Skip to main content

The 50 most controversial movies of all time

Cruising (1980)

The Movie: William Friedkin's film about a serial killer at large in NY's gay community drew serious flack from gay rights protesters, who tried to disrupt filming. When the film was sent to the MPAA, the censors removed 40 minutes of material to secure an R-rating.

Most Controversial Moment: A suspect is forced to masturbate to produce a semem sample in a brutal police interrogation.

Baise-Moi (2000)

The Movie: This French rape/revenge movie, with unsimulated sex and extreme violence, was the first movie in its country to be banned (albeit temporarily) in 28 years. In the UK, substantial cuts were required before it was released.

Most Controversial Moment: A shot of an erect penis during a rape - falling foul of the BBFC's guidelines on eroticising sexual violence.

Performance (1970)

The Movie: The sex, drugs and violence in Nic Roeg and Donald Cammell's psychotropic rock/gangster hybrid was deemed so intense its release was delayed for two years. That's nothing on co-star James Fox, so disturbed by the film he quit acting for a whole decade.

Most Controversial Moment: Rock star Turner (Mick Jagger) turns gangster Chas (James Fox) onto hallucinogenic drugs.

Scarface (1932)

The Movie: Howard Hawks' gangster film about Tony Camonte (loosely based on Al Capone) upset censors so much it had to be subtitled "The Shame Of A Nation."

Most Controversial Moment: Tony is mown down by police - an ending reshot, but then restored when censors wouldn't approve the new version either.

Scarface (1983)

The Movie: Think the 1932 version was shocking? Brian De Palma upped the blood, the chainsaws and the swearing so much he had to recut to get an R-rating... But then he swapped it for his X-rated cut anyway.

Most Controversial Moment: Tony Montana (Al Pacino) has to watch as pal Angel (Pepe Serna) is cut to ribbons with a chainsaw.

Antichrist (2009)

The Movie: Lars Von Trier's art-house horror polarised audiences so much that the film was released in "Catholic" and "Protestant" cuts, the former missing several minutes of extreme violence.

Most Controversial Moment: Depending on what you have between your legs, it's either Willem Dafoe getting his testicles crushed or Charlotte Gainsbourg severing her clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors.

Lolita (1962)

The Movie: Stanley Kubrick upped the age of Vladmir Nabakov's nymphet by casting 14-year-old Sue Lyons as Lolita. But Production Code demands and pressure from the Catholic Legion of Decency still stopped him from including more than a hint of padeophile sex.

Most Controversial Moment: Humbert Humbert (James Mason) picks up step-daughter Lolita and takes her to motel, where - it is implied - they start a sexual relationship.

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987)

The Movie: Todd Haynes' biopic of the Carpenters - using Barbie dolls - was enough to draw the fury of Richard Carpenter. Foolishly, Haynes hadn't cleared the music rights, so the film is banned under lawsuit. That said, it's on YouTune.

Most Controversial Moment: The depiction of Richard Carpenter as a bullying perfectionist and closeted homosexual may or may not have had something to do with his lawsuit.

Caligula (1979)

The Movie: The heavyweight cast - McDowell, Mirren, Gielgud, O'Toole - thought they were making a serious historical epic. Producer Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse, wanted porn. Inevitably, there are multiple cuts depending on local censorship.

Most Controversial Moment: The six minutes of hardcore pornography, randomly edited into the proper film.

Child's Play 3 (1991)

The Movie: Nobody gave the killer-doll threequel a glance until it was rumoured that Robert Thompson and Jon Venables had been inspired to kill Jamie Bulger after seeing the film. A police investigation concluded this wasn't true, but it led to a clampdown on home video releases.

Most Controversial Moment: Chucky is dismembered during a carnival ride and - in the image used to link the film to the Bulger killing - is splashed with blue paint.