Taking offence has become a birthright. Individuals take offence on the tiniest of issues and criticise, without logic, the beliefs that don’t align with their own. Films reflect the perspective of the filmmaker and could contain certain political and social discourses that are not seen as appropriate by a certain group of people. We all remember the futile, illogical, destructive riots that happened in our country in protest of a movie, the story of which was based on popular folklore of a certain region. And due to which, many parts of the movie had to be cut out or reshot. Who knows, we perhaps would have gotten an artistic masterpiece better than this version if creative freedom hadn’t been curtailed.
Several other films meet similar fate, facing severe criticism from certain groups because of the views they project, the ideals they idealise, violence, gore, actors and sometimes very ridiculous factors.
But more often than not, these films that get banned often stand out for strong portrayal of unique/relevant issues and are absolutely worth watching.
Here are what I think some of the best banned Hollywood movies worth your time:
1. A Clockwork Orange
Nothing short of a masterpiece created by Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange is an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ book of the same name. Some of the most iconic scenes among all of Kubrick’s works are featured in this film. It’s best described by the flashing words in its trailer – Funny, Satiric, Musical, Exciting, Bizarre (add JoJo reference), Witty, Political, Thrilling, Frightening, Metaphorical, Comic and Sardonic. Not a single word has been misused or misplaced and all of them aptly describe the film with honesty.
A Clockwork Orange utilises genius imagery, haunting symbolism and groundbreaking cinematography in order to create a final piece of art that is equal parts intriguing and repulsive. The movie was banned in countries like Ireland and Singapore due to its graphic and closely realistic depictions of violence and rape. The movie remained banned for over 30 years and is still considered by many as a difficult watch that is quite hard to stomach.
But the film must be seen as it elaborates extensively on various sociological, psychological and philosophical issues in a manner never attempted before and in a style that may as well be called executionary genius.
2. Brokeback Mountain
Ang Lee’s extreme emotional rollercoaster ride, Brokeback Mountain is one of the director’s best works. It revolves around the story of two cowboys who are in love with each other in a place where homosexual relationships are subjected to prejudices if not kept a secret. At its core, the movie is a beautiful love story that has excellent character development and plot pacing.
It was a topic of controversy because it lost the Oscar for Best Picture to Crash, even after being hailed as the best movie of the year by critics and audiences alike and winning many other awards in the Best Picture and Best Director categories, more than any other film at that time. The Academy was accused of homophobia.
The movie was also banned in many of the Middle Eastern countries and in China due to its real, sincere portrayal of homosexuality; how utterly close-minded the world was (and perhaps, is even today).
Today, the film has got the recognition and acclaim it always deserved. Brokeback Mountain is a must-watch for fans of all genre and will truly take you on a ride you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.
The comedy style of Sacha Baron Cohen is clearly not everyone’s cup of tea but through Borat, he not only wanted to make a comic piece but a political and social statement. As a comedy, it is hilariously brilliant. One of the best satirical works of recent times, Borat stands out from its counterparts because it is unhinged, unapologetic and shamelessly funny. The stark contrast between the cultures, politics and society of Kazakhstan and America are portrayed in great detail and the movie never fails to fulfill its purpose as a comedy by taking itself too seriously.
There are obviously jokes that people would find offensive and jokes that could start marches as well. But the purpose of Borat was not to make fun of sufferings but to spread awareness regarding them. The movie was banned in all Arab countries except Lebanon.
It was also banned in Kazakhstan as its culture and national anthem were the subject of great comical insult. But later on, the foreign minister later thanked Sacha Baron Cohen for the film because it helped “attract tourists” and the “number of visas issued by Kazakhstan grew tenfold.” Just look at the trailer, its amazing.
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One of the greatest innovations in the genre of animated films, Persepolis is a coming-of-age story based on an autobiographical piece of graphic novel literature by Marjane Satrapi. It is set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution and depicts with excellent depth, the psyche of a girl who grows up surrounded by such a world. The movie was initially banned in Lebanon. They found it offensive of Iran and Islam. The movie was later forcefully released due to the pressure created by intellectual and political circles. Persepolis garnered a lot of praise universally while the Iranian government still tried to resist it. The movie is a landmark in the world of cinema and animation. The political struggles it deals with and the sound criticism it provides is eye-opening.
5. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Anyone who has any idea about classical comedy movies has surely heard about Monty Python and is well-acquainted with the iconic phrase, “Tis but a scratch”. This movie is another brilliant piece of comedy that focuses on the life of Christ, just not the right one. Brian continuously gets mistaken for Jesus and the adventures that ensue allow the movie to be both funny and inquisitive. The moral and social questions on religion and the questionable conduct of the Roman Empire against the Jews is worthy of praise for its bravery and innovative chops. The movie was banned due to these religious controversies but it even made the ban work for itself. Posters of the movie in Sweden proclaimed, “So funny, it was banned in Norway!” This one is recommended viewing.
