Movies have historically been the subject controversy, which seems to have increased over the past few years. As a result, studios and streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max are revisiting their film libraries, placing disclaimers on movies like Peter Pan and Gone with the Wind to forewarn viewers of racist depictions therewithin. While many movies are considered controversial, here are five films that caused major controversy when they were released, and are still considered highly controversial today.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Based on an often banned book by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange was directed by Stanley Kubrick and has been the subject of controversy even before it premiered in 1971. Politicians at the time debated whether or not the film, that shows scenes of rape and violence, had any redeeming qualities. Many also worried that Clockwork copycats would appear and commit violent crimes in real life. After British politicians and the general public practically called for Kubrick’s head, Kubrick prohibited the film to be shown in England.
Martin Scorsese’s passion project, The Last Temptation of Christ, had people all over the world in a rage. Featuring blood, sex, violence, and religion, this film has been officially denounced by the Vatican. However, the scene that Christians take issue with depicts Jesus imagining an alternate life for himself with Mary Magdalene, which includes an extended sex scene. Multiple countries have banned this film and it’s still illegal to watch it in the Philippines and Singapore.
Song of the South (1946)
Song of the South has been constantly criticized for its portrayal of slavery, and has even been called "one of Hollywood's most resiliently offensive racist texts" by cultural historian Jason Sperb. Disney refuses to show the film, and has never released it on any home video format in the United States.
Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
If you’re a fan of French history, you may have heard of Marquis de Sade. Based on the Marquis’ infamous book, 120 Days of Sodom, this 1975 Italian art film features psychological torture, sex, extreme violence and sadism. It has been banned in Britain and Australia. It even caused controversy in America 20 years after it premiered, when video store owners were arrested for selling copies of the film. While 120 Days of Sodom itself is shocking, what could be considered even wilder is the fact that director Pier Paolo Pasolini was mysteriously murdered three weeks before this film's premiere.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
One of the most uncomfortable and painful films to watch, Cannibal Holocaust features grotesque violence that looked so real the director was actually arrested for murder. While the Italian director was later found to be innocent, many of the scenes featuring animal abuse and animal deaths were real. The twisted nature of the film, and the animal rights violations, are reasons this movie has been banned in many countries.