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A Million Ways To Die In The West

R16: violence, sexual references, offensive language and drug use

Spoiler alert

This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.

A Million Ways To Die In The West poster

Date registered: 22/05/2014

About the film

A Million Ways To Die In The West is an American comedy-western about Albert Stark, a sheep farmer living in the frontier town of Old Stump, Arizona in 1882.

When his girlfriend Louise abandons him for the local moustache shop owner Foy, Albert comes to realise there is little keeping him in town. However his world is soon turned on its head when Anna arrives. Unbeknownst to Albert, Anna is the wife of renowned gunslinger Clinch, and when they fall in love, Clinch is quite upset. Challenged to a duel, Albert must gather his courage and steady his aim to win.

A still image from the film - Anna shows off her shooting prowess at the County Fair

Classification criteria: Sex

The publication uses numerous sexual references with humorous intent, such as Anna unconvincingly claiming to Louise that she and Albert have "a lot of sexual activity." One of the characters, Ruth, works as a prostitute, and her deadpan discussions of her work with boyfriend Edward form much of the stronger content. Overall, matters of sex are dealt with to a limited degree and rely on an understanding of social acceptability for their humour.

A still image from the film - Ruth in her work attire

Classification criteria: Crime

Some matters of crime such as murder and theft occur on the frontier, however the film also contains some limited drug use. While these scenes do not promote or encourage criminal acts, they suggest an intended audience with the maturity to recognise the issues surrounding such conduct.

A still image from the film - Cinch the gunslinger

Classification criteria: Violence

The film depicts the infliction of serious physical harm through accidents and violence to a limited extent and moderate degree. Accidents are presented with an element of black humour. The most extended scene of violence occurs in a bar fight but this is largely limited to loud sounds of thumping as combatants brawl indiscriminately and smash bottles across heads. However a few stronger moments in this fight, such as a swiftly broken arm, faces smashed into tables or a man graphically stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle, increase the degree of violence in the scene.

A still image from the film - the bar

Decision summary

The dominant effect is of a comedic western which uses violence and socially inappropriate humour to entertain. As a result, the unrestricted availability of A Million Ways To Die In The West would be injurious to the public good. Brief but bloody scenes of injury would be likely to shock and disturb younger audiences. Moreover, the presentation of injury as comedy increases the likelihood of inuring them to depictions of violence in general.

In addition, there are numerous sexual references which rely on an understanding of adult sexual behaviour and social acceptability for their humour. Similarly, the bigoted attitudes presented for humour require a familiarity with both the frontier social context and that of modern society, suggesting a mature audience. The casual use of highly offensive language and limited depictions of drug use also support the need for restriction.

The above content is considered with the right to freedom of expression as set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Older teenagers have the maturity necessary to be able to place the above content within the context of a darkly comedic western.

Therefore, restricting the availability of the publication to those aged 16 years and older is the lowest reasonable restriction which can be applied in order to prevent injury to the public good.

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.

R16 label
R16: violence, sexual references, offensive language and drug use