not.
Weirdly, if you live in Quebec where different censorship laws to the rest of Canada apply, you have to be over 16 to see the film.
Australia – 15+
In Australia the film was rated an MA 15+ for “strong sex scenes, sexual themes and nudity”.
This means Down Under, you can see the film if you’re under 15 as long as you’re accompanied by a parent or guardian. Strewth.
France – 12
Amazingly, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, the laidback “laissez-faire” attitude of our cross-Channel Gallic cousins means ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was only granted a 12 rating.
France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary said the sex scenes were so tame, that it “isn’t a film that…can shock a lot of people.”
Image credits: Universal