skip to main content

Birdman

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.

Birdman poster

Date registered: 18/12/2014

About the film

Riggan Thomson is a fading movie star who was famed for playing the superhero Birdman. Riggan launches a Broadway production of the play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love in a bid to regain his former glory, and to be taken seriously as an actor.

A still image from the film - Riggan with Birdman at his shoulder, whisoering in his ear

Classification criteria: Sex

The sexual material is mostly in the form of sexual references. For example, when the character Mike's interest in the play is first discussed a publicist describes how much theatre critics love him by referring to a sexual act.

The strongest sexual material occurs right before characters Mike and Lesley go onstage. They are under a sheet in a bed which is about to be wheeled onstage, when Mike says he has an erection and tries to have sex with Lesley. Mike is forceful with Lesley, and Lesley forcibly resists him. The scene temporarily defuses while they are onstage. However, Mike's erection is prominent and clearly visible under his underpants during the scene which is acted onstage.

A still image from the film - Riggan sits backstage in his dressing room

Classification criteria: Violence

One scene has Riggan punching Mike, and the pair end up wrestling on the ground. The wrestling does not involve any physical harm. A later scene shows Riggan on stage with a pistol. He shoots himself, although from the camera angle it is unclear where he has shot himself. Riggan is later shown bandaged in hospital. He removes his bandages to reveal his bruised, but not particularly seriously injured, face. While the scene is emotionally intense, the violence is circumspectly depicted and has only a moderate impact on the viewer.

A still image from the film - Riggan and Mike having a fist fight

Classification criteria: Crime

The film deals with criminal acts in the form of drug use. Riggan smells that Sam has been smoking cannabis, and he has an argument with her about this because of her drug addiction. At the end of the scene, after Sam has left, Riggan picks up the joint and has a few puffs. The publication does not promote or encourage drug use, but it does normalise it to some extent.

A still image from the film - Riggan hallucinates that he is flying

Classification criteria: Highly offensive language

The film deals extensively with highly offensive language. The language is employed in a variety of contexts, including for emphasis or to express exasperation, and at other points to express anger during scenes of heated conflict, and while characters banter through the exchange of abusive tirades.

A still image from the film - Riggan yelling in the street

Decision summary

The film needs to be restricted due to its sexual material, in particular its confusing scene related to sexual coercion. This material is likely to adversely affect the development of impressionable children and younger teenagers who are still in the process of forming attitudes and behaviours towards sexuality. Extensive use of strong highly offensive language is likely to cause serious harm to children and younger teenagers by inuring them to such language and encouraging them to use it for themselves.

The film is classified as objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 16 years. This restriction on availability is the minimum necessary to prevent likely 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