skip to main content

Dallas Buyers Club

R16: sex scenes, violence, drug use and offensive language

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.

Dallas Buyers Club poster

Date registered: 09/12/2013

About the film

Dallas Buyers Club follows the real life story of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician and cowboy from Texas who is diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s.

Facing persecution and death, he seeks out alternative treatments after a near-fatal stint on the FDA-approved drug AZT. He develops unlikely friendships with Dr Eve Saks and fellow sufferer and trans woman, Rayon, in the process. Seeing a gap in the market for effective treatments, he sets up an illegal distribution ring, faces off against FDA, and becomes a tenacious advocate for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

A still image from the film - Ron gets his diagnosis

Classification criteria: Sex

Sexual practice, sexuality and homophobia are strong themes within the film which lend to candid treatment of the sexual material. The opening scene features Ron having sex with two unknown women in a stall at the rodeo. Sex is implied through breathing and a brief depiction of movement (all shot from the chest up). Later on in the film an attractive woman signs up to become a member of Ron's 'club'. He asks the administrator what she is doing there and is told the woman has "full-blown" AIDS.

The scene quickly cuts to Ron and the woman having sex in a shower. Their movement and their vocalisation (heard from the next room) imply the sexual activity, although this is tempered by the rapid-fire movement of the camera. All of the sexual activity is gritty and somewhat debased, coloured by the fact that the viewer is aware Ron is HIV positive and is engaging in unprotected sex.

Strong sexual references are also made throughout the film. These are usually laced with homophobia and other derisive language.

A still image from the film - Ron partying it up with a couple of women

Classification criteria: Drug use

Drug use is regularly depicted in the film. Ron deals drugs amongst his friends group and is a regular user before he begins his alternative treatment. Rayon is and remains a drug addict till her death. Given its relationship to the central characters it is shown being used candidly. Although not expressly stated, its appearance as a white powder and in syringes indicates that it is heroin and/or cocaine.

Ron is shown snorting lines of the white powder on multiple occasions. Rayon is also shown injecting herself and inebriated as a by-product of her use; intravenous scarring is detailed all over her upper legs. No filmic techniques or narrative devices are used to present the drug use as positive or glamorous. Instead the scenes in which the drug use occurs are constructed to appear pathetic and derelict, emphasising the gritty settings or danger the use poses to the characters. It is thus in no way promotional or encouraging.

A still image from the film - Ron and Rayon

Decision summary

The film is a powerful and well-produced independent drama with social and artistic merit. The film's depictions of sex, violence and drug use are of moderate impact. Lethal drug and alcohol abuse, candid adult sexual behaviour which includes prostitution, all feed into the setting and conduct of the protagonists.

Younger persons will be inured to such conduct if exposed to these depictions and this will impact on their attitudes towards such material in harmful ways, given that they lack the necessary comprehension skills to properly contextualise these depictions.

The film's candid treatment of Ron Woodroof's personal struggle and the political tensions surrounding the AIDs epidemic and homophobia will be both enlightening and poignant for older teenagers and adults, given that they will be better versed with these issues.

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

R16 label
R16: sex scenes, violence, drug use and offensive language