So Nasty it’s Scary: Horror Movies from the United Kingdom’s Video Nasty List

Video nasty was a term used in the United Kingdom to describe movies that were typically way over the top in violence, gore, or sexual content to the point where the British government felt them to be obscene and worthy of some type of legal action being carried out. When a movie was released in theaters, it would have to be submitted to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), who would then suggest, or demand, depending on the film, what cuts would have to be made in order to obtain certification to be shown in theaters. Movies that went straight to VHS were not required to be classified by the BBFC Prior to the Video Recording Act of 1984. While they were not required to be certified by the BBFC, these films fell into a legal gray area because they could be found to violate the Obscene Publication Act of 1959. Being in violation of the Obscene Publication Act of 1959 meant they were illegal to possess and distribute. Determining what was considered obscene and worthy of being taken off the shelves was determined by individual constables and what they considered to be obscene. This resulted in some jurisdictions being stricter than others. Constables would confiscate films in a fairly arbitrary manner which prompted the Video Retailers Association to ask for guidance on which titles might be confiscated so as to avoid purchasing them and stocking them. The Department of Public Prosecution created a list of over 150 different movie titles to help address the concerns raised by the Video Retailers Association. These titles are collectively known as the video nasties list and was first made public in June of 1983.

The type of prosecution regarding a video nasty was typically determined by how extreme the content in the movie was and ranged on a scale of 1 to 3.  Authorities could seize films in Section 1 and hold dealers and distributers of the films personally liable in court, with the possibility of facing fines and even jail time, regardless of the level of cooperation provided by the video dealer. A video dealer was anyone who sold or rented VHS tapes to others. Films that were in Section 1 were considered to be the most extreme. Section 2 films were considered extreme, but to a lesser extent. Authorities could still confiscate these films but as long as the movie dealer cooperated, they would be clear of any wrongdoing and were not prosecuted. Movies categorized as Section 3 films were those considered to be the least obscene of the video nasties. Authorities could seize these films only after dealers agreed to forfeit them. These films could not be taken by force and there were no legal repercussions for those who dealt or sold these movies.

After the passage of the Video Recording Act of 1984, movies released on VHS had to be submitted to the BBFC for classification. Movies could not be sold in the UK if they were not submitted to the BBFC within three years of the passage of the act. Any film released to video after 1984 was reviewed in a similar process to those released in theater. Due to the concern that it was easier for children to obtain a VHS than to sneak into a movie underage, VHS releases of movies that went to theaters without cuts would typically have cuts made to their VHS release. Below is a list of sixteen movies which appeared on the list that are available to you with your library card. Along with the titles, I have included information on what section the film was classified under, how much of the movie had to be cut for its VHS release, and when it was first released without cuts, if applicable. It is worth noting these movies were considered extreme for a reason, so please use your discretion.

View Full List

Information to create this blog post was gathered from the below sources: