Entertainment censorship has always been an important and controversial topic of discussion. Although it wasn’t as much of an issue in the times before film and television, with the exponential growth of technology organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America, and the FCC were formed to help regulate and censor both films and television programs.
However, North American censorship has remained lax, allowing for gruesome and controversial titles such as: The Human Centipede, A Clockwork Orange, A Serbian Film and most recently, The Interview (James Franco and Seth Rogen’s film which was rumored to start a war with North Korea). Yet, for many film fanatics and everyday citizens, less censorship is better. Most people prefer to decide for themselves what they should and shouldn’t watch, but not everyone is so liberal. Many of us forget that there was a time before, where watching a violent death on screen was unheard of. Other countries aren’t so keen on allowing their citizens free rein on what they watch in their leisure time. But even those of us with more conservative hearts will agree that the countries who banned these next ten films were going a little too far.
10. 2012 (2009)
From director Roland Emmerich and starring John Cusack, 2012 follows the story of survivors trying to make it through the impending apocalypse, allegedly predicted by the Ancient Mayan Civilization to occur on December 21st, 2012. Luckily for us, the film’s plot was entirely a work of fiction, but the 2012 Apocalypse theories were not.
From wild theories ranging from a hostile takeover by a shadowy international organization called “The New World Order” to rumors of a coming zombie-like virus, or even the possibility of The Earth colliding with an undiscovered planet called “Nibiru”, the 2012 phenomenon and accompanying conspiracy theories took much of the world by storm, and became a hot topic in both social media and even a few credible news networks.
Columbia Pictures tried to capitalize on that buzz with 2012, and did quite well grossing over $760 million worldwide, but received mixed reviews and was criticized for its lengthy run time. While the film may be met with controversy regarding conflicts with religious beliefs, or worries that increased belief in the theory may spur on crime and looting prior to the alleged date for the end-times, neither of those were the reason the film was banned in North Korea. The film was supposedly banned in North Korea after its release due to the belief that 2012 was going to be the lucky year for North Korea and spur on international growth for the country. The year 2012 was also considered lucky because it marked the 100th birthday of revered former North Korean President Kim Il-Sung, who was born in 1912, and died in 1994. Allegedly, citizens caught with smuggled DVDs of the film were arrested.
9. District 9 (2009)
One of the greatest Science Fiction films of the 21st century, Neill Blomkamp did with District 9 something most believed was impossible: he shot the film primarily in documentary-style shaky cam without pissing off the majority of the audience. Instead, the film became revered as one of the greatest films of the year and was nominated for four Academy Awards.
District 9 tells the story of an alien race given the derogatory nickname “Prawns” because of their physical resemblance to the crustacean. However, they are an intelligent race with technology far surpassing that of the human race. Their mothership malfunctions and is forced to remain hovered over the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, where the Prawns are forced to take refuge in impoverished refugee camps. The movie is so compelling that the unorthodox film style becomes unnoticeable and instead the viewer becomes lost in a heart wrenching story in which humans themselves are shown to be the most inhuman creatures of all.
While the film received praise in North America, the film was banned in Nigeria due to an insulting depiction of certain Nigerian characters as villainous criminals, and nonredeemable cannibals. It is truly a shame that some may have missed the opportunity to see such a truly remarkable film.
8. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
Based on one of the most popular and iconic video games of all time, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is the second installment of the Tomb Raider film franchise.
With parts of the movie being set in China and filmed on location in Hong Kong, it makes it even more odd that China remains the only country in which the film is banned. According to BBC News, the film was banned because “the film portrayed China as a country in chaos,” and an official felt that “westerners have made their presentation of China with malicious intention.” With the main villain in the film, Chen Lo, being of Chinese descent, their worries aren’t totally unjustified.
Unrelated to the ban, the film received mostly negative reviews, a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 43/100 rating on Metacritic; perhaps they should have banned it here as well.
7. Avatar (2008)
James Cameron’s blockbuster hit Avatar made waves and broke records, becoming known as the highest grossing movie of all time, a title it still holds to this day.
Cameron’s vision came to life in theaters with amazing CGI and Imax 3D, making it a visual masterpiece at a caliber never seen before. The story of a crippled marine who saves the native alien population of planet Pandora touched the hearts of many, but some weren’t so pleased. The 2D version of the film was banned in China with the official reason of wanting to support their local film industry. However, many Chinese commentators believe that the “story of the Na’vis’ battle to protect their land and culture [from the invading American Earth Army]”, is strikingly similar “with Chinese citizens fighting to protect their property from the government and developers”, and this may have been the true reason for the ban.
