Over the years, the mediums of both film and television have continued to push the envelope in terms of what is considered risqué. With an increase in violent sequences and sensual scenes, most modern cinema is considered totally shocking compared to back in the day.
We decided to take a closer look at some of the movies which were banned for shocking reasons. Decades ago, certain countries had extremely high standards when it came to violence or suggestive themes. Yet over the years, societal norms have shifted, and we’ve become more accustomed and desensitized to seeing violence and action-packed sequences. Even though things might have seemed to have changed so much, certain countries are still not accepting of many things. Surprisingly enough, it’s not just action flicks or out-of-this-world gross horror films; even children’s movies are the cause for controversy.
In recent headlines, two nostalgia-driven classics like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Saban’s Power Rangers, were the latest victims in censorship, primarily due to criticisms of portraying LGBT characters. Even blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Ghostbusters fell prey to being banned in China.
After all these years, you would think that many of these films would hardly be a reason to bat an eyelash.
Here are 15 Movies Banned Around The World For Ridiculous Reasons
15 Ghostbusters (2016) - China
Last summer, director Paul Feig rebooted the eighties classic Ghostbusters with an all-female cast. Surprisingly enough, there is one country that wasn’t on board— China completely banned the film from theaters.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the nation's censorship guidelines strictly forbid movies that "promote cults or superstition". Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, Sony's reboot fell into this category, and thus, was not screened in the second largest film market in the world.
In a similar suit, the original Ghostbusters film was not shown in Chinese theaters back in 1984. "It's been confirmed that Ghostbusters won't be coming to China, because they think it's not really that attractive to Chinese audiences," said a Chinese executive. "Most of the Chinese audience didn't see the first and second movies, so they don't think there's much market for it here."
14 Barney’s Great Adventure (1998) - Malaysia
As seemingly innocuous Barney's Great Adventure might be, the children's adventure film was actually banned from Malaysia entirely.
Featuring Alan Fawcett, Jane Wheeler, Kyla Pratt and David Joyner, the innocent film seemed fairly harmless. Directed by Steve Gomer, the Barney title didn’t pass the screening, and intriguingly enough, none of the Malaysian censors commented on any further details about why the film was banned.
Apparently, the censors from Malaysia considered the film to be “unacceptable” for children to watch. Five years earlier, in 1993, Jurassic Park had a total gross of $2.4 million in Malaysia alone. In more recent years, the rebooted sequel, Jurassic World, cashed in $11 million at the Malaysia box office, so it seems like they just have it out for a certain purple dinosaur. Talk about some secret dino-hate!
13 Sex and the City 1 & 2 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
If Sex and the City isn’t really your style, then you'll probably get a kick out of this one. In 2010, Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates deemed Sex and the City and the later sequel, Sex and the City 2 as being "too sexy and racy" for theaters. The sequel, Sex and the City 2 was primarily filmed in Morocco, but the overall story and plotline seemed too "racy”.
Directed by Michael Patrick King, the first film was initially released in 2008, followed by the sequel, which hit theaters two years later. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker as the infamous Carrie Bradshaw, Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, Kristin Davis as Charlotte Goldenblatt, and Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes, the ladies of SATC find themselves on a luxurious vacation to Abu Dhabi - ironically enough.
12 Simpsons Movie (2007) - Burma
If you find yourself in Burma anytime soon, any references you make to The Simpsons Movie will probably fall upon deaf ears. In fact, the 2007 film was banned from Burma, but not because of reasons that you'd probably expect.
Sure, there are plenty of hilarious moments in the film, and we would have thought that perhaps Bart’s naked skateboarding antics were a little too much for those at the screening. However, the real reason why The Simpsons Movie was banned was because of the “juxtaposition of the colors yellow and red”, which is commonly seen as those who support rebel faction groups.
Directed by David Silverman, the film employs the same cast from the classic television series. So forget about making conversation, throwing in a few quotes, or trying to reference The Simpsons Movie, because the film was banned in Burma. D'oh!
