Cinema and controversy, these two words cannot distance themselves for a long time. Directors, actors, producers or film distributors, each one of them have been a part of a scandal at some point in their lives. Especially when their movies deal with a controversial theme, they really don’t have a good time after the release. There are certain films which induced controversy to their doors. Here is a list of 10 controversial films of all time.
10. Pink Flamingos (1972)
Making it to the list is John Waters’ ‘Pink Flamingos’, which should not come as a surprise to any one of those who have watched this film. And to those who haven’t watched this film, you will get an idea why this film is considered questionable, if you read what it is about!
The film deals with certain topics, sodomy, gluttony, rape, incest, masturbation and so on, which didn’t go very well among the common folks. And if you add cannibalism to the list, it surely catalyses the debate whether this kind of films must be released or not.
The film deals with a character named Babs Johnson, played by drag queen Divine, who constantly finds himself into various despicable and ghastly situations, and above that he eats dog poop on the camera. Yes, it makes your soul throw up!
This movie got midnight screenings all over America and the reason was obvious, wasn’t it?
9. Song of the South (1946)
The reason why this movie made to the list is simple. It’s the ‘R’ word.
Yes, the film is considered racist and was a subject to a heating debate during its time of release. It is surprising that this film was made under a name which has its reputation of making family movies, the name is Disney.
For those who adored Disney movies, this came as a surprise as this movie showed the African-american race in a bad light. The movie stars a character, named Uncle Remus, portrayed by James Baskett and a seven year old named Johnny, played by Bobby Driscoll, who is on a long stay at his grandmother’s plantation.
The reason why it offended most of the people is its depiction of African-american folks being happy working under their masters. The films has not cleared the era in which the story is set, but it strongly hints that it is set before the civil war. This means that slavery was just another common thing and portraying the happiness of Uncle Remus, just doesn’t come out quite good.
The very reason of the controversy compelled Disney not to release this movie on Home video, which is still maintained!
8. The Passion of Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s biblical drama, The Passion of Christ, is one of the movies which will make it to any list of controversial movies. The reason being simple: it is extremely violent and accused of promoting antisemitism.
The movie deals with the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ, depicting various incidents till his crucifixion. Some of the depiction is very detailed. The portrayal of violence in this movie is extreme. The torturing of Jesus was shown with such realism that it almost looked like the event is actually happening, rather than dramatically created.
The film has also been criticized for its representation of Jews, which was also ignited after director Mel Gibson’s antisemitic comments in an interview.
Although being part of a controversy helped this film as it remains the highest earning religious film of all time.
7. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Yes, this film is an academy award winner. And Yes, it is controversial. The first X-rated movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars, Midnight Cowboy raised too many questions after its release. The film stars Jon Voight as Joe, the hustler who moves to NYC to make it big but ended up with Ratso, a con artist portrayed by Dustin Hoffman.
The film is considered controversial for a scene in which Joe receives oral pleasure from another man. This might not have been so much controversial now, but it sparked a long debate at the time of release. The rating however changed to R and the movie is now considered a classic.
But still this one is surely a great classic controversy, isn’t it?
6. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
For those who have watched the new releases of this movie, I Spit on Your Grave was a bit too much for the people to absorb. A rape and vengeance film, I Spit on Your Grave was ought to end up in this list.
The film follows the story of a writer, Jennifer (Camille Keaton), who travels to a countryside in Connecticut, for some refreshment of ideas amid solitude. But it turns out to be a horror for her, as the solitude is vanished by her screams when she is gang-raped by locals. The film then deals with her vengeance and killing of those who assaulted her, thus justice being accomplished.
The real controversy was 30-minute rape scene, the most important event in the film and the most controversial too. The same scene caused this movie to end up on this list of controversial films, or any other ones too. Also, it got itself banned in UK, Ireland and Canada.
5. Twilight Zone: The movie (1983)
The film is tragically controversial for what happened off-screen rather than on-screen. This film consisted segments directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller. The one scene, directed by John Landis, made people to question this film and shooting standards on film sets.
The tragic scene was helicopter crash on the set, which caused the death of the actor Vic Morrow and two child actors who were said to be hired illegally. The death caused an uproar on the labor laws which were subsequently amended. This sadly incident lead this film to the controversy debate for a long, long time.
Director John Landis was trialed for negligence of labor law of California. The crash was said to happen because of miscommunication between helicopter pilot and people responsible for explosion on the set.
Anyways, the death of those three is still mourned. Director Steven Spielberg broke any kind of relations with John Landis.
4. Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Last Tango in Paris made it to the list because of one shockingly controversial scene, the rape scene which is said to be a non-consensual. Till date, the actress Maria Schneider regrets filming the scene and regards her “not so experience about the situation” a mistake.
The rape scene was not in the script and Schneider was told about it just before filming. Director Bernardo Bertolucci and actor Marlon Brando convinced her to do it, quoting it was just a film. Actress Maria Schneider still accepts the fact that she cried real tears during the scene.
Bertolucci faced heavy criticism for the scene and his native Italian folks dissed him for his actions.
3. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Another religious film making it to the list. Only this time for a fictional sequence which was not really a part of the Gospel. The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese, is considered to be blasphemous to many Christian groups for its depiction of a narrative which was created apart from the Biblical representation.
In the particular sequence, Jesus is said to be lured by a child, probably a representation of Satan, to live a life as a mortal man as his duties are fulfilled. Jesus, then lives the life as a common man , marrying Mary Magdalene. In a scene, they both consummate their marriage, which didn’t go well with religious groups.
The film is till date a controversy. Once at the time of release, a theater was set upon fire by a religious group in Paris. This can sum up the outrage of people over fictional representation of temptation.
2. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Behold! Stanley Kubrick’s most controversial work is here. A Clockwork Orange was panned for its portrayal of violence and rape by many people around the world.
The film showed a group of crime-loving guys, who perform horrifying acts like rape and extreme violence. This film garnered more controversy when similar acts of crime actually started to happen in late night London. It questioned the motives of the director and film, as it seemed to have glorified crimes to a new level.
The film caused debates that if art should be given enough liberty which could actually affect the social structure. Stanley Kubrick even received death threats after the movie release. The film was not released over home videos for significant time and Warner Brothers took back many prints from United Kingdom.
1. Birth of a Nation (1915)
Probably the oldest controversial movie ever, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation is a 3-hour long celluloid of controversy. The reason being the representation of the story it deals with. If you are aware of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and their atrocities, this film glorified their acts of horror and portrayed them as the savior of culture.
It ignited the rebirth of KKK and portrayed black folks as demeaning, sexually aggressive people which led to a huge debate. This movie became a propaganda for hiring new members in KKK, leading to hate crimes and violence in the society.
This movie is still considered as a landmark, but it has been wrapped in controversy since ages. If you glorify white supremacists, you got to end in the list of controversies, that’s for sure!