20 Best Movies Banned from Theaters

best movies banned from theaters

Sometimes, though, filmmakers try something different. They make a movie that gets banned in places. Some movies became even more popular after the ban. Not happening as much nowadays, there was this time when movies got banned a lot, and thrown into the “video offensive” list. You’d find them packed with intense violence, sexy stuff, or political vibes. Every country had its list of no-go films, but as time passed, they let most of them open. Check out these banned movies; they tell some of the coolest stories on screen. Whether it was too violent, too out there, or just made a place look bad. Here are the best movies banned from theaters around the globe.

Best Movies Banned from Theaters Every film lover must know

1. The Last Temptation of Christ 

The Last Temptation of Christ

Martin Scorsese’s portrayal of Jesus Christ faced more criticism than praise, especially from those deeply devoted to the central figure. The Last Temptation of Christ delves into the temptations Christ faced, but what annoyed most Christians was the suggestion that Christ might have had sexual desires. Some theater chains banned the film upon release, and it remains banned in the Philippines and Singapore. Despite the controversy, it’s undeniably one of the best movies banned from theaters which is a Martin Scorsese film, possibly one of his best.

2. The Simpsons Movie

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: Medium

The Simpsons characters mostly have yellow skin. This caused the movie to get banned, aiming not to show any bias or provoke violence. The show sometimes stirs controversy when portraying various countries and their cultures broadly. The Season 10 finale, “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo,” never aired in Japan because it had an offensive portrayal of the Japanese emperor. While The Simpsons Movie may contain controversial humor, its absence in Burma (now Myanmar) upon release was due to a more fundamental reason. 

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3. Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain
Image Credit: Vocal Media

In 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” missed out on the Best Picture Oscar, yet remains a cherished love story. Celebrated as a milestone in American queer cinema, it faced a ban in the United Arab Emirates due to its portrayal of a relationship between two men. China didn’t even give it a shot in theaters. It portrays a complex romantic and sexual relationship between two cowboys and faced bans in various Middle Eastern nations and China for its depiction of homosexuality.

4. Borat

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: The Jerusalem Post

“Borat” (2006), a no-holds-barred film, polarized some viewers. Upon release, nearly all Arab nations, except Lebanon, banned it. Kazakhstan, especially, objected as Sacha Baron Cohen‘s character mocked their culture. Over time, the foreign minister turned, realizing the movie attracted tourists and potential citizens.

5. A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
Image Credit: Vocal Media

Stanley Kubrick, a bold director, composed “A Clockwork Orange,” his most provocative film. It tracks a young criminal’s brainwashing post-prison, looping back to deviance, considering control versus free will. The film faced bans due to its graphic content and on-screen crimes, notably rape. Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and Singapore banned it for years. Even in the U.K., access remained limited until Kubrick’s 1999 passing.

6. Cannibal Holocaust

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: IMDb

Umberto Lenzi, the writer/director, created one of the most infamous ones, Ferox. The quality of gore effects varies, except for a memorable scene featuring a woman hanging by her breasts. The U.K. banned the movie as one of the notorious “video nasties” in the 1980s, with advertising claiming bans in 31 countries. Guinness even assigns it a most-banned status but being one of the best movies banned from theaters based on the information. By its release, people likely had moved past the shock of cannibal movies.

7. Possession

Andrzej Żuławski, a celebrated Polish filmmaker, directed Possession. Surprisingly, upon release, it was labeled as a “video nasty” in the UK and became a box office failure in the U.S.The film emerged from Żuławski’s traumatic divorce, giving a hideous story of a dissolving marriage between an espionage agent (?) played by Sam Neill, and his frustrated wife portrayed by Isabelle Adjani. 

8. The South Park

The South Park
Image Credit: The South Park Archives – Fandom

In 1999, the South Park movie stirred controversy with its attack on Canada and the revelation that Saddam Hussein was Satan’s partner. Unsurprisingly, it faced bans, including in Iraq for entirely foreseeable reasons. It’s somewhat surprising that it wasn’t banned in more places, given its clear title.

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9. Mr. Magoo

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

Mr. Magoo, a cartoon character, represented bumbling charm, refusing glasses, and slipping into funny situations. In the ’50s, animated shorts with Jim Backus won two Oscars. In the ’60s and ’70s, Magoo continued to charm in TV shows. Disney’s 1997 live-action film with Leslie Nielsen, unlike Jim Backus’ playful Magoo, felt harsh and unfunny, facing criticism. Some activists condemned it, leading to Disney pulling it from screens in under three weeks.