6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
From one of the most iconic film franchises of all time, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, directed by Steven Spielberg, co-written by George Lucas, and starred by Harrison Ford, is the 87th highest grossing film of all time worldwide, grossing over $434 Million after adjusting for inflation.
Serving as a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, in true Indiana Jones style, Indy is asked by a desperate village in Northern India to find a mystical stone. In search for the stone, Indy crosses paths with a group of thugs (more like a cult) who worship the Hindu Goddess Kali and perform acts of human sacrifice. This is where Indy loses favor with some Indian audiences who claim the film portrays Indians in a barbaric, racist manner, and inaccurately portrays the Hindu Goddess. Because of this, the film was once banned in India for a short period of time.
5. Zoolander (2001)
This lighthearted, yet outrageous comedy directed and starred by Ben Stiller tells the story of a male modeling powerhouse, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), being out-shined by a younger, more progressive, up and coming model named Hansel (Owen Wilson). The film generated an enormous cult following, enough of a following to spur on a sequel set to be released February 2016, almost 15 years after its predecessor.
Because of the film’s plot surrounding the use of Malaysian sweatshops by the American fashion industry, as well as an assassination attempt on the Malaysian Prime Minister, the film was banned in Malaysia. Also, since the film was released September 28, 2001, just 17 days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers, any shots that included the World Trade Centers in the New York skyline were removed from the film.
For a film that received more controversy than most comedies, Zoolander did very well at the box office, and spurred on many laughs from the millions that watched and adored this timeless zany film.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
With the career defining roles of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise is one of the largest in history grossing over 3.7 Billion dollars. At Worlds End is the third installment of the series, following the crew’s journey to save Captain Jack from Davy Jones’ Locker.
The map to The Locker is held by Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), Pirate Lord of the South China Sea. Later on in the film, the crew is betrayed and ambushed by Sao Feng, and this is where the “controversy” occurs. The film was not allowed to be shown in China without 10 minutes of the film being edited out, supposedly due to a negative, stereotypical portrayal of the Chinese people. The previous film (second in the series), Dead Man’s Chest, was banned completely due to scenes of cannibalism.
3. The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Matt Groening’s The Simpsons, is one of the most iconic, most well received, and most popular cartoon series in the history of television. While sometimes met with mixed opinion due to a few crude jokes or cartoon violence here and there, the series is widely accepted and adored by the general population.
Directed by David Silverman, The Simpsons Movie follows the plot and setting of the TV series, and runs much like a longer episode of the show. Homer pollutes Lake Springfield, forcing U.S. President Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes president, not governor) to enclose the town of Springfield in a giant dome to contain the pollution.
The film received critical acclaim and positive reception with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 80/100 on Metacritic. Unfortunately, the citizens of Burma were unable to view this film legally, as it was banned due to one of the most bizarre reasons for any ban ever: the colors red and yellow are apparently not allowed to be shown in Burmese films. Needless to say, The Simpsons family didn’t pass the cut.
2. Romeo and Juliet (1968)
A story that needs no introduction, Romeo and Juliet is possibly the most known, most read, most taught, and most hated Shakespeare classic, not because of its quality but because of how many teens were forced to read and study it in their high school years. The 1968 film, directed by Franco Zeffireli, follows the plot of Shakespeare’s play nearly scene for scene. Oddly, this film adaptation was banned in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, not the entire country, just one city.
In those days (in which cinema was just starting to take off), the Toronto Police Force had the power to decide which films would offend the general public and had the power to censor or ban them as they saw fit. Apparently, even Shakespeare’s classics were seen as either too violent or too risque for 1960’s Toronto.
1. Barney’s Great Adventure (1998)
Perhaps one of the most beloved kids TV characters of all time, it is unthinkable that the huggable, fuzzy children’s mascot would be banned anywhere for any reason.
The film tells a story that most would have at one point dreamed of, and wished to come true during their own childhood. In a Toy Story-esque nature, Cody (Trevor Morgan), through the use of imagination (yeah, I know, but we were all kids once), brings his toy Barney doll to life. Cody wishes for a summer adventure of the like which none have experienced ever before, and he gets his wish, as he, his siblings and best friend discover a mysterious egg that falls out of the sky into their family barn.
Why such a movie—in which the theme song is titled “I Love You”—would be offensive or controversial to anyone, is beyond even Cody’s imagination. However, good ol’ Malaysia found a reason to ban this one too, and the biggest mystery is they never stated why.