In 2016, it’s hard to imagine there being any films out there that are offensive enough to be banned, since it feels like we’ve seen it all. However, there are films, past and present, that are banned all over the world, whether the reasons are to protect religion, protect the innocence of youth, or to protect the reputation of poorly portrayed countries.
Some films, however, are banned for completely ridiculous reasons and still remain banned today. Some countries have even gone to great lengths to ensure bootleg copies don’t end up in the hands of citizens (Spoiler Alert, it’s not the United States of America with this problem).
Surprisingly, many films that are banned are big blockbusters as well, which may seem mild in content to most audiences. Read on to see if you agree with these 15 movies that offended countries.
While Zoolander might be one of the most beloved movies in America, the people of Malaysia and Iran didn’t find it to be as enjoyable. Gay rights and homosexuality aren’t things that are allowed in Iran – and while there’s nothing showing direct homosexuality in Zoolander, the idea of the male fashion models was just too much for Iran. While there was a scene that insinuated that Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller took part in a group sexual encounter together, there is nothing that inherently says the characters are gay. Malaysia, on the other hand, banned Zoolander for a very different reason. As most people remember, one of the main plots behind Zoolander was to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Understandably enough, the Prime Minister of Malaysia didn’t find that to be funny, so the movie was forbidden.
14. Sex and The City 2
When it comes to women, America is one of the most free countries to live in. Women are able to depict themselves as sexual beings, wear whatever they want, and pretty much do whatever they want, whenever they want. Most people know that women in other countries are not as fortunate when it comes to living freely. As to be expected, many foreign countries didn’t think too highly of the Sex and The City film franchise, but they ran into issues with the second installment in the series. The setting of the movie was supposed to be in Abu Dhabi; however, it ended up happening that the film crew wasn’t even allowed to film there, due to “cultural differences” between the people working on the film and the United Arab Emirates. The women in Sex and The City 2 are not shy about presenting themselves sexually, or talking about sexual situations, which ultimately upset the United Arab Emirates. The movie ended up being filmed in Morocco instead, but they still went ahead and said it was set in the United Arab Emirates. After lying about the setting of the movie, the United Arab Emirates decided to ban the film all together.
To date, Avatar is still the highest grossing film to ever be produced in the world. However, that didn’t matter much to China. According to theatlantic.com, China actually only allows twenty foreign films to be screened annually. So, this usually means the film has to have some big name actors, lots of hype, and be a guaranteed blockbuster. The 2D version of Avatar ended up being pulled after only two weeks of being shown in China. At the time, Chinese locals were facing eviction from their own homes, much like the Na’vi in the film. Government officials began to fear that it would cause political unrest after Chinese citizens watched it, so they just ended up pulling it from theaters to avoid any issues. Another issue that the Chinese government cited was that they believed that the film was making too much money, and took away from domestic films. Weirdly enough, while the 2D version was banned, 3D, Imax and DVD versions of the film were not.
12. The Simpsons Movie
Anybody who has seen The Simpsons Movie might not be surprised to hear that it was banned in another country. Not only is there nudity in the film, but there is also common violence that you see in all The Simpsons episodes, along with other outrageous ideas that only America can find funny. The Simpsons Movie ended up being banned in Burma – the country is known for banning just about everything, and making insane laws only to go back on their decision hours later. So it’s easy to think that Burma banned the movie due to the violence or the nudity. In the end though, Burma banned the colors red and yellow in the film, making it so the film was not allowed to be shown in Burma – all because of the colors red and yellow. The Simpson family is yellow, which makes almost the entire movie against the law.
11. King Kong (1933 version)
Many years have passed since 1933, so if any of today’s American people were to go back and watch the original King Kong, it’d probably be a tough film to sit through. Now, we’ve advanced leaps and bounds as far as technology goes, so it’s not hard to make almost anything look real in the films that we watch today. However, Finland was not happy with the original King Kong. At the time, they believed that the depiction of King Kong was too realistic – and they didn’t like it one bit. In the film, King Kong eats several human beings; apparently, it all looked too real because even the United States banned several of the scenes in the movie. After some years passed though, Finland ended up releasing the film in 1939.
10. Back To The Future
According to The Daily Mail, China bans any film depicting “fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and even a lack of positive thinking.” When you think about it, that’s a whole lot of films that have had to be banned in China. Back To The Future is, obviously, all about time travel, which is a no-go for the Chinese. The reasoning behind the banning of time travel centric movies is that the Chinese government is concerned about the idea of characters going back in time and rewriting history. So, any other movie that’s ever been shown in America that has talked about time travel, bizarre plots, absurd techniques and the likes, has definitely been banned in China.
9. The Interview
Seeing how The Interview was released pretty recently, it’s hard to forget the drama that encumbered the release of the film. In The Interview, a television host, played by James Franco, and his producer, played by Seth Rogen, end up scoring an interview with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Little do they know, they find out that they’re actually being hired to assassinate the North Korean dictator, which obviously didn’t go over very well in the eyes of North Korea. While the movie was very clearly just another adaptation of Rogen’s stoner comedy, North Korea claimed that the film promoted terrorism. “To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war,” said UN ambassador Ja Song Nam, according to Reuters. At the time, rumors were swirling that The Interview was actually going to start a war between America and North Korea. On top of having to make sure the film was banned in North Korea, the country had to take extra precaution with the black market, as many bootleg copies were being brought in for North Korean citizens to watch.