11 Milk (2008) - Samoa
With director Gus Van Sant at the helm, Milk was a biopic film based on the life of Harvey Milk, which was originally released in 2008.
Starring Sean Penn in the titular role, Harvey Milk was known for being the first publicly gay official to be elected in California. The film explores Milk's work as a gay rights activist and with politics, including the aftermath of his assassination.
In March 2009, the Censorship Board in Samoa banned the film from being distributed, without any explicit explanation. A month later, Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu stated that the film was considered to be "inappropriate and contradictory to Christian beliefs and Samoan culture... In the movie itself it is trying to promote the human rights of gays. Some of the scenes are very inappropriate in regard to some of the sex in the film itself, it's very contrary to the way of life here in Samoa.”
10 Les statues meurent aussi (Statues Also Die) (1953) - France
Directed by Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, and Ghislain Cloquet, Les statues meurent aussi (meaning Statues Also Die) was originally released in 1953. The film focused on the consequences of colonialism with relation to African Art, highlighting various artwork from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although the film was awarded the Prix Jean Vigo in 1954, it was not warmly received by all of France. The Prix Jean Vigo is an award which was founded by the French writer Claude Aveline. The Cinema of France has given the award every year since 1951, in homage to the esteemed film director, Jean Vigo.
The film's subject matter included a strong criticism of colonialism, and how the Western world is directly responsible for the deterioration of artwork from Africa. Despite the award, the French National Center of Cinematography decided to censor the second part of the film for nearly a decade until the ban was lifted in 1963.
9 Hostel (2005) / Hostel: Part II (2007) - Ukraine
When it comes to movies mired in controversy, Hostel certainly stands out from all the rest. On the surface, the film seems like a generic horror flick, focusing on a group of unassuming backpackers headed to Eastern Europe. When a one-night stand goes awry, things get out of control, and the film’s sensitive subject matter led Hostel to become banned altogether.
In the Ukraine, the film was banned because it depicts Eastern Europe as a region where people are tortured in exchange for money. Surprisingly enough, owning the movie in private is still legal.
Hostel: Part II didn't fare much better, which was substantially cut in countries like Germany, Malaysia, and Singapore. The sequel featured graphic imagery, kidnapping, and torture, and the film was actually banned in New Zealand altogether.
8 Rififi (1955) - Finland
Also known as Du rififi chez les hommes in French, this film might be widely considered a classic by most, but in Finland, the film was believed to be highly dangerous. Directed by Jules Dassin, the film was an adaptation of the book, Du rififi chez les hommes, written by Auguste Le Breton. The story follows a group of four burglars, who band together to craft a seemingly-impossible heist.
Interestingly enough, director Jules Dassin was blacklisted in Hollywood, but he agreed to direct the film in France. Dassin worked on the film, despite having a low budget and a lesser known cast. The film was well-received by French and American audiences, but it was banned in Finland at the time.
On April 13, 1955, Rififi made its official debut in France, but it was banned in Finland, as government officials felt that the film could be used as a model for similar crimes. Eventually, the Finnish government lifted the ban by 1960.
7 Ichi the Killer (2001) - Norway
Directed by Takashi Miike, Ichi the Killer is known for causing some serious controversy. The storyline included a strong level of violence and graphic imagery. The film was originally released in 2001, and featured Tadanobu Asano as Kakihara, Shin'ya Tsukamoto as Jijiii and Nao Ohmori as Ichi.
Believe or not, bags for vomiting were distributed at a screening of Ichi the Killer at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Stockholm International Film Festival. Although the bags were mostly considered for publicity, someone actually threw up after watching the film, and another person fainted completely.
Upon hearing about this, officials in Norway felt that the high level of violence in the film was deemed "potentially harmful to children and adults" and decided to ban the movie. Other countries, like Malaysia and Germany, also chose to ban it.
6 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) — China
Over a decade ago, Disney released Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003. The summer swashbuckling adventure was positively received by fans, and the 2006 sequel seemed ready to follow suit. However, in China, cinema officials had other things on their mind.
