These Influential Films Were Previously Banned (& Why)

Since the first days of film, there has been heated debate surrounding what material can be shown to the public though this medium as well as who should decide what others can view. These rules are constantly changing and not unanimous across national borders. Some countries are far harsher than others when it comes to this debate, as was demonstrated with the recent censorship of Fight Club‘s ending in China – which has since been restored after much backlash. It has not been uncommon in the past century or so of film for a movie to be censored or fully banned. Historically, the reasoning behind some of these bans is almost laughable from the perspective of today. The past’s exaggerated fears of sex, Satanism, drugs, and violence are practically a satire of themselves these days. Many instances are unjust, the result of oppressive regimes or outcries from influential sectors of the population. Still, others are censored for what many may consider good reason, such as depictions of intense violence, cruelty towards children and animals, or sexual assault.

There’s plenty of movies out there that have been banned that leave the viewer truly horrified, perhaps for days or longer after watching because of how utterly upsetting they are. In the compilation of this list, this particular section of films was purposefully avoided. While some of the listed films are no walk in the park, they certainly should not leave you scarred for life. Most, in fact, are now recognized for their stylistic or technical contributions to the film world in some way. Whoever banned them and for whatever reason, it’s always quite a thrill to see something that someone thought otherwise thinks you should not.

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7 The Witch (1922)

Swedish Film Industry

The Witch was created near the genesis of mainstream film. It uses rather groundbreaking lighting and cinematography techniques to posit that witch hunts throughout history and other encounters with the supernatural are actually the result of what the film describes as “hysteria.” This is quite a thought for the time, and has since gained more traction in instances such as the Salem witch hunts. It was banned in the US as a result of its nudity, sexual themes, torture and violence, as well as alleged “satanic content” and anti-clericalism. The creators of this film truly pushed it to the limit, particularly for 1922 American society.

6 All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)

Universal Studios

All Quiet on The Western Front is a preeminent work of creative nonfiction that has found acclaim both on the page and screen for nearly a century. In the late 1930s, the adaptation of the famed novel was banned in Germany for allegedly being 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 did not mesh with the future that Hitler foresaw. Luckily, the way things turned out, you’re now free to watch this classic whenever you like. Moreover, a remake starring Marvel actor Daniel Bruhl is in the works.

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5 Scarface (1932)

The Caddo Company

Scarface was the source of both serious opposition and public acclaim. It was made prior to the institution of the film production code, which means the production team was practically free to include what they wanted without punishment. Nonetheless, the film was banned in five states as well as Seattle and Chicago for the glorification of crime and violence. Annoying, yes, but not terribly unreasonable during a time that gangsters were actually running wild in real life. The film is loosely based on Al Capone and follows a man’s bloody rise on the organized crime ladder – one of the first of its kind.

4 If You Love this Planet (1982)

National Film Board of Canada

This is 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 a 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 deemed “foreign political propaganda” by the Reagan Department of Justice and banned for a time. This ban resulted in a vocal public outcry that bolstered the film’s popularity, allowing it to even win the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

3 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is perhaps the most well-known film on this list. Decades after its release, the name still rings out in infamy. The movie follows a group of teenagers that find themselves stranded in the wrong neck of the woods and are subsequently tormented by a sadistic, chainsaw-wielding, human face-wearing maniac. Especially for the time of its creation, the film is quite shocking and scary. It was rare for horror features of the time to rely on a wholly human antagonist. It’s 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 movie spawned a hit franchise, which include Netflix’s latest remake Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

2 Life of Brian (1974)

HandMade Films

This is also a rather preposterous entry. Monty Python’s Life of Brian film is a sort of whacky satirical take on the life of Jesus Christ. Brian happened to be born on the same day in the stable next to Jesus, and hence was mistaken as him. He continued to live out that prophecy regardless. It garnered a great deal of protests from religious organizations and citizens, particularly for its crucifixion scene. It was banned for eight years in Ireland and one in Norway. It was also banned in several towns across the US as well as the UK. Picketing by religious individuals outside screenings was not uncommon, and was said to have even bolstered ticket sales.

1 A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Warner Bros.

A Clockwork Orange has come to be considered a modern classic by many movie viewers. The film follows the thoughtlessly cruel Alex. He inflicts senseless violence on a grand scale daily with his cohort of fellow psychos. Alex is eventually captured by the police and the film continues to follow him as he is disturbingly “reeducated” in a dystopian society. Unfortunately, the film was banned in the UK for its depictions of depraved violence and for posing a negative societal influence after an instance occurred in real life that allegedly mirrored a scene in the film.

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