The history of film is full of movies that were banned for explicit scenes or excessive violence. The movies are banned by film censorship or review organizations often for moral or political reasons. Usually when a film gets banned it gets sent back to the editing room and the questionable scenes get altered so the movie can be released to the public. Sometimes bans are put in place for religious reasons and for things that seem unwarranted, although many have been reversed after complaints from the public. There is a rumor that in 1918 all comedies were banned in Manitoba because it was believed they would make people too frivolous. The rumor isn’t sustained, but many things were banned around WWI. Before the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, films could be banned for nothing other than what we would now see as mild scenes of sexuality, especially after HBO has altered our perception of what is okay to show on TV, or gruesome violence.
It is hard for films to be banned in North America now because of freedom of expression and a mostly desensitized culture, but films have been banned in the last decade, however not for the typical reasons. The Profit was banned between 2002 and 2007 because the Church of Scientology claimed it would taint the jury during a trial involving one of its members. The 2010 film The Yes Men Fix the World was briefly delayed from releasing because of a lawsuit involving the Yes Men. In other countries films are banned every year for excessive violence and sexual behavior. Here is a list of movies banned for good reason. How many have you seen?
10. The Tin Drum, 1979
The Tin Drum won an academy award in 1979 for the best foreign language film. The year before it was banned by the Ontario Censor Board of Canada and a district judge in Oklahoma. The film was banned because of a scene that looks like an 11-year-old was having oral sex and then intercourse with a 16-year-old girl (played by a 24 year old woman). Authorities confiscated all the copies of the film and even tried to charge some people who rented the movie. The decision was reversed after a lawsuit was filed by the leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, Michael Camfield. All copies of the film were returned.
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was considered one of the scariest movies of all time, but it is still without much visible blood and guts. The films director, Tobe Hooper even expected it would receive a PG rating on its release. The film board rated The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as R and it was even banned in Brazil, Ireland, Singapore and Germany for 25 years. While it was still in theaters, many cinemas stopped showing it because of threats about its violence. It is still seen as one of the best horror films and is credited with originating some of the slasher film staples, including the use of power tools as murder weapons and the killer being portrayed as a huge faceless being.
8. The Human Centipede 2, 2011
The Human Centipede 2 does the impossible and yet again pushed the boundaries of horror films. On its release in the U.S. in 2011 the censorship board refused to give it a rating, and it met with a lot of backlash. Both the UK and Australia banned the film outright. The film shows the strangers being surgically operated on by a cloaked madman who sews then together from end to end, or butt to mouth. The movie is hard to watch for those who even enjoy the genre and the victims in the movie are shown in a way where the audience isn’t meant to sympathize with them and they are simply being tortured for the amusement of the madman and the viewers.
7. Mikey, 1993
Mikey is a horror film about a nine year old sociopath who murders his foster parents before being moved to a new family. It isn’t long before his murderous plans are revealed, but the boy manages to avoid suspicion because of his young age, and assumed innocence. The film was banned in the UK in 1993 because of the idea of a young killer and its similarity to the real life case of Jamie Bulger. The film is still unavailable to this day in the country unlike most films that have been reclassified and then released.
6. Zach and Miri Make a Porno, 2008
The movie is a romantic comedy about two friends facing financial problem. In order to raise some money they decide to make and star in their own amateur porn film. They end up falling in love during the filming, but that part could probably be assumed. The movie was banned in Trinidad, Tobago, Malaysia and Thailand because of worries that teenagers may watch the film and try to mimic it with their impressionable minds. It was also banned in the state of Utah the same week Saw V was released without incident.
5. Borat, 2006
This full length mockumentary by British comic Sacha Baron Cohen followed his comic character Borat, a journalist traveling from Kazakhstan to the United States so he could learn American culture. The film was a surprise hit and is packed full of controversial moments including its prehistoric depiction of Kazakhstan. The film was hated by the Kazakh government who made sure it never was released in the country although Amazon reports many copies being imported. Other countries to ban the film include Russia and the entire Arab empire excluding Lebanon. The film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy awards.
4. Natural Born Killers, 1994
This satirical film centers around a couple turned serial killers who are glorified by the mass media and turned celebrities. After reports of copycat murders in France and the US, it resulted in being banned in Ireland. The eventual release of the movie was delayed five years because of the totally unrelated Dunblane Massacre but it was eventually released on video in 2001. Oliver Stone believes many people still misunderstand the satirical point of the movie. Due to the amount of violence, it was named the eighth most controversial film of all time in 2006 by Entertainment Weekly.
3. Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979
Monty Python told a dangerously controversial tale with life of Brian. The movie documented the life of a boy born in a nearby stable to Jesus and gets mistaken for the Messiah. The movie is full of controversial religious satire which was deemed as blasphemous by many UK councils and banned in Ireland, Singapore, South Africa and parts of the US. Some of the films marketers used the bans to their advantage with posters claiming it was so funny it was banned in Norway. It became the first Monty Python film to get an R rating in the US. It is considered the best comedy film of all time by multiple magazines.
2. Cannibal Holocaust, 1980
Cannibal Holocaust is an Italian film inspired by the media coverage of the Red Brigade terrorism. The movie was filmed in the Amazon rainforest with the actors interacting with real indigenous tribes. The film tells the story of a missing documentary crew who is missing in the Amazon and York Universities Anthropologist Harold Munroe manage to recover the missing footage which shows the crew partaking in terrible and violent behavior. The film was banned in Italy, Australia, and several other countries after reports that some actors were killed on camera. It was later cleared but it does show genuine violence on animals, sexual assault and graphic brutality. Critics believe the film was meant to portray civilized vs. uncivilized civilizations. The movie is the beginning of the found footage concept which predates the Blair Witch Project.
1. The Evil Dead, 1981
The movie tells the story of five college students vacationing at an isolated cabin in the woods. The same premise of many other low budget horror movies, as well as plenty more sure to come. The simple vacations takes a horrifyingly gruesome turn when they release evil spirits from an old audiotape they discover. The slasher film received good reviews and developed a cult following over the years. The movie was banned in Finland, Germany, Ireland and Iceland because of the graphic nature of the movie, including a scene of a young woman raped by a tree possessed by an evil spirit as well as plenty dismemberment and torture scenes.