According to The Guardian, censors in China decided to ban Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest because of the "portrayal of human cannibalism". The China Film Bureau was averse to the "souls of the dead" featured in the film, including Davy Jones and his crew of supernatural sailors.
After screening the film, one of the officials felt that the film's scenes showing cannibalism were unfit for young audiences. Many of the scenes were pivotal to the plot of the film, so they were unable to be cut.
5 Power Rangers (2017) and Television Series in Malaysia
Earlier this spring, reports confirmed that Saban's Power Rangers reboot would include the first LGBT leading lady in a superhero franchise— the Yellow Ranger. With Trini played by actress Becky G, many applauded the diversity found in the live-action Power Rangers film, but it also made some film censors wary.
In preparation for the film's release, the Malaysia Film Censorship Board was strongly considering banning the film altogether. Nazri Aziz, the Tourism and Culture Minister of Malaysia, was totally disappointed. "I am really depressed with what’s happening with our censorship board. We never appointed the censorship board to be our moral guardian.”
After an appeal to revisit the Film Censorship Board’s decision, Aziz’ wish was granted, and the film was given a green light.
This isn’t the first time Malaysia has had a problem with the Power Rangers. In 1995, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show was censored by Malaysia, who felt that the word "morphin" was too closely linked to the word "morphine".
4 Scram! (1932) - Netherlands
Directed by Ray McCarey, Scram! is a classic film featuring Laurel and Hardy. The 1932 film was distributed by MGM, and featured the comedy duo who were well-known for their slapstick style comedy. In a modern perspective, the film seems totally harmless, but not every country could agree in the early thirties.
In fact, The Netherlands instituted a ban against the film, because censors felt that the film depicted indecency. In the book Laurel & Hardy Compleet by Thomas Leeflang, it was revealed that the film was considered to be inappropriate, In one scene, Laurel and Hardy are shown sitting on a bed with a woman, who wasn’t married to either of them, causing quite a controversy with film censors at the time. Today, the film is no longer banned in the Netherlands.
3 Beauty and the Beast (2017) - Kuwait
Disney's live-action version of Beauty and the Beast might have broken box office records this year, but it wasn't smooth sailing in all areas of the world.
According to BBC News, the film was pulled from theaters in Kuwait due to the introduction of a gay character in the film. The film sparked similar controversy in Malaysia, causing censors to appeal to Disney for an edited version of the film, and also in Alabama, where a drive-in theater refused to screen the film entirely.
In February, director Bill Condon announced that the character LeFou (played by actor Josh Gad) would be gay in the live-action reboot. Despite the controversy, it marked a big step forward in a time when representation matters, as Lefou is now known for being the first openly gay character portrayed in a Disney film.
2 E.T. (1982) - Sweden, Finland, and Norway
In January 1983, a report in the Lewiston Journal noted that Sweden, Finland and Norway unanimously agreed to ban Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic, E.T. The Swedish Board of Film Censorship described E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial as a dangerous film, due to the fact that it portrays adults as "enemies of children".
Amusingly enough, the ban incited a protest, where fans held signs reading, "We want E.T." and "Children's films are made for children." Other protesters held posters reading, "Away with the 11-year limit", referring to the Swedish law limiting audiences to 11 year olds and above.
In Finland, the age limit is eight years old, and in Norway, the film was allowed for those older than twelve. In Sweden, chief censor Gunnel Arrback maintained that the traumatizing film could create a "threatening and frightening atmosphere" for those under 11 years old.
1 Back to the Future (1985) - China
In one of the more surprising additions to this list, 1985 sci-fi classic Back to the Future was banned by China in recent years. In March 2011, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television officially censored any movies or television shows which depict time travel.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that the censors felt that sci-fi themes of time travel in the movie are considered to be disrespectful to history. According to a report from the New York Times, television dramas which feature time travel "lack positive thoughts and meaning." Additionally, shows with time-travel centered themes can “casually make up myths, have monstrous and weird plots, use absurd tactics, and even promote feudalism, superstition, fatalism and reincarnation.”
Are there any other movies that we missed? Let us know in the comments!