These Influential Films Were Previously Banned (and Why)

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Since the early days of film, there has been heated debate about what material can be shown to audiences through this medium as well as who should decide what others can see. These rules are constantly evolving and are not unanimous beyond national borders. Some countries are much tougher than others in this debate, as demonstrated by the recent censorship of fight clubends in China – which has since been restored after much backlash. Over the past century, it has not been uncommon for a film to be censored or banned altogether. Historically, the reasoning behind some of these prohibitions is almost laughable from today’s perspective. The exaggerated fears of the past towards sex, Satanism, drugs and violence are practically a satire of themselves today. Many cases are unjust, the result of oppressive regimes or the cries of influential sectors of the population. Yet others are censored for what many consider a good reason, such as depictions of intense violence, cruelty to children and animals, or sexual assault.

There are plenty of movies that have been banned that leave the viewer truly horrified, maybe for days or more after watching because of how upset they are. In compiling this list, this particular section of movies has been deliberately avoided. While some of the movies listed aren’t a walk in the park, they certainly shouldn’t leave you scarred for life. Most, in fact, are now recognized for their stylistic or technical contributions to the film world in one way or another. Whoever banned them and for whatever reason, it’s always great to see something someone thought others think you shouldn’t.

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7 Haxan (1922)


haxan-banned-film
Svensk Filmindustri

haxan was created near the genesis of mainstream cinema. It uses some rather groundbreaking lighting and cinematographic techniques to argue that the witch hunts throughout history and other encounters with the supernatural are in fact the result of what the film describes as “hysteria.” It was quite a thought for the time, and has since gained popularity in cases such as the Salem witch hunts. It was banned in the United States due to its nudity, sexual themes, torture, and violence, as well as its alleged “satanic content” and anticlericalism. The makers of this film really pushed it to the limit, especially for American society in 1922.


6 All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)


all-quiet-on-the-western-front-forbidden-movie
Universal Studios

In the west, nothing is new is a preeminent work of creative non-fiction that has enjoyed both page and screen acclaim for nearly a century. In the late 1930s, the adaptation of the famous novel was banned in Germany for being allegedly degenerate and anti-German. The harrowing film follows a group of young German men as they fight to survive World War I. The work is strongly anti-war and anti-nationalist, which is inconsistent with Hitler’s envisioned future. Luckily the way things have gone, you’re now free to watch this classic whenever you want. Additionally, a remake starring Marvel actor Daniel Bruhl is in the works.

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5 Scarface (1932)


scarface-1932-movie-banned
The Caddo company

scarface was the source of both serious opposition and public acclaim. It was made before the institution of the film production code, meaning the production team was pretty much free to include whatever they wanted without punishment. Nonetheless, the film was banned in five states as well as Seattle and Chicago for glorifying crime and violence. Boring, yes, but not terribly unreasonable in an era when gangsters ran amok in real life. The film is loosely based on Al Capone and follows one man’s bloody rise up the organized crime ladder – one of the first of its kind.


4 If You Love This Planet (1982)


if-you-love-this-planet-1982-film-forbidden
National Film Board of Canada

It’s one of those situations that is as infuriating as it is ridiculous. If you love this planet goes into great detail regarding the extreme degradation of the planet and the true horrors of nuclear war. It covers ozone depletion, deforestation, negative feedback loops, species extinction and more. When the 26-minute film was released, the Cold War was still very tense. Thus, the film was labeled “foreign policy propaganda” by Reagan’s Justice Department and banned for a time. This ban caused a public outcry which boosted the film’s popularity, even allowing it to win the Oscar for Best Documentary.

3 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


the-texas-chainsaw-massacre-1974-movie-banned
Vortex

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is perhaps the best-known film on this list. Decades after its release, the name still reverberates in infamy. The film follows a group of teenagers who get stuck in the wrong neck of the woods and are then tormented by a sadistic maniac, wielding a chainsaw and wearing a human face. Especially for the time of its creation, the film is quite shocking and scary. It was rare for horror films of the time to rely on an entirely human antagonist. Its realism and intense carnage made it incredibly memorable. It was previously banned in Brazil, Australia, Germany, France and the UK for violence, gore and cruelty. Of course, the film spawned a successful franchise, which includes Netflix’s latest remake. Chainsaw Massacre.


2 Life of Brian (1974)


life-of-brian-1974-film-banned
handmade movies

It’s also a rather nonsensical entry. The Monty Pythons Brian’s life The film is a kind of wacky satirical take on the life of Jesus Christ. Brian was born the same day in the stable next to Jesus, and was therefore mistaken for him. He continued to live this prophecy regardless. It drew widespread protests from religious organizations and citizens, especially for its crucifixion scene. It was banned for eight years in Ireland and one in Norway. It was also banned in several cities in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom. Picketing by clerics outside of screenings was not uncommon and is said to have even boosted ticket sales.

1 A Clockwork Orange (1971)


Clockwork Orange
Warner Bros.

A clockwork orange has become a modern classic by many moviegoers. The film follows Alex, thoughtless and cruel. He inflicts senseless violence on a daily basis with his cohort of fellow psychopaths. Alex is eventually captured by the police, and the film continues to follow him as he is disturbingly “re-educated” into a dystopian society. Unfortunately, the film was banned in the UK for his depictions of depraved violence and for exerting a negative societal influence after a real-life case occurred that allegedly mirrored a scene from the film.


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