20 Mainstream Films Banned Around The World

Bruno is out this month, and we've put a monkey on it being banned somewhere.

This means we may have to start petitioning governments, because we love our office monkey, Cliff, and don't really want to give him away.

But judging by some of the films that have received bans over the years, we remain confident.

Read on for the least offensive films that somehow managed to cause offense...

Pineapple Express

Banned In: Malaysia

Malaysia outlaws Yoga, claiming it could cause citizens to “deviate from their faith” (mostly Islam).

Drug use and the likening of drug use to “God’s vagina” did not therefore go down well with the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia.

So strict, they have four different flavours of 18 rating: 18SX (sex), 18SG (violence), 18PA (politics) and 18PL (variety).

Seth Rogen and James Franco’s bromantic stoner comedy ticks all the boxes. Denied, dude.

Next: Showgirls, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End [page-break]


Banned In: Morocco

You’ll know Morocco’s widescreen landscapes from the breathtaking desert backdrops of Hollywood epics like Lawrence Of Arabia, Gladiator, Alexander and Troy .

Moroccans probably won’t: their country censors movies, music, the web and homosexuality.

What did they think of a film in which Saved By The Bell’s Elizabeth Berkley grinds around metal poles, thrashes around naked in a swimming pool and engages in a sapphic tease with Gina Gershon? Not much.

Still, ten years after Paul Verhoeven showed Vegas sisters doing it for themselves, Morocco did start to become interested in women’s rights: they changed the law to allow men only one woman instead of four.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End  

Banned In: China

Only about 20 foreign movies are allowed to be officially screened each year in China. Box-office behemoth Pirates 3 wasn’t one of them – unless they somehow clipped together a version without Chow Yun Fat’s Asian pirate Sao Feng.

Apparently, he’s a “negative portrayal” of the Chinese.

“To say that it insults China merely because a Chinese person plays a scoundrel is untenable,” says Chinese cultural researcher Zhang Xiaoming.

China celebrated Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain Oscar win as a triumph for the Chinese people - despite the film being banned. Go figure.

Next: The Profit, King Kong [page-break]

The Profit

Banned In: The United States of America

A con man called L Conrad Powers starts a bogus religion called the Church of Scientific Spiritualism to get rich quick.

The Church of Scientology didn't approve. Clocking writer/director Peter Alexander’s film as a not-so-thinly-veiled satire of their leader L Ron Hubbard, they slammed home a lawsuit that blocked The Profit ’s release, making it one of just 16 movies currently banned in the US.

The film is rarely seen since its debut at Cannes in 2001, despite Alexander’s claims it’s nothing to do with Scientology.

King Kong  

Banned In: Finland

The great ape originally failed to cross to the Finnish line because he’s "one of the most violent movie stars in cinema history". They say. And they might have a point...

The original 1933 movie had numerous savage scenes that didn’t even make the US cut.

Kong chews and stomps on island natives, chows on a New Yorker escaping the theatre and throws a sleeping woman to her death when he mistakes her for Ann Darrow.

Worse of all, you could argue that Kong is a bit of a perv: just watch him peeling off Fay Wray’s clothes... Bad monkey!

Next: Nosferatu, Zoolander [page-break]


Banned In: Sweden

Ironic this, given the Swedes are currently wowing world cinema with their own vampire shocker Let The Right One In .

Waaaay back in 1766, Sweden became the first country to introduce a constitutional law where censorship was abolished.

That changed when they outlawed German bloodsucking horror Nosferatu for “high-impact scary violence and cruelty”.

Once banned, it stayed banned for an astonishing 50 years, until finally being ushered out of the darkness in 1972.


Banned In: Iran

Grabbing an Orange Mocha Frappuccino before dousing your really, really, really good-looking homies in petrol and killing them in a ball of fire...

For the Iranian authorities, that's “provoking gay rights”.