10. The Outlaw

The Outlaw
Image Credit: IMDb

Howard Hughes started the controversy with his first film, The Outlaw. While Scarface faced resistance to violence, The Outlaw’s focus on Jane Russell’s figure sparked shame. Hughes tailored clothing to emphasize Russell’s bosom, but she refused to wear it. Allegedly, he doctored promotional photos for more appeal. Resulting in more negative publicity and outrage, The Outlaw, after two years of delays, emerged in 1943 with around 30 seconds of cuts. Despite this, it disappeared from screens shortly.

11. Ecstasy

Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr gained fame in the ’30s, starring in Ecstasy at 18 in 1933. Lamarr, appearing nude, declared deception by the crew regarding camerawork. To her surprise, closeups of her body appeared onscreen. Some countries, including the U.S., banned it but it remained to be one of the liked and best movies banned from theaters

12. Freaks 

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: culthorror

Tod Browning, known for directing Dracula in 1931, stirred controversy with Freaks in 1932. Based on Tod Robbins’ story, it spotlights a sideshow with real performers. It revolves around Hans and a trapeze artist, resulting in brutal punishment. Viewers fled or fell sick during the original 90-minute cut. MGM edited it to 62 minutes, but some U.S. theaters withdrew it, and England banned it for three decades.

13. The Life of Brian

The Life of Brian, by creators unafraid of controversy, humorously depicts a boy born in Bethlehem constantly mistaken for Jesus. This mock portrayal upset many in the faith community. Banned in Singapore, South Africa, Chile, Norway, and others upon release.

14. Persepolis 

Persepolis 
Facts.net

Derived from a graphic novel, Persepolis’s (2007) animated classic narrates a girl’s life during the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Despite its poignant portrayal of coming of age amidst chaos, the Iranian government banned it, claiming it wasn’t an accurate representation. Internationally, it offered a unique insight into a less-covered conflict.

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15. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: Nothing But Nostalgia

“The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974) terrified audiences with its sheer gruesomeness. A group stranded in rural Texas faces cannibalistic pursuit. Its extreme violence led to outright refusals for screenings in numerous countries. Australia and the U.K. disapproved, while Germany, Norway, Ireland, Singapore, Sweden, and Iceland imposed bans, albeit temporarily.

16. “All Quiet on the Western Front”

All Quiet on the Western Front
Image Credit: Facts.net

“All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930) stands among early war films, portraying the harsh reality of World War I. It vividly captures a soldier’s growing disillusionment with the harsh front lines. Germany, under the Nazi Party’s rule in the 1930s and ’40s, banned it for perceived anti-German sentiments. Australia and New Zealand also barred it for its anti-war stance.

17. “The Blue Kite”

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: China Underground

“The Blue Kite” (1993) faced a ban in mainland China due to its portrayal of Mao’s regime. Director Zhuangzhuang Tian endured a 10-year film-making ban. Despite this, the film earned international acclaim, offering a boy’s view of Beijing during the 1950s and ’60s, unraveling hidden truths from the Cultural Revolution.

18. Battle Royale 

Battle Royale
Image Credit: Battle Royale

Battle Royale (2000) draws parallels to The Hunger Games (2008) and faces similar bans. It follows 9th-grade Japanese students on an island, forced to kill until one remains. Despite dramatic violence, the film carries dark humor, earning a cult following. Banned in countries like Germany (still today), it stands as one of Japan’s most successful and best movies banned from theaters.

19. Hail Mary

best movies banned from theaters
Image Credit: Moria

In 1985, Jean-Luc Godard, a French New Wave maestro, stirred controversy with “Hail Mary,” retelling the Virgin’s birth in a modern setup. Banned in Brazil and Argentina, it faced criticism from Pope John Paul II, who thought it an insult to religious sentiments. Despite protests, it earned praise for its cinematography.

20. Last Tango in Paris

Last Tango in Paris
Image Credit: ScoopWhoop

Due to explicit content, it endured a 30-year ban in several countries, including South Korea, Portugal, Singapore, Italy, and Chile. In Britain, it underwent edits to shorten sex scenes, allowing its release. The film delves into the sexual liaison between an American man and a Parisian woman, considered by some as one of the most erotic and liberating films. 

Conclusion 

In wrapping up, diving into the world of best movies banned from theaters uncovers a captivating past of films. These films raised eyebrows, and test boundaries by challenging what’s seen as normal. From Bette Midler’s legal fights against misleading changes to Tod Browning’s infamous Freaks, every forbidden movie brings a different story of censorship and public response. Even with bans and controversies, these films often make a lasting impact on movie history, sparking discussions about freedom in art, society’s no-gos, and the tricky balance between expression and control in moviemaking.

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