Summer blockbusters are designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The more people who see a movie, the more money it makes, so that only seems natural. Sometimes, though, filmmakers take something close to the opposite approach. They make a movie that is so controversial and confrontational that it actually gets banned altogether in some parts of the world.
These 10 movies were all banned from at least one country for one reason or another (often violence or sacrilege), and each of them is well worth watching in spite of, or maybe because of, those bans.
Director Stanley Kubrick was never one to shy away from controversy, and A Clockwork Orange is undoubtedly his most incendiary movie. The film, which follows a young criminal in the distant future who finds himself brainwashed after a stint in prison, then ultimately returns to deviancy upon his release, is a careful meditation on the nature of control and what it means to have free will.
It’s easy to see why the film was banned, given its frequently graphic nature and the crimes its central characters commit on screen, including a rape. Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and Singapore all banned the film for decades, and it was even difficult to see in the U.K. until after Kubrick’s death in 1999.
One of the most terrifying movies ever made, and one of the most gruesome at the time of its release, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was seen as too grotesque for some audiences in 1974. The movie, which follows a group of friends who run out of gas in rural Texas and are then hunted by a family of cannibals, was so violent that many countries refused to play it at all when it was first released.
The film was not approved in Australia and the U.K., and was also banned for at least some time in Germany, Norway, Ireland, Singapore, Sweden, and Iceland.
Banned in parts of the Middle East and China because of its depiction of homosexuality, Brokeback Mountain is remembered today as one of the most tender romances ever put to screen.
Following two cowboys in the 1950s who find themselves attracted to one another as they herd sheep together, the film is ultimately about the bond that they forge, and the way that that bond shapes the rest of their lives, even after they haven’t seen each other for decades. It’s a beautiful, moving movie that has been vindicated by history following the controversies it caused upon its release.
Telling a story that feels quite similar to The Hunger Games, Battle Royale follows a group of 9th-grade Japanese students who are sent to an island where they must battle to the death. The film was banned in a number of countries due to its provocative violence, which obviously primarily involves children.
While Battle Royale is aware of how horrific this violence could seem, many countries deemed the film far too controversial and grotesque to ever show it, including Germany, where the movie is still banned today.
Hailing from another group of creators who are not exactly known for avoiding controversy, The Life of Brian tells a story about a young boy who was born in Bethlehem and spends the rest of his life getting confused for Jesus. Naturally, The Life of Brian caused a stink with many in the faith community, who did not like the idea of making a complete mockery of the life and times of the most revered religious figure in Christianity.
The Life of Brian was banned in Singapore, South Africa, Chile, and Norway among others upon its release.
Adapted from a graphic novel of the same name, this animated classic tells the story of one young girl’s experience during the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent war between Iran and Iraq.
The film is a deeply moving portrait of someone as they come of age amid utter chaos and turmoil, but the Iranian government banned the film and publicly decried it, saying that it wasn’t an accurate representation of the events it depicted. For international audiences, though, it was a startling window into a conflict that was not otherwise closely followed.
Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the South Park movie ruffled more than a few feathers upon its release in 1999. The movie, which involves an invasion of Canada and the reveal that Saddam Hussein is Satan’s gay lover, was never going to go over with everyone swimmingly, even if many in America and around the world found the jokes hilarious.
Hussein ultimately banned the film from Iraq, perhaps for entirely predictable reasons. For a movie with a genitalia joke in the title, perhaps the biggest surprise is that it was not banned in more places.
Martin Scorsese’s take on the life of Jesus Christ brought more scorn than praise, at least from those who felt particularly attached to the figure at the movie’s center. The movie focuses on the many temptations that Christ faced throughout his life, but the element that most Christians had a problem with was the notion that Christ may have had any sexual desires.
The film was outlawed by some theater chains upon its initial release, and it remains banned in the Philippines and Singapore. In spite of all this controversy, though, it’s a Martin Scorsese movie, and in fact, it might be one of his best.
Another movie that got in trouble with religious sects, the Tom Hanks follows The Da Vinci Code follows a pair of academics who find themselves wrapped up in an ongoing murder investigation. When that investigation implicates the history of the church and Jesus Christ himself, the academics will have to uncover a series of clues in order to get to the truth.
Like the book it’s based on, there were plenty of people who protested The Da Vinci Code over its implications about Christ and his sexual history. The movie was banned in Pakistan, Egypt, Samoa, and Sri Lanka, all over accusations of blasphemy.
Although there may be some controversial humor in The Simpsons Movie, the reason the movie didn’t play in Burma (now Myanmar) upon its release had to do with something more fundamental. Upon its release in 2007, Burma banned the movie because it was in the midst of a civil war in which the rebel faction used a flag that featured the colors red and yellow.
The Burmese government was worried that a movie featuring almost exclusively yellow people could sway the public, and so the film was temporarily banned. It’s as silly as reasons for banning a movie get, and yet, it’s the truth.