In the strict Islamic country, any film depicting homosexuality - or even vaguely touching on the subversive notion that some people might be gay - is banned inside-out.

Zack Synder’s 300 , in which the ancient Persians are portrayed as slavering, inhuman monsters while the Spartans are wildly homoerotic, ultra-ripped fighting dudes is double-banned.

Next: Indiana Jones And Temple Of Doom, Borat [page-break]

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Banned In: India

Monkey brains. That’s what got Indy’s first outing banned in near-namesake India. Or more specifically, the movie’s “racist portrayal of Indians and overt imperialistic tendencies”.

Chilled monkey brains are famously served to Dr Jones as dessert in the Pankot Palace banquet scene.

In reality, many Hindus consider monkeys sacred, due to the simian God character Hanuman from the Indian Sanskrit epic Ramayana.

Spielberg shot the movie in Sri Lanka though, which looks like India. And isn't too bothered about eating monkey.


Banned In: Russia

“Offensive” was the word used to describe Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie-film, which became the first non-pornographic film since the fall of the Soviet Union to be banned in Russia.

“There are moments in the film that could offend some viewers’ religious or national sensibilities,” said Yuri Vasyuchkov, head of Moscow’s film licensing department.

Weirdly, Kazakhstan was fine with it.

Next: The King And I, 9 Songs [page-break]

The King and I (Every Version Ever)

Banned In: Thailand

Two words that Thai censors don’t like: 'King' and 'The'. At least when it’s their King.

The Thai government has banned practically every version of musical adventure The King And I , claiming that the King Of Siam is a divine being, not a flawed human prone to impromptu outbursts of song and resembling Yul Brynner.

Not to be denied, Hollywood tried a cunning title change with Jodie Foster’s Anna And The King .

The Thais weren’t fooled – they banned that, too.

9 Songs  

Banned In: South Australia

Okay, not quite so mainstream but still a good one...

After getting an eyeful of Michael Winterbottom’s controversial live-sex show, the South Australian Classification Council upgraded the status of 9 Songs from R18+ to X18+, effectively banning it in South Australia (although it says R18+ in the rest of the country).

That year, they unbanned notorious exploitation flick Cannibal Holocaust .

Real-life blowjobs? How dare you! Real-life animal torture? Welcome aboard!

Next: The Simpsons Movie, The Da Vinci Code [page-break]

The Simpsons Movie

Banned In: Burma

Dubbed the “State Of Fear”, Burma came third from bottom when the world’s nations were league-tabled for “international freedom of expression” last year.

Notoriously inconsistent, Burma’s dreaded Motion Picture & Video Censor Board clamps down on eroticism (women aren’t allowed to wear "Western-style" shirts), aggression (you can’t punch more than five times in any one film) and... colours.

Yellow and red are banned, which was a problem for a certain Springfield family...

Spider-Pig, President Schwarzenegger, Bart’s (already censored) penis... All gone. Like tears in rain.

“They never explain why. We just have to follow the rules,” sighs Burmese comedian-turned-director Zargana.

The Da Vinci Code  

Banned In: Vatican City

Well, more boycotted than banned, really. God-botherers were well and truly bothered by Ron Howard’s adap of Dan Brown’s bestselling toilet-read.

A Vatican department formerly known as ‘The Holy Office’ declared the movie is “full of calumnies, offences and historical and theological errors.”

No one was quite sure what a “calumny” was, but The Da Vinci Code didn't unspool in Holy Town.

The Pope brigade also banned Angels & Demons from shooting in Rome’s churches, but Howard shot there anyway. He’s currently keeping an eye out for random lightning bolts.

“Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive,” says Cardinal Francis Arinze.

Which doesn’t sound very forgiving.

Next: Monkey Business, South Park [page-break]

Monkey Business

Banned In: Ireland

Running around, crashing parties, fist-fighting, insulting each other, singing raucous ditties... Not the kind of behaviour likely to appeal to your typical Irishman.

