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In the frame: The strangest - and most offensive - movies we'd be better off forgetting

Gone with the Wind and Little Britain were removed from streaming services earlier this week in a row over racism - and now Star Wars and even Audrey Hepburn are coming under scrutiny, writes Adam White

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Audrey Hepburn in her iconic role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Audrey Hepburn in her iconic role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Under the spotlight: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Under the spotlight: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp

Song of the South

Song of the South

Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles

Soul Man

Soul Man

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Passion of the Christ

Passion of the Christ

The Love Guru

The Love Guru

Green Book

Green Book

Audrey Hepburn in her iconic role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

A reckoning over racist entertainment has emerged in recent days. Little Britain has been axed from the BBC iPlayer. Gone with the Wind has been temporarily pulled from the fledgling US streaming platform HBO Max.

The Black Lives Matter protests haven't just targeted police brutality and systemic racism but also the long shadow of racism hanging over popular culture and the media - the jokes designed to hurt, the films that glorified the racism of the past and the stars previously permitted to go unquestioned about their racist behaviour.

What often goes unspoken, however, is that little of this is new. The likes of Little Britain and Gone with the Wind have always been condemned for trading in racist tropes, whether for their use of blackface or yellowface, or their romanticisation of the confederacy. Only now are people in positions of power finally beginning to listen.

There will probably be more to come. Hollywood history is overwhelmed by stories that hinge on racist stereotypes and hatred of minority groups, much of which has folded into the fabric of society at large. From classic Disney films to recent Oscar winners, here are nine of the strangest - and most offensive - movies we'd be better off forgetting.

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

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Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp


The Disney classic features a musical sequence in which two Siamese cats, voiced by Peggy Lee using a stereotypical and nondescript "Asian" accent, reveal themselves to be sly and untrustworthy, their eyes morphing into slits.

Like a number of animated touchstones from the early years of Disney, it's a moment of easily forgettable racism in an otherwise cheery movie. If you stream it on Disney+ today, a warning appears: "This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions." The film's live-action remake, released in 2019, excised the sequence completely.

Song of the South (1946)

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Song of the South

Song of the South

Song of the South


This list could quite easily be nothing but old Disney movies, some of the most egregious elements being Dumbo's jive-talking crows and the unpleasant depiction of Native Americans in Peter Pan. But they're also easily viewable, if sporting content warnings.

Song of the South is so racist that it's almost impossible to find today. The apparently inspirational tale of two white children taught about the wonders of life by an elderly slave they own, it depicts plantation life as wholesome and slavery as something charming and idyllic.

Unsurprisingly, it has never been released on home video in the US, with only low-quality copies available on the black market.

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Another horrible blight on an otherwise cheery movie is Mr Yunioshi, landlord to Audrey Hepburn's girl about town in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Played by Mickey Rooney, the character has long been regarded as the most high-profile example of Hollywood yellowface, with the actor coated in bronzer, sporting false teeth and speaking in an exaggerated 'Asian' accent.

Producer Richard Shepard has admitted in recent years that the racism of the character spoils the movie. Rooney, however, always expressed bafflement that there was ever any controversy over his portrayal. "Never in all the more than 40 years after we made it - not one complaint," he said in 2008.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

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Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles


Buried in this John Hughes teen classic is the character of Long Duk Dong, a foreign exchange student who appears on screen soundtracked by a loud gong noise.

Sex-crazed and culturally ignorant, the character speaks with an exaggerated 'Asian' accent and broken English and faced criticism from Asian-American groups at the time.

In 2018 Sixteen Candles star Molly Ringwald expressed horror at watching the film through a modern lens, noting that Long Duk Dong was "a grotesque stereotype".

The Love Guru (2008)

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The Love Guru

The Love Guru

The Love Guru


This forgotten comedy was a doomed attempt by Mike Myers to create a character as memorable as Austin Powers. Instead, it sparked complaints of racism.

Myers avoided brownface when playing a mystical Hindu guru named Pitka, but that's about the only positive thing about his work here.

It otherwise trades in Hindu stereotypes and deliberately mangles sacred Hindu terms for cheap laughs, as in substituting 'Namaste' for 'Mariska Hargitay', the star of TV's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace


The Phantom Menace was widely maligned for a number of reasons, but most intriguing was the criticism it received for its coded racism.

Jar Jar Binks, a lazy, clumsy alien with a thick, generic Caribbean accent, was condemned by a number of critics as a racist stereotype akin to the stars of historic minstrel shows.

Watto, a greedy, slave-owning alien with a hooked nose, beady eyes and a hat some argued to be reminiscent of a yarmulke, was also criticised for being an anti-Semitic caricature.

Passion of the Christ (2004)

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Passion of the Christ

Passion of the Christ

Passion of the Christ


Mel Gibson's smash-hit drama, chronicling the hours before Christ's crucifixion, was beset by claims of anti-Semitism even before it hit cinemas. It depicts Christ's enemies as a volatile cabal of bloodthirsty Jews.

Even as many critics questioned its historical accuracy and its depiction of the Jewish faith, Gibson defended his film.

Gibson's arrest in 2006, in which he ranted about "f****** Jews (being) responsible for all the wars in the world", only added to the unease.

Soul Man (1986)


Screened for then US president Ronald Reagan at the White House, this college comedy sees a white teenager disguise himself as a black student to qualify for a scholarship to Harvard.

Attacked by critics at the time, it was also condemned by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and by black student groups across the US.

Actor Rae Dawn Chong, who appears in the film, blamed Spike Lee, one of the film's most high-profile detractors, for the backlash. "Our little film was maligned by the black community, led by a jealous Spike Lee, who has never seen the film," she said in 2015.

Green Book (2018)

Green Book


The 2019 Best Picture Oscar winner was released amid a wave of controversy about its depiction of the late jazz musician Don Shirley.

As well as being accused of misrepresenting Shirley's relationship with his family, critics claimed that the film rested on a white saviour trope. It is the story of a racist white man who is taught the error of his ways by a kindly black man he is forced to spend time with and protect from other racists.

"A neutered black man needs a white guy not only to protect and serve him, but to love him too," wrote critic Wesley Morris in a withering takedown of the film in the New York Times.

Belfast Telegraph