Wolf of Wall Street
It’s not uncommon for films to get scenes cut or shortened for releases in countries with stricter censorship. If you were to take Wolf of Wall Street and cut out all the scenes with drugs, swearing, nudity and generally irresponsible behaviour, you’d probably reduce its 3 hour running time to a TV half hour, so it was easier for countries like Malaysia, Nepal, Zimbabwe, and Kenya to just ban the film altogether. Other countries also had to make special arrangements for the film, scenes were cut for distribution in India and it was relegated to very few theatres in Singapore. It’s almost as if Scorsese had some pent up tendencies he had to let out after directing Hugo, his first and only kids film.
In 1979 the first Mad Max film shocked audiences in Australia and the entire world with its depiction of gang violence in a dystopian future. One scene hit a little too close to home for New Zealand who subsequently banned the film. When Max’s partner Goose is burned alive inside his car by a biker gang, it unintentionally mirrored an event that had recently taken place in New Zealand. Fortunately the film’s goose wasn’t permanently cooked there, New Zealand eventually released Mad Max after the success of the subsequent sequels.
The guys behind comedy gems South Park and Team America have always been about pushing the envelope of good taste. Matt Stone and Trey Parker crafted their own little masterpiece when they decided to use marionettes to spoof American action films, particularly the monument toppling tendencies of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich. Knowing the censors would struggle with putting a rating on all the outlandish things these puppets were doing, Stone and Parker intentionally messed with them for one scene in particular. For the film’s love scene, thing progressively escalate through the traditional sex positions to more advanced techniques before going full scatalogical. They thought this scene would distract the MPAA from the content of the rest of the film and they’d get the rating down by just making significant cuts to this scene. It worked, they avoided the NC17 rating and reinstated the sex scene in its entirety for the DVD release.
Back To The Future
What could possibly be so offensive about a high school kid who goes back in time to make sure his parents hook up that could get it banned in all of China? Was it the implications of incest? The casual racism? Nope, it was the disrespect of history that the Chinese government didn’t approve of. In 2011 they placed a ban on all films containing time travel. They felt these films encouraged filmmakers to treat history in a frivolous way, extending the ban on everything from A Christmas Carol to Austin Powers. They’ve since loosened their stance on these films, and now time travel films play exceptionally well in China, which would explain the success of Terminator Genisys there.
Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot is one of the biggest comedy hits of all time, but upon its release in 1959, censors in Kansas decided their state probably would not like it hot at all. In the film, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play musicians who disguise themselves as women to hide from the mafia. Censors felt that the cross dressing aspect would be too disturbing for Kansas audiences to handle. Throw Marilyn Monroe in for some romantic scenes with Tony Curtis in drag and you just have too many confusing feelings for these censors to deal with.
Independence Day showed the world uniting, under the American president, against the shared threat of an alien invasion. It’s a generally positive message, and if international audiences were to find fault in it you’d think it would be with how pro American military the film is. The banning of the film in Lebanon had nothing to do with what the Americans do in the story, but the fact that it depicted scenes of Israeli and Iraqi soldiers joining forces. To us this is sends a message of peace and harmony, but the idea was offensive to the Hezbollah militant group who pressured the Lebanese government to ban the film altogether.
In 1982, kids all around the world fell in love with a little alien who became known as E.T. The film was already a phenomenon by the time it hit the Scandinavian countries, so children in Norway, Finland, and Sweden were quite upset when an age restriction was placed on kids under 12 years old seeing the film. This wasn’t because of the film’s occasionally intense content or insults the like ‘Penis Breath’ that the characters use, but because censors felt the film depicted adults as enemies to children. They believed this would cause a discord between to countries youth and its authority figures, but had the opposite effect when kids starting protesting outside of theatres with picket signs reading “We Want E.T.”
A Clockwork Orange
Here we have one of the few examples of a film getting banned by the filmmaker himself. After the release of A Clockwork Orange inspired several copycat beatings and rapes Stanley Kubrick removed all distribution of the film in the U.K. He maintained that violent art doesn’t cause people to turn people into criminals, but decided to ban the film once he started receiving death threats and had protestors outside his home. A Clockwork Orange was unavailable in the UK from 1972 until the director’s death in 1999.
In 2014, Sony thought they had a big holiday hit with the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy The Interview, but the movie would never make it to cinemas. With its depiction of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un they knew the film wouldn’t go over well there, but following the Sony hack and threats against any theatre that showed the film, Sony decided to play it safe and abandoned plans for a theatrical distribution only weeks before its release. The Interview was released on streaming platforms and the controversy caused by North Korea’s threats of war made for better press than Sony and the filmmakers could have ever hoped for.
Watching Deadpool, you’d think they didn’t hold anything back as it firmly embraced its hard R status. However there was one scene in which actors Ryan Reynolds and T.J. Miller were allowed to improvise and shit got a little too real. We all remember the scene where Wade Wilson reveals his mutilated face to Weasel who unleashes a barrage of ‘you look like’ jokes on him. Apparently some of the insults Miller came up with made the scripted lines look like Disney dialogue and were deemed too racy, even for Deadpool.