IT is one of the most controversial British movies ever made, given an 'X' certificate and banned from a raft of cinemas in the 1970s. Now regarded as a classic, film classifiers have explained Monty Python's Life of Brian new rating of 12A.

It caused a stooshie upon its release?

The movie, in which a hapless man is mistaken for the Messiah in Roman-occupied Judea, was released in 1979, written by and starring the Monty Python comedy troupe - Graham Chapman John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Jones directed the tale of Brian - played by Chapman - who is mistaken for the Messiah, having been born on the same day as, and next door to, Jesus Christ.

“Foul and disgusting?”

In the US, where screenings were picketed by nuns and Rabbis, the President of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbi Abraham Hecht, said: “Never have we come across such a foul, disgusting, blasphemous film before.”

In the UK?

High-profile conservative values campaigner, Mary Whitehouse, spearheaded protests, with many Christians particularly enraged by the film's ending - Brian’s crucifixion. 


Ireland and Norway banned it immediately, while in Sweden, the movie was advertised as being 'so funny, it was banned in Norway!’

Not all publicity is bad publicity?

Gilliam later said the bright side was that he “thought at least getting the Catholics, Protestants and Jews all protesting against our movie was fairly ecumenical on our part... We had achieved something useful”.

And Cleese said?

“They made me rich…I feel we should have sent them a box of champagne or something,” as the publicity saw it leap in the US alone from what was supposed to be 200 screens to 600.

At the box office?

Life of Brian was the UK’s fourth highest grossing film in 1979 and is now viewed as a classic. Various polls have voted the line, ‘He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!" - spoken by Brian's mother to the crowd outside her house - the funniest in movie history.


The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has released its annual report and accounts for 2019 and in the document, they state the reasons that they gave the film the lower 12A rating last year on the movie’s 40th anniversary.

It’s a sign of the times?

It would have been unfathomable to imagine 12-year-olds being able to watch it in 1979. When it was first released, it was given an AA rating and children under-14 were not allowed to view it, but a number of cinemas then raised the classification themselves to an X, meaning no-one under-18 could view it, while many others banned it outright.

The BBFC say?

It is now "permissible at a more junior category”, suitable for children aged 12 and over" while "people younger than 12 may see a 12A so long as they are accompanied by an adult”.

Explaining their reasons…

The BFFC said “viewing it under current guidelines, we considered the issues raised to be permissible at a more junior category, so we rated it 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, nudity and comic violence”.