6. The Interview
The Interview is a hilarious comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. It was banned in North Korea because the plot is centred around a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the dictatorial Supreme Leader. North Korea called this an act of war. The ‘Guardians of Peace’ hacked Sony computers and threatened terrorist attacks against cinema halls that dared to show the movie. As a result, the movie was only released online by Sony. But it is a great movie and a fun spy comedy at heart. Well, when Rogen and Franco are collaborating, you can bet your life that its gonna be fun.
7. All Quiet on The Western Front
All Quiet on The Western Front is a classic. It is one of the most popular pioneers of the war-horror genre with anti-war sentiments. The movie gives us a gritty, realistic and soul-churning look into the lives of soldiers stationed on the frontlines. It recounts the eagerness of many young men to go into war and fight for the country in order to gain glory and their subsequent disillusionment once they witness the true face of war.
The movie was banned in Germany by the Nazi Party during the 1930s and the 1940s. It was also banned in Australia and New Zealand because of its anti-war message. The movie is a masterclass act as it portrays with immense passion, the horrors of war and its futility. Deaths occur all around but are nothing to be trivialized. Many die for the greed of a few. And more often than not, their deaths mean nothing to the ones who push them into this ravaging hailstorm of violence, death and destruction. A truly beautiful movie with amazingly advanced execution.
8. The Da Vinci Code
One of the most famous Ron Howard movies, The Da Vinci Code is based on Dan Brown’s best-selling novel. It’s a study in contrasting pacing and beautiful cinematography. The movie deals with a lot of Christian conspiracies and allegories and the “biggest cover-up in human history”. The Holy See condemned this movie as offensive and historically inaccurate. Theatres were crowded with protestors. The movie was soon banned in China, Egypt, parts of India, Jordan, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and more. But the film is a must watch for it’s one of the best modern mystery-conspiracy thrillers in existence. The way the puzzles and secrets have been portrayed on screen is absolutely stunning and jaw-dropping. The reveals are fabulous and the twists are unexpected and amazing. The Da Vinci Code will surely keep you on the edge.
9. The Hunger Games
Personally, I do not like The Hunger Games too much. The dystopian setting does not add any element to the world-building aspect and a movie about young teens fighting to the death focuses more on the mopey young-teen aspect (maybe I would have been the same if I was being forced to fight to the death) than the death aspect. The tone just feels a bit off for me. But I can see where the appeal comes from. The slow but measured pace along with the constant uneasy feeling that something is just not right sits well with the overall script.
The cinematography is beautiful, perhaps a bit too beautiful, for a movie with such a gritty subject matter. The contrast might be appreciated by many but it could have been better executed. Overall, the movie was watchable (barely) for me but for many others, it is a masterpiece, hence earning its place on the list. It was banned in Vietnam because children fighting to death was considered a bit too extreme by the local audiences.
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10. Apocalypse Now
Viewers and reviewers are yet wondering whether this movie is anti-war or pro-war. This in itself cements the enigmatic status of this classic movie that was shot wonderfully and has a plethora of moving and touching performances to go with the groundbreaking plot. With Francis Ford Coppola at the helm, the movie is a masterpiece of a war film. However, it faced a bit of controversy. It was banned in South Korea because of its anti-war interpretations. But still, it is considered one of the best movies dealing with the war in Vietnam and is also hailed as one of the best war movies to ever be made. Apocalypse Now is a must-watch for all and is sure to touch you emotionally and intellectually.
11. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The road trip of five youngsters descends to hell when their path crosses a monstrous clan living in rural Texas. Relentless and raw are the words that perfectly describe this aural-visual assault on our senses. Although the film has its share of bloodbaths, its disturbing factor lies in the implications of violence. Modern horror flicks, belonging to the same sub-genre, innovatively design violence, while failing to conjure up tension and suspense of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie was banned in West Germany, Singapore and many Scandanavian countries. The reason for this ban was obviously the high levels of graphic violence and cruelty, which was never before seen on-screen. Even to this day, it has been released only in censored forms in many parts of the world.
If you ask me, a movie should never be banned, no matter what it contains for the truth should never be kept hostage. If it is, then the truth that we hide today shall haunt us to repay the debt that we owe to it. Even after nations congratulate themselves on the achievement of the right to freedom of speech and expression, they do not practice this policy as time and again, voices are silenced and things that must be seen or known are hidden behind veils of deceit and treachery. This was our list of the movies that feared nothing and said whatever they wanted to say, while facing the music head-on. They were banned but never forgotten. What’s your favourite movie that was banned? Tell us about your thoughts on the contents.
By Deepjyoti Roy
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