[WARNING: some of the video clips in this list contain extremely violent or disturbing scenes.] For nearly the entire history of film production, certain films have been banned by film censorship or review organizations for political or moral reasons. Typically, a banned film goes through editing to remove explicit scenes, and is then re-released. The following entries include films that have, at some point, been disallowed for public viewing. I have ranked entries based on a combination of the nature of the ban and the critical reception and overall popularity of the film.
Grotesque is a 2009 Japanese splatter horror. The story follows the lives of a young couple who are snatched off the streets whilst on their first date, and are subjected to horrific torture by their insane kidnapper. Because of extremely disturbing footage, including eye gouging and amputation scenes, Grotesque is banned in many countries, including the UK. The film has been criticized for involving little narrative or character development, unlike successful splatter horrors such as Hostel or Saw. As a result the film received generally poor reviews from most critics, and was a commercial failure.
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Upon release in 1992, Mikey was banned in many countries and is still banned today in the UK. Many graphic scenes of torture and murder contributed to the ban, as well as the James Bulger murder of 1993, when two young children tortured and murdered a toddler. The film narrates the life of Mikey Holt; a sociopathic nine year old who horrifically murders his foster parents and friends. Many of his carers seem to die in “accidents”, causing Mikey to move from family to family. The plot of the film mostly covers Mikey’s attempts to avoid suspicion, by killing people who he suspects to know about his murderous tendencies.
The Human Centipede 2
If you have ever seen or heard of the first human centipede movie, you shouldn’t be surprised that it barely avoided being banned in many countries. The central plot line involves a mad Dutch scientist who kidnaps a trio of American tourists and surgically stitches them together, mouth to anus. The movie has been heavily criticized for showing no attempt to portray any of the victims in the film as anything other than objects to be brutalized, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience.
The sequel is due to be released in October, 2011, but has been denied a classification for distribution in the United Kingdom. Director Tom Six has stated that “the sequel contains much more blood and faces than the original”, and also that “[the movie] makes the first film look like My Little Pony in comparison”. The new film also contains a larger centipede involving twelve people and involves graphic rape and masturbation scenes. The trailer above is for the original Human Centipede.
Scum is the hard and shocking story of life in a British Borstal for young offenders during the 1970s. The film was originally banned completely from television because of its graphic depictions of racism, gang rape, suicide and violence. It was, however, remade entirely in 1979, with the newer version starring a young Ray Winstone in his breakthrough role, as Carlin. The remade version was also banned, though eventually a court case concluded that Scum should remain distributable in the UK. The newer version of Scum received good reviews from critics, and was praised for its accurate depiction of a brutal borstal regime.
The actual regime in borstals at the time involved little or no rehabilitation, with many boys being savagely beaten by wardens much older than themselves. The inmates survived by adopting a dog-eat-dog mentality, and the film brilliantly portrays this through Winstone’s character, as he rises to the top of the pecking order and becomes the “Daddy”. The scene above shows Carlin as he asserts his authority and takes over leadership of the borstal.
A Serbian Film
Banned in Spain, Norway and Brazil, A Serbian Film is arguably one of the most controversial films of all time. Contributing factors of the ban were scenes of child rape, incest and murder, among others. A Serbian Film received mixed reviews from critics; some of which condemned the film for it’s extreme sexual violence. The plot revolves around an aging porn star, who agrees to participate in one last film in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into making a pedophilia themed snuff film, from which there is no escape.
Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers was released in 1994, directed by Oliver Stone. The film was a spec-screenplay written by Quentin Tarantino, who based the movie on the lives of Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate; two lovers who embarked on a vicious murder spree. The movie was banned completely in Ireland, and denied distribution in the USA. Stone later cut approximately four minutes of footage, resulting in the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) allowing its distribution.
The film is extremely controversial as it glorifies acts of murder, with the notorious killers appearing on magazine covers and T-shirts in various scenes, almost like regular celebrities with fans. There are also some confirmed copycat murders. The most famous of which is the Columbine High School massacre. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered twelve people during a rampage, whilst reportedly shouting quotes from the movie. They also wore clothes during the massacre similar to Mickey Knox in the opening scene of the movie.
The Evil Dead
Released in 1981, The Evil Dead narrates the horrifying story of five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a wooded area. Their vacation becomes gruesome when they find an audiotape that releases evil spirits. The low-budget slasher movie was very well-received by critics and successful at the box office, and a cult following has emerged in recent years.
Because of its graphic violence and terror, The Evil Dead is banned in several countries, including Finland, Germany, Iceland and Ireland. Perhaps the most disturbing scene is when a young woman is raped by a tree possessed by an evil spirit. This scene in particular has been heavily criticized for being perverse and misogynistic, despite the film’s overall critical success. Graphic scenes of dismemberment are also shown, as well as various torture scenes.
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Cannibal Holocaust is an Italian horror film that is banned to this day in over fifty countries. Upon it’s release, director Ruggero Deodata was arrested and charged with murder, after rumors suggested Cannibal Holocaust was a snuff film, though he was later cleared of all charges. The movie was filmed in the Amazon rainforest and features real members of indigenous tribes.
The plot consists of the search for a documentary film crew who had gone to film indigenous tribes and been missing for two months. A second team sent on a rescue mission recovers their lost cans of film and learns their fate. Seven animals were killed in the making of the film. An example includes a scene where a squirrel monkey was decapitated, and tribe members proceed to devour its brain. Cannibal Holocaust also involved scenes of graphic murder, including impalement of several characters. It is regarded as one of the most sickening and graphic films in existence.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Upon its 1974 release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was banned outright in many countries, and numerous cinemas stopped showing the film after receiving complaints about the nature of extreme violence. The film was marketed as a true story to attract a wider audience, though the plot is entirely fictional. In reality the film was inspired by the crimes of notorious serial killer, Ed Gein, who famously collected tokens from his victims, such as nipples, skin masks and heads, and kept them in his house.
The film revolves around five friends visiting their Grandpa’s old house, who are systematically chased down and murdered by a masked chainsaw-wielding killer and his family of cannibals. Despite the film’s initial poor critical reception at the time of its release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre became the highest grossing independent film of all time, for a short time. It is widely considered as one of the most influential horror movies in cinema history, and a pioneer in the “slasher” genre. The movie established power tools as a popular murder weapon in horror flicks, and also a killer depicted as large, burly, and faceless.
The Exorcist was released theatrically in 1973. The film has since had an overwhelming effect on popular culture and has been described by some as the scariest horror movie of all time. It is also one of the highest grossing movies of all time, earning $441million worldwide. The Exorcist was banned in many individual towns and countries for being horrifyingly scary, and in some cases for religious reasons. The film affected many audiences so strongly that, at many theaters, paramedics were called to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics. In the UK, The Exorcist wasn’t available until 1990, when it passed the British Board of Film Censorship (BBFC) with an 18 rating.
The Exorcist tells the story of a young girl who becomes possessed by a demon. The events surrounding the girl’s behavior and subsequent exorcism make up the main plot line. Unlike other items on this list, excessive violence is not a contributing factor to its banned status. The Exorcist is a psychological thriller and uses a clever plot and even subliminal messaging to terrify audiences.