Not all movies find themselves in the good graces of the public; in fact, many find just the opposite. Films are banned for all types of reasons – excessive gore, offensive plots and even fear of impressionable minds. No matter the reason, everyone perceives a movie differently, and someone’s favorite title might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
There are many banned films throughout the world that people might not even be aware of. While this list includes some of the more popular and talked about banned films, it is by no means exhaustive – there are countless banned films out there, and this list only scratches the surface.
See what I mean below with 15 Movies That Have Been Banned Around the World.
15 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Clockwork Orange follows Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), an “ultra-violent” protagonist that leads a gang he calls his “droogs” on a murderous spree. The film showcases this spree in disturbing detail, as well as Alex’s capture and attempted rehabilitation through aversion therapy, which the government hopes to be able to implement to diminish the growing crime problems. The film is still noted for its violence and disturbing images.
Based on Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novella of the same name, Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film has been deemed groundbreaking, but not by all. In 1971, the British Board of Film Classification reviewed the film in its entirety, ultimately deciding it should be released. However, controversy continued on in the wake of the film, as violent "copycat" crimes occurred, modeling themselves off the film. Disagreeing, but ultimately defeated by the public, Kubrick delayed the release of the film in the UK, eventually pulling it from release altogether.
In its US release, Kubrick had to cut a part of the film (about thirty seconds) to transition from an X rating to R. And in 2000, twenty-seven years after it was banned, the film returned to British screens.
14 Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
For those that have seen it, it’s understandable why the film has been banned. Still for those that haven’t, here’s a brief synopsis: Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a reporter for Kazakhstan TV sent to America to report on “the greatest country in the world.” However, upon arrival, he becomes far more interested in locating and marrying Pamela Anderson.
The film is a comedy, mockumentary, and though it is considered a commercial success, its release was surrounded by controversy, ending with bans all over the world. Before it was even released, leaders in Kazakhstan were outraged, citing the film as the embodiment of Cohen’s political agenda. Though the film was a huge success in the US, it was banned in all Arab countries (except Lebanon) and discouraged by the Russian government from being played in Russian theaters. Since its release, however, opinions changed and Kazakhstan has since credited the film for increasing tourism numbers.
13 Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
A found-footage cannibal film often referred to as a commentary on civilized vs. uncivilized society, Cannibal Holocaust is largely popular due to its controversial violence. The story follows an NYU professor that returns to the Amazon forest to find and rescue a missing documentary film crew that traveled there to film cannibal tribes. He instead finds their film canisters, filled with footage no one is expecting.
Of all the banned films, this one ranks as one of the most controversial ever made. Upon its initial release and the (intended) rumors that it was a snuff film, director Ruggero Deodato was accused with several counts of murder, as rumors that cast members were killed on camera circulated. Deodato later revealed the film wasn’t in fact “real,” and no cast members were actually harmed. Still, animals were harmed on camera, adding to the violent, disturbing nature of the film.
The movie is banned in over 50 countries, including Italy and Australia. The ban has been revoked by some countries, but many still condemn the film for its violence.
12 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The story of Elliot (Henry Thomas) and his alien friend, E.T., is a Steven Spielberg film that almost everyone is familiar with. But for those that aren’t, E.T. is an extra-terrestrial that seeks out the help of Elliot to return back to his home. The film is an emotional take on the lengths of friendship and kindness. But not all see it that way.
Upon its release in 1982, Norway, Finland and Sweden banned the film for all children under the age of twelve. Largely due to the negative portrayals of all adults in the film, these countries felt allowing children to watch it would create a discord between generations. In the film, Elliot exhibits distrust and animosity towards the adult figures, something these countries didn’t want to translate into the real world.
It’s a silly reason to ban a film, but for the time it was released, the restriction held.
11 The Evil Dead (1981)
No surprise here for those that are familiar with the gory horror film. The Evil Dead is a possession story on steroids, integrating five friends, a cabin in the woods, demonic entities and a whole lot of gore. To say the film is shocking would be an understatement, and though it’s become an iconic film in the horror genre, it’s also stirred up a bit of controversy as well.
The film features numerous torture scenes and countless shocking violent images, one of the most prominent being a rape scene involving a tree. While critics complain of misogynist undertones and extensive, unnecessary violence, most theaters played the film anyway. But due to the film’s graphic violence, it’s been banned in several countries, including Iceland, Ireland, Finland and Germany.
10 The Exorcist (1973)
The story of Regan, a young girl possessed by a demon and exhibiting uncharacteristic violence and language, was shocking for many at the time of its release. The film was far ahead of its time in numerous ways, and is often cited as one of the scariest movies ever made, in part due to its “based on a true story” nature.
Though horror fanatics see it as innovative and iconic, it also wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Partly due to the horrific plot and shocking series of events, and largely due to the religious content of the film, many individual cities, states and countries banned the film. In the UK, the film was initially released in theaters, but was not legally classified for a video release until 1990.
There are stories of paramedic calls to treat shocked moviegoers that had fainted or gone into hysterics, solidifying it as a horror film ahead of its time.
9 Fat Girl (2001)
The French film titled, À ma sœur! or Fat Girl in the US, is an unrated, disturbing and odd film that won’t fit the tastes of many. It follows sisters Elana and Anaïs as they confront their sexual attitudes and encounters while on vacation. Elana is the more attractive, promiscuous sister while Anaïs is the “fat” sister, who opts to eat while her sister flirts with guys. But it’s the film’s sex scenes that are to blame for its banning.
