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Banned: The most controversial films

By Laura Davis

Published 18/08/2009

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Banned in Ireland 1971-2000, UK - by Stanley Kubrick (1973-1999), Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Spain
Adapted from Anthony Burgess's best-selling novel, A Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex and his gang of violent 'droogs' who kill tramps and rape women.
The film is infamous for copycat behaviour, which many thought to be the reason that director Stanley Kubrick withdrew the film in the UK. After his death, his wife Christiane revealed that the actual reason he had the film banned was on the advice of the police after severe threats were made to him and his family.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Banned in Finland (1984), UK, Brazil, Australia, West Germany, Chile, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Singapore and Sweden
Five friends go to visit their Grandfather's grave after hearing it was vandalised, and pick up a hitchhiker on the way. After the hitchhiker takes a knife and slashes himself and one of the boys, they promptly get rid of him but have to stop for gas at a small sinister looking place which unbeknown to them, is the home of the chainsaw wielding Leatherface.
The film was loosely inspired by real-life murderer Ed Gein who wore human skin, but didn't use a chainsaw.
The Exorcist (1973)
Banned in the UK, Malaysia and Singapore
One of the most controversial horror films of all time tells the story of a 12 year-old girl possessed by a demonic force and the two priests who try and save her soul.
The film received critical acclaim when it was nominated for 10 Oscars, and won 2 for Best Sound and Best Writing.
Life of Brian (1979)
Banned in Norway (1979-1980), Singapore, Ireland (1979-1987)
Brian was born in a stable next to Jesus and as a result is deemed a messiah, but he can't seem to convince his followers otherwise. Due to its heavy religious satire, the film was not well-received by many religious activists. In 2009, the thirty-year old ban of the film in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth was finally lifted. Sweden, on the other hand, used the controversy to its advantage, marketing the film as 'The film so funny that it was banned in Norway'.
The Last Tango in Paris (1973)
Banned in Italy (1972-1986), Singapore, New Zealand, Portugal (1973-1974) and South Korea
A young Parisian woman (Maria Schneider) begins a sordid affair with a middle-aged American businessman (Marlon Brando) who wants their relationship to be based only on sex.
The film became notorious for its butter-lubricated sex scene, which haunted Schneider, as it wasn't part of the original script. In the New York Post, 2007, she said 'I felt humiliated and, to be honest, I felt a little raped... Thankfully, there was just one take... I never use butter to cook anymore - only olive oil.'
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Banned in Austria (1931-1945) and Germany (1931-1945)
The film follows a group of young German soldiers who come to understand the tragedy of war and misconceptions of their enemies when they fight in World War One.
Due to its anti-war and perceived anti-German messages, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party banned the film from Germany until the end of World War Two. During its brief run in German cinemas in 1930, the Nazis disrupted the viewings by releasing rats in the theatres.
Caligula (1979)
Banned in Canada and Iceland
The story of Roman Emperor Caligula who used violent means to get to the throne, his shocking actions during his tyrannical reign and his subsequent descent into insanity.
The film was considered controversial not only for its depiction of violence, but also for the gratuitous nudity and Caligula's sexual passion for his sister.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Banned in the UK (1984-2002), Singapore, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, West Germany and for over 32 years in Australia.
A pair of teenage girls go to a rock concert to celebrate one of their birthdays and afterwards try to get some marijuana in the city. They are then kidnapped by a gang of psychopaths who have just escaped from prison.
The Last House on the Left was directed by Wes Craven who also directed The Hills have Eyes (1977) which was banned in Finland, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and the Scream films - where he appeared in all three.
Freaks (1932)
Banned in Italy, Finland and Ireland
A beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of the circus performers who is also a dwarf, but his friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.
Director Tod Browning took the exceptional step of casting real people with deformities, rather than using costumes and makeup. His choice shocked audiences of the time and despite the film having since achieved cult classic status, its release resulted in Browning struggling to find work.
The Evil Dead (1983)
Banned in Malaysia, UK (1983-1990), West Germany (1984), Sweden, Iceland, Ireland and Singapore
Five friends take a trip to a cabin in the woods where they find the Book Of The Dead, which awakens a demonic force turning them into zombies.
The Evil Dead was one of the first films deemed a 'Video Nasty' - the term for films criticized for their violent content by various religious organizations, in the press and by commentators.

Take some needless violence, a religious satire and a dash of incest - and you've got yourself a collection of films too shocking for cinema.

Click on the image on the right to launch our guide >>

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