Posters are arguably the most important piece of a film’s marketing and promotion, and should be treated as such. While trailers are also pivotal to a film’s success, posters are instantly memorable and deliver a ton of information in an instant. A good poster will sell you on who, what, and why you should see a movie, as well as give you the name of the film at a glance.
However, there are some posters that go overboard with the marketing and get banned in the process. These posters, like the twelve I’ve listed below, are either too sexual, too violent, or too gory to be displayed in public places, and as such, are confined to the world wide web. Don’t worry though, because banning a poster these days only means it garners online buzz while gaining titles such as “edgy” and “cool” along the way. A wise man once said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” He was right, because good, bad, or ugly, a poster that’s worthy of getting banned means it either went above and beyond the norm, or sunk so far below in terms of quality that the masses cringed in unison. Check out the twelve posters below and see for yourself (note that some of these might be slightly NSFW).
12 Sin City 2
The poster for Sin City 2 is glaring proof that having a gun in a film’s promotional material is all right, but the slightest hint of a woman’s bare chest is a strict no-no. And the tiniest inclination of a nipple? That gets you outright banned, buster! Citing "nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown" as the reason behind the ban, this infamous poster for Robert Rodriguez’s sequel to Sin City continues to float around the internet thanks to its “street cred”.
I’m not sure if it’s so famous because the beautiful Eva Green is maybe, sorta, kinda nude or because this poster hardly constitutes getting banned at all. Sadly, the poster is the only popular thing about the film, because I doubt I’d be able to run into three random people in the row who have actually seen Sin City 2.
11 Zack & Miri Make A Porno
Surprisingly, censors were more concerned about this poster displaying the word “p*rno” than the fact that Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks were clearly getting oral pleasure from each other, with their clothes still on no less. Seth must really know what he’s doing, judging by Banks’ facial expression.
The poster was eventually banned for being too sexually suggestive, but much like everything else these days, continues to live a full life on the internet. In fact, I’m pretty sure filmmakers get posters banned on purpose just to create some much-needed online buzz. Makes you wonder if censorship itself is redundant with the internet around. The answer is yes, yes it is.
10 The Rules Of Attraction
Stuffed animals having sex... now that’s how you totally ruin someone’s childhood and scar them emotionally in the process. I can only imagine parents having to explain this poster to their kids at the Cineplex. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if hordes of parents were the ones who got this banned for putting them in such a ridiculously awkward situation.
The MPAA banned this poster for the use of children’s toys – to put it mildly – in a poster that wasn’t meant for children. Surprisingly, the poster for Rules Of Attraction was not banned in the UK or Canada. I guess having a poster that looks like a Toy Story spin-off with the exception of toys trying out the Kama Sutra isn't really an "across the board" problem.
Pfft… it’s just an X-ray, I don’t see what the big deal is. They’re just bones and --- wait, are those… is that… does she have… oh sweet merciful Heaven it is, and she does! The poster for the indie film Teeth is simplistic but oh, so genius. The movie is based on a folk tale called "vagina dentata" and tells the story of a young girl from a troubled family who has teeth "down below’" And they bite when provoked.
Excuse me while I go become a priest and declare celibacy because between this and Gone Girl, dating seems way too dangerous for me.
You may be cool, but you’ll never be "Michael Fassbender writing the name of the movie with his semen" cool. Okay, I get how maybe that’s more disturbing than cool. Did he write this after the deed… or during? I don’t see how that’s even possible, and did she just wait there the entire time? My head hurts, and I’m pretty sure this mental image isn’t going away anytime soon.
Posters with bodily fluids aside, Shame is a powerful depiction of the life of a sex addict, and Michael Fassbender’s gripping portrayal of a man struggling with his addiction is not only poignant but also painfully real. The poster may be too raunchy for some, but it clearly caught a lot of buzz online after it got banned in the Netherlands for “suggestive text”.
7 The Heat
Remember when I said this was a list of shocking posters that got banned? Well that includes ones that are shockingly bad, too. What is up with Melissa McCarthy’s head here?
