In the UK John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is rated 15, in the US I believe it is R.

Can someone explain this to me? This is one of the most horrifically violent films I've ever seen! Literally hundreds of people are beaten, stabbed and shot to death. The film is one big fight split over a few different backdrops. (Sorry if that's a spoiler for anyone).

Perhaps I don't understand the certification process well enough but this seems like the most clear cut candidate for an 18 certificate I've ever known.

  • 26
    Is it really "one of the most horrifically violent films" you've ever seen? There's a lot of violence, but very little (I would say none) of that violence is horrific. Most war or horror movies have more graphic violence than John Wick 3, which rarely shows more than a small amount of blood spray/splatter. Jun 5, 2019 at 10:42
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    I agree with Anthony Grist here .... Saving Private Ryan is also certified 15 in the UK has less ongoing duration of violence, but the fighting is viscerally more real, with literal visualization of blood and guts and dismemberment. You also can't compare UK 15 to US R. The R rating allows an adult to accompany a child to a showing. The UK 15 rating is absolute.
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 5, 2019 at 13:56
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    In the US you almost never see a major motion picture get anything above an R rating, which means that you must be 18 to see it without an adult. If the movie would have received a stronger rating, the production company would have edited it until it had the R rating.
    – David K
    Jun 5, 2019 at 17:08
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    @Vishwa In the US, there is NC-17, and there used to be X back in the 70s and 80s. Most theaters will refuse to show films with either rating, and most retail outlets will not carry them.
    – TheHans255
    Jun 6, 2019 at 4:04
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    @Vishwa Like TheHansinator said, some higher ratings exist, but you never see anything above R in theaters. I've noticed lately in Netflix that films that might have gotten a rating higher than R are now more often just left as "Unrated".
    – David K
    Jun 6, 2019 at 11:41

2 Answers 2


The BBFC's website contains the following guidelines for 15-rated films:

Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. The strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic violence is also unlikely to be acceptable.

In other words, "strong gory images" or "strong sadistic violence" are required in order to bump a film up to an 18 rating. I would classify "strong gory images" as things like people being graphically torn apart or disemboweled, and "strong sadistic violence" as violent torture.

I have not seen John Wick 3, but I can only assume that in spite of all the violence, it doesn't contain either of those things. So while John Wick 3 may feature hundreds of on-screen deaths, none of them are graphic enough (or lingered on long enough) to earn the film an 18 rating.

  • TL;DR; => state of bloodier & messier it gets, rating gets more strict
    – Vishwa
    Jun 5, 2019 at 10:26
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    John Wick tends to favour guns, so there's usually just a bit of blood spray/splatter when people are shot (if that), but there's nothing overly graphic/gory about most deaths, and the action is fast-paced so there's very rarely any lingering shots on the aftermath of the violence. Jun 5, 2019 at 10:30
  • Well the new one is also sword and knife heavy. And it has some somewhat gory scenes in that regard. For an action flick I'd certainly put it into the somewhat higher goriness level, e.g. compared to Expendables and the like. (Still miles away from a gore fest film). It doesn't have much sadism and it also has a certain level of surrealism. Also, the rating person might have had a good day. Jun 5, 2019 at 11:03
  • I would say that there were only two parts that I would say focus on the infliction of pain or injury. There are two kills with blades where the victim struggles significantly which I felt I couldn't watch.
    – PausePause
    Jun 5, 2019 at 18:22
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    A nice service that the BBFC provides is that their rating notes for all titles are public (Spoiler warning): bbfc.co.uk/releases/john-wick-chapter-3-parabellum-film You can see that John Wick 3 passed with no cuts. Jun 5, 2019 at 19:57

Certification in UK is lowering constantly. Terminator 2 originally came out with a 15 certificate with cuts and in 2001 it got a 15 certificate without cuts. All of the Alien movies used to be 18 and then their extended/director's cut versions dropped to 15. John Wick Chapter 2 voluntarily cut 23 seconds showing bloody injury detail in a suicide scene to get a 15 instead of 18. It would seem Chapter 3 didn't need such. Note the 12 and 12A certificates of the trailers as well despite people are killed by gunshots and thrown knives. 18 is now movies like Mother! (I do not think that will lose its 18 certificate, no matter how many years pass) or Jigsaw or TV series like Game Of Thrones.

Spoilers follow from the movie. Stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled.

Note how everything is rendered not to be 18. Even when someone gets an axe in their head, there's minimal blood or other fluids. Perhaps the goriest scene is driving a sword through hands and even that shows minimal blood and doesn't dwell much on the injury. I think 20 but certainly 30 years ago that scene would've earned a 18 but not today.

  • 2
    Spoilers (kind of): I'd say personally the most "gory" scene would be the knife slowly going into the eye towards the beginning. That was what I was most surprised at giving it's a 15.
    – TMH
    Jun 6, 2019 at 8:18
  • Yeah but even that is "sterilized" compare it to the "Mountain gouging eyes" scenes in GoT.
    – chx
    Jun 6, 2019 at 9:36

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