Andreas Whittam Smith, the new president of the British Board of Film Classification, has granted the movie an 18 certificate after consulting police and child psychiatrists to ensure it does not condone paedophilia.
The film, starring Jeremy Irons as Humbert, the middle-aged man who becomes obsessed with a sexually precocious under-age girl, has attracted concern from anti-pornography groups that it could break obscenity laws.
But Mr Whittam Smith - one of the founders of The Independent in 1986 and still a columnist - who took over at the helm of the BBFC in January, said the film was entirely legal. It handled its subject responsibly by showing the relationship as both wrong and disastrous.
He said: "Whatever decision was made on this film it was going to be controversial, whether we gave it a certificate or banned it. We were very aware of the feelings which this subject generates but we have been extremely thorough in seeking opinions from authoritative sources.
"At the end of the day, it is a portrayal which shows a tormented, agonising and evil relationship which ends up hurting everybody concerned. I am satisfied it cannot be seen as corrupting or encouraging of paedophilia."
The BBFC chief added that the 18 classification was purely for cinema release, underlining the fact that minors would not be able to see it or allow scenes to be replayed.
Director Adrian Lyne used a 19-year-old body double to film physical scenes in the movie which - like the original novel by Vladimir Nabokov - details the sexual relationship between Humbert and Lolita.
A board spokesman added: "We naturally had in mind the public's revulsion at the widespread incidence of paedophile behaviour.
"None the less we feel able to rely upon a classification of 18 as an effective method of restricting viewing.
"In the board's view, the new Lolita is a challenging and compassionate treatment of an established literary classic which adult cinemagoers have a right to judge for themselves."
Nabokov's novel was first published in Britain in 1959. It is used as an exam text in schools and studied widely at universities.Reuse content