Watership Down probably won’t be sitting on anyone’s list of movies to watch with the family. But why, you ask? Isn’t this a delightful animated movie about bunny rabbits? Well, yes, you would think so based on a quick gander. But Watership Down actually has a much gritter storyline than that of some of the best family movies.
Watership Down follows a colony of rabbits who go on a journey to find a safe haven after humans threaten their existing home. While it may sound like a lovely animated jaunt, it’s actually tale of tragedy, death, and danger. (It probably doesn’t help that it has Art Garfunkel’s gutting ‘Bright Eyes’ accompanying one of the saddest scenes ever.)
The movie is based on the novel by Richard Adams which came out in 1972. And you know if a kids movie came out in the ’70s, then it was probably batshit crazy. It would go on to become a hit, and was the sixth-most popular movie in the UK during its year of release.
Nowadays, it exists mostly in the minds of the dedicated fans that have instigated the film’s cult following. Back in the day, it was given a ‘U’ rating, which stands for ‘Universal’ in the UK. This means that the movie, according to the British Board of Film Classification, is fine and good for anyone of any age to watch.
But, famously, many have disagreed with this rating. Since the adventure movie includes some frightening sequences and gory moments that would shake plenty of adults, a ‘U’ rating was considered pretty generous.
In fact, the BBFC would go on to receive complaints almost every year since it was first classified. When British TV network Channel 5 decided to air the movie during Easter Sunday as recently as 2016, they were on the receiving end of numerous complaints.
But now, the BBFC has reclassified the film due to Watership Down being resubmitted by its distributor, and has been updated to the far more appropriate ‘PG’, which stands for ‘Parental Guidance’. This means that the movie should be fine for kids aged eight or older, but parents should make the decision on whether it’s suitable for their child.
The reasoning for Watership Down’s new ‘PG’ rating is due to “mild violence, threat, brief bloody images and bad language”, according to the BBFC’s annual report. Perhaps they should add ‘life-long childhood trauma’ and ‘potential aversion to animated movies‘ to that, too.
For some family movies that won’t traumatize your kids, check out our list of the best Disney movies and best Pixar movies. You can also get the lowdown on the Wonka release date and Wish release date, and read our feature on why Elemental is a box office disappointment, but it never stood a chance.