The intern who designed this needs to go back to school to retake a couple of papers. Not design school but school in general, just to study basic human anatomical proportions. Maybe then his posters won't have people with shrunken heads. Also, I might have lied about this poster being banned. It was “unofficially banned” online, whatever that means, but the marketing team did come under fire for being terrible at their job. This isn’t the first time McCarthy’s image was altered and slimmed down though, as you’ll see when you Google the poster for Bridesmaids.
6 Yogi Bear
Look what we have here… a graphic image of Yogi Bear and Boo-boo sharing a moment of heightened sexual ecstasy, just to kill whatever little childhood innocence you had left. It may fly over the heads of kids under 8, but it won’t fool any dirty-minded parents who know exactly what’s going on! To make matters worse, the tagline reads “Good things come in bears.” Yikes. Thankfully, the poster was banned because of that unintentional double entendre.
What were the designers thinking? Did they do this on purpose to entice an older audience to buy tickets? Was their target audience the sickos who thought this was a raunchy cartoon about bears, in 3D? Apart from throwing up in my mouth a little, I’m genuinely concerned for the people who made this poster. Did T.J. Miller prank them into making this? Someone answer me, goddammit!
5 I Spit On Your Grave
I half expected to see a pool of saliva on someone’s grave, but I was sorely mistaken. That would have been confusing, and not to mention boring. Apart from being banned for showing a lot of ass, this botched poster is also defeats the purpose of the film itself.
The movie was marketed as a twisted story of female empowerment through a young woman who exacts violent, merciless revenge on her abusers. Sadly, the poster doesn’t show any of that, and instead tries to sell itself as something sexier by depicting the woman in a revealing, provocative pose. Granted, even the original was sexploitation at its best, but at least the remake could have done things a little differently.
A vampire film called Thirst, how cliché. Its poster was anything but cliché though, and was banned by South Korea’s Media Rating Board for being too sexually suggestive. Not only that, it involved a priest who, to be fair, did turn into a vampire after sh*t hit the fan during a medical experiment - but the censors weren’t having any of it.
The revised poster removed Kim Ok-bin’s legs and was accepted by the board, although by then the poster itself clearly made no sense. If you ask me, they should have revised Song Kang-ho’s bored face instead…because if that’s him during sex, he obviously isn’t doing it right.
3 Hostel Part II
I remember when the first Hostel came out and everyone let out a collective barf because of how gruesome and gory it was. These days, with shows like The Walking Dead showing an abundance of gore every week on TV, stuff like Hostel has undoubtedly lost some of its edge. However, the poster for Hostel II caught a lot of flak for its depiction of raw meat torn apart.
The filmmakers had to prove to the MPAA - by producing a receipt from the butcher - that the thing in the poster was in fact boar’s meat before it was allowed to resurface.
2 Les Infideles
Check out comedian Jean Dujardin looking suave and unfazed mid-coitus. On second thought, maybe it’s because he’s still dressed. Someone should really tell him how this works. Unless he isn’t doing anything and is just holding up a pair of legs for no reason, in which case it's just weird and mildly creepy.
Unfortunately for Jean, the posters of him supposedly having sex were pulled because they were being displayed in public places with children around. To be fair to the censors, the posters are a little too on the nose. Like, we get it, your film is raunchy, you don’t have to shove it in our faces so much.
1 The People vs Larry Flint
Borderline nudity? Check. Using the star spangled banner as underwear? Check. Woody Harrelson mimicking the crucifixion of Christ in between a woman’s thighs? Double check. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this poster was made to be controversial on purpose. There’s just no way something with so much provocative imagery would pass the MPAA, but director Milos Forman still tried his luck, and was promptly shut down by former MPAA president Jack Valenti. The concern was that conservative groups would get up in arms over such an offensive poster.
Ironically, The People vs Larry Flint is a film that actually deals with censorship, and the banning of this poster has actually given it cult status all over the internet, where it can be gawked at in all its glory.