The film has been “severely restricted” to adults around the world, but the true banning of the film was in Ontario, Canada by the Ontario Film Review Board. They objected to the film’s representation of female, teenage sexuality. But in 2003, the ban was overturned and the film played in several theaters.
8 Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S. (1975)
Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) is a sexualized Nazi warden at a concentration camp best described as pure evil. Though she is a doctor and appears to be helpful to the women at the camp, her goal is to put them through a series of torturous experiments to prove that women can withstand pain better than men. Her goal is for women to be allowed to fight on the frontline in the war, but its her unorthodox and disturbing methods that lands this film on the list.
The film was entirely rejected by the British Board of Film Classification and ended up banned in both Norway and Australia for its sexual, violent and disturbing content. The film has also been condemned for its objectification and sexualizing of women.
7 The Interview (2014)
The comedy duo of Seth Rogan and James Franco have created many hilarious, though racy films, including This is the End (2013) and Pineapple Express (2008), but they bit off a little more than the world could chew with The Interview. The film follows a TV talent and his producer who land an interview with a fan, Kim Jong-un, and are then recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.
For obvious reasons, the film wasn’t appealing to everyone. Though it was meant mostly as a harmless play on recent news, the film struck up controversy and potential violent threats to the US. The North Korean government threatened the US should it allow Columbia Pictures to release the film, resulting in the film’s delayed release and rumored edits to make it less offensive. Still, Sony Pictures were hacked by a group known as the “Guardians of Peace,” who also threatened terrorist attacks against theaters that played the film, resulting in a panic as major theaters refused to show the film.
Eventually, the film was released digitally by Sony, and ended up grossing $40 million in digital rentals, the highest grossing digital release ever put out by the company, largely to the controversy and consequential publicity about the film.
6 I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Also known as Day of the Woman, I Spit on Your Grave is one of the most violent, disturbing and controversial films ever made, hands down. The tagline, “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken, and burned five men beyond recognition…but no jury in America would ever convict her” is intriguing, but is only the beginning of the brutality of the film, which includes one of the most brutal gang rape scenes ever filmed.
The film has been banned altogether in Norway, Ireland, Iceland and Germany and was initially banned in Canada entirely, but eventually its provinces were permitted to decide whether or not they’d release it for themselves. The UK also released the film as a “video nasty” and was even a part of the Director of Public Prosecution’s list of prosecutable films until 2001. The film has also been heavily cut in many areas, removing portions of the extensive rape scene.
5 The Last House on the Left (1972)
Following the story of two teenage girls trying to score weed before a rock concert, this film takes a dark turn when they are kidnapped by a gang of convicts. Wes Craven directs this horror film and, like many of his movies, certain plot points ended up at the crux of controversy.
The violent nature of the film resulted in its being heavily censored and banned in many regions. The UK specifically denied a cinematic release due to sadism and violence, and eventually, the Department of Public Prosecutions added the film to the list of “video nasties,” banning it for a majority of the 1980’s and 90’s. It wasn’t until substantial cuts had been made that they were given an “18” certificate. Still, the film has gained cult status.
4 Love Camp 7 (1969)
The film is set in a Nazi “Love Camp,” meant to service the needs of the army’s front line officers, documented in the tagline which reads, “A place of total despair. All the youthful beauty of Europe enslaved for the pleasure of the third Reich.” The plot follows two young Army agents that go undercover to get information from a scientist that’s held there.
The film is a cult classic, although it is also the beginning of a cycle of "Nazisploitation" films that exploit both women and Nazis. The British Board of Film Classification denied the film a video certificate as did the New Zealand Office of Film & Literature Classification. The film was also banned in Australia, with a few cut releases to follow until eventually the film was passed in its original, uncut format in 2005.
3 Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
The story follows Brian of Nazareth, born on the same day as Jesus of Nazareth, who spends his life being mistaken for a messiah. He follows a different path than Jesus, but ultimately ends up with the same fate. The film brought to us by the group Monty Python (consisting of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) satirizes religion, namely Christianity, something not taken lightly by many groups.
In fact, there were regions that considered the satire blasphemous and it drew many protests due to the seemingly anti-religious agenda. In many areas of the UK, the film was either banned entirely or set prohibitions to prevent the film from being shown. Many other countries, including Ireland and Norway, banned the film entirely, some of these bans spanning decades.
2 Song of the South (1946)
The film that inspired the Splash Mountain attraction at Disney theme parks around the world, Song of the South is an Oscar winning film that follows an old story teller as he teaches young children of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox. However, its racial stereotypes have been the cause of controversy since the film’s release.
Critics condemn the film for its depiction of former black slaves, deeming the film racist due to the difference in race relations and treatment within the live action portions of the film. And though this was anticipated at the time of its release, the years to follow would bring the same, heated debate on race. To this date, the film has never been released in its entirety on home video in the US due to the perceived damage it would cause to the family friendly Disney brand.
1 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
One of the most iconic slasher killers out there, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre features a cannibalistic, disfigured killer that hunts down his victims and wears their skin, something five friends learn the hard way. The film is a gory take on an already violent genre, and for that reason has been banned around the world.
The film was marketed as a true story to gain viewers, though the plot was entirely fictional (the film was very loosely based on the real-life murders by Ed Gein, who kept tokens of his victims in his house), which begun some of the controversy. But the main problem came with the excessive violence, which resulted in the film’s being banned in many countries, including the UK.
Still, the film has helped pioneer characteristics of the slasher killer, defining them as a faceless, weapon wielding, burly and ominous character.
Surprised? Or know of some banned films not included on this list? Let us know in the comments below!