Back in 1931, however, the Irish government were very concerned about the first Marx brothers’ comedy written for the screen.

Fearing that the deranged antics of Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo would "incite anarchy" on the Emerald Isle, the Irish authorities banned it immediately.

S outh Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut!

Banned In: Iraq

Well, here’s the thing: South Park was never officially banned in Iraq.

Its makers didn’t even bother attempting to distribute it. For good reason: if they had, Iraq would have banned it.

Largely for its depiction of Saddam Hussein as the randy homosexual lover of Satan, spouting lines like, “Rub my nipples while I torture this little piggy!”

One Iraqi did get to enjoy the film: Saddam himself. US marines allegedly forced the deposed dictator to repeatedly watch it while awaiting trial for war crimes.

In Hell, he's currently slumped in front of a repeat loop of The Happening .

Next: The Matrix Reloaded, Paths Of Glory [page-break]

The Matrix Reloaded

Banned In: Egypt

Fifteen of Egypt’s top critics, academics and psychologists decided that screening The Matrix Reloaded “may cause troubles and harm social peace”.

Maybe because Egyptians really liked the first one and would be crushed with disappointment.

Or maybe it was the fact that Neo, Morpheus and Trinity live in a city called Zion... Sweaty underground disco or Jewish holy land?

Either way, the 90 per cent Muslim country were far from impressed.

“There is no specific scene to which the committee objected – it is about the movie as a whole,” says Madkour Thabit, the head of Egypt’s censorship body. Which is wholly reasonable.

Paths Of Glory  

Banned In: France

Ah, the French. So often praised for their courage in battle.

Understandably then, they were outraged when Stanley Kubrick’s classic war drama – just like Humphrey Cobb’s novel – suggested that French soldiers in WW1 executed their own men for cowardice (“There is no such thing as shellshock!”)

Although never ‘officially’ banning it, the Gallic government confined Paths Of Glory to the barracks for nearly 20 years.

Apparently, it was the Italian and British armies who shot their own troops. But French soldiers? Cowards? Non, monsieur.

Next they’ll be saying they colluded with the very Nazis who occupied their own country. Oh.

Next: The Great Dictator, Catch 22 [page-break]

The Great Dictator

Banned In: Germany

In a freak burst of wartime political correctness, Chaplin’s spoof of Hitler was nearly banned in Britain. The owner of London’s Prince Charles cinema was even fined for staging the premiere.

But, by then, we were at war with Harry Hun and it became jolly good for morale.

Less so for Der Führer, who stamped a jackboot on it in the ’40s. The film stayed banned in Germany until as recently as 1998.

Chaplin’s highest-grossing film, the funnyman later admitted that he wouldn’t have made it if he’d known the true extent of the Nazis’ crimes.

Catch 22  

Banned In: Portugal

How does a sane man survive in the insanity of war?

By sitting up a tree in the raw, according to Mike Nichols’ adap of Joseph Heller’s doorstop anti-war classic.

The movie was banned for four years in Portugal for the scene showing a naked Alan Arkin perched in the boughs of nature. If he’d been having sex while eating a sandwich, it would have been worse still.

High-calorie erotica Last Tango In Paris (sex and butter) and La Grande Bouffe (sex and everything) were banned in the same decade.

The only thing they’ve banned since is a Pokémon episode.

Next: Life Of Brian [page-break]

Monty Python's Life Of Brian

Banned In: Norway

Sensitive God-fearers the Norwegian Board Of Film Classification tried to put the censors' scissors to Brian’s naughty bits.

But when director Terry Jones refused to comply with suggested cuts, they banned it for blasphemy until 1980.

Brilliantly, Sweden wasted no time in marketing it as “The film that's so funny that it was banned in Norway!”

Which is almost as funny as the fact that Life Of Brian was also banned in Devon.

Rural Devonshire heretics were finally allowed to see it when the ban was lifted... last year.

Any more random banned films to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

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The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.