8. The Matrix Reloaded
For Americans, The Matrix franchise is pretty much a classic. Even if you haven’t seen it, you know at least a little bit about it. In 2003, The Matrix Reloaded, which is the sequel to the original film, was banned in Egypt. The movie was banned for religious reasons and because the film’s “excessive violence,” according to The Guardian. The film was reviewed by Egypt’s highest film censor committee, made up of 15 academics, critics, psychologists and writers. While the film committee admitted that the movie itself was very well produced and the special effects were impressive, they decided the core idea behind the movie was not something they wanted to be seen. The religious issues came down to “the creator and his creations, searching for the origin of creation and the issue of compulsion and free will,” according to theguardian.com. The violence in the movie as well made the committee fear that there would be social unrest and harm after watching the movie. Weirdly enough, the first Matrix film was shown in Egypt – but it didn’t go over well. Many people criticized the movie for promoting Zionism, along with Zionist and Jewish beliefs in an Islamic country.
7. The Deer Hunter
Considered one of the biggest international issues to be started by a film, is The Deer Hunter. The movie was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival, and starred Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. Now, there is only one scene in the film that completely upset Vietnam. In the movie, there is a scene in which Vietnamese captors force a group of American soldiers to play a game of Russian Roulette. The reason why they were so upset over this is because there was no actual proof that the Vietnamese used Russian Roulette as a form of amusement or torture. At the time, the Soviet Union was in support of Vietnam during the Cold War, so now the Soviet Union was mad, too. According to thedailybeast.com, the Soviet Union called the film racist and said it, “shows tendentiously the struggle of the Vietnamese people who have earned the respect and support of the whole world.” In an act of solidarity, the Soviets attending the film at the festival walked out. In 1987, after the Cold War was in the past a little bit, the film was shown in Moscow and received positive reviews.
6. Schindler’s List
In 1993, Schindler’s List was almost an international hit – “almost” being the key word. Several Muslim and Arab countries banned the film, saying that it promoted Zionist propaganda. Spielberg, at the time is quoted on thedailybeast.com as saying, “It’s just disgraceful. It shocks me because I thought the Islamic countries would feel this film could be an instrument of their own issues in what was happening in Bosnia… This movie speaks not only on the Jewish Holocaust but of every Holocaust, by anyone’s definition.” At the time, there were genocides impending on Muslims because of the Bosnian War. Several countries banned the movie, confiscated any advertising material, and Indonesia subjected it to their censorship boards as well. Malaysia announced the film as “propaganda with the purpose of asking for sympathy,” as well.
Hostel is the story of two American college kids who decide to head to Europe for a binge of drugs, alcohol and sex. The two men decide to check into a Slovakian hostel where they heard rumors about easy women – but it doesn’t end up that way for them at all. After coming to the hostel, the men are sold to an underground torture group. The film is directed by Eli Roth, so it’s lot of blood and gore. When the movie came to Slovakia, several members of Parliament didn’t have any good feelings towards the movie at all. MP Tomas Galbavy announced that all of Slovakia should be offended, and that the movie would ruin the good reputation of Slovakia, according to thedailybeast.com. Roth, hearing about the criticism from Slovakia, responded by saying that “Americans don’t even know that this country exists.”
In 2006 when Borat hit theaters, Kazakhstan was not amused. The film is essentially a mockumentary on a Kazakh man who comes to America. Sacha Baren Cohen was the mastermind behind it all, and Kazakhstan actually considered taking legal action against him. Cohen’s character, Borat, portrayed Kazakh citizens as anti-Semitic and as supporters of r*pe. Before the movie was released, Kazakhstan actually released a media campaign to try and portray the country as everything but what was shown in Borat. While the country considered taking legal action against Cohen, in 2012, the Kazakh prime minister actually turned around and thanked him for creating the film. Apparently after Borat was released, tourism increased exponentially, which benefited the country in many ways.
3. Scarface (1932 version)
The original version of Scarface hit theaters in 1932, despite how many Americans think the only version that exists is the one with Al Pacino. The original Scarface was actually banned in five states across the United States. The reason behind the banning was because the movie apparently portrayed the gangster violence too graphically and too realistic. On top of that, many members of the Italian-American community felt that the movie reflected poorly on them at the time as well. Due to these factors, the movie was banned for some time across five states in the U.S.
2. The Last Temptation of Christ
Martin Scorsese‘s film The Last Temptation of Christ was met with a ton of positive reviews upon its release in 1988 – but it also received a lot of criticism and hate from multiple countries across the world as well as numerous Christian groups. In the film, Christ is shown as having feelings of lust, fear, doubt and more, which kind of contradicts everything that the Bible says, which didn’t sit well with many people. Several groups protested Universal Studios as well as anybody else who chose to show the film. A group of 600 people actually protested outside of Universal Studio’s parent company; and Evangelist Bill Bright actually offered to buy the film from Universal Studios so that he could destroy it. Many southern states in the United States banned the film for several weeks, as did many countries. To date, the Philippines and Singapore still have the film banned.
1. The Exorcist (1973 version)
Possibly one of the most famous films of all time is the original adaptation of The Exorcist. The film is told to be based on a true story, which was a new thing for filmmakers to be doing at the time. Regan, the main character in the movie, is possessed by a demon and starts to depict extreme violence and language, which was upsetting for many people who saw the film. At the time, movies of the sort weren’t as widely accepted or made like they are today. On top of being unusual, scary content, the film also challenged religious beliefs because of the idea of demons and God not being able to fix the situation. Because of these reasons, the film was banned in the UK and many other countries. In 1990, the UK let the movie be released in the theaters.