The 20 Most Dangerous Movies Of All Time

20. The Exorcist

(William Friedkin, 1973)

Possession, puberty and pea-soup as teenager Regan MacNeil feels the devil inside her.

Danger, danger! Storm-outs and faintings were common at screenings of Friedkin's psych-horror, with one theatre manager complaining, “My janitors are going bananas wiping up the vomit!”

More extreme cases included a man in San Francisco who attacked the screen in an attempt to kill the demon and another who sued Warner Bros after he passed out and broke his jaw.

Much of the trouble was apparently caused by the subliminal insert shots of 'Captain Howdy' – Linda Blair double Eileen Dietz in demon make-up.

19. Super Size Me

(Morgan Spurlock, 2004)

Playwright embarks on a cross-country Mc-trek to highlight the health risks of fast food.

Danger, danger! Impartial or not, Spurlock's queasy quest certainly made an impact.

Its claims that aggressive advertising and high-fat foods made McDonald's responsible for rising levels of child obesity stirred up a storm of negative publicity which (arguably) influenced the greed-feeding giant to scrap its 'supersize' meal option and introduce a new range of healthier choices (wraps, salads and bits of fruit).

18. Taxi Driver

(Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Lonely 'Nam vet Travis Bickle slips into a violent existential depression.

Danger, danger! When Jodie Foster-obsessed loner John Hinckley Jr attempted to off President Reagan in 1981, he described his actions as “the greatest love offering in the history of the world.”

The gunman had seen Taxi Driver – in which Robert De Niro's vigilante vet plans to assassinate a high-profile politico – 15 times and all but acknowledged the film's influence when he told Newsweek “the line dividing life and art can be invisible.”

He was more right than he knew – Paul Schrader's script was inspired by another real-life loner-turned-gunman, Arthur Bremer, who shot – and paralysed – Presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972.

Next: Triumph Of The Will, Child's Play 3, A Fish Called Wanda... [page-break]

17. A Clockwork Orange

(Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

Stylised, ultraviolent adaptation of Anthony Burgess' controversial novel about freewill and gang violence.

Danger, danger! So dangerous it was banned by its own director! Well, sort of. After Clockwork 's UK release in 1972, the tabloids reported several - dubious - incidents of copycat violence...

A vagrant was beaten to death by a man wearing a droog-style bowler hat and black boots. Another was attacked by a youth claiming to be obsessed with the film, while a woman was raped while her attackers sang 'Singin' In The Rain'.

The press coverage led to Kubrick receiving death threats and, contrary to popular belief, it was this – rather than the crimes' link with his film – that prompted the director's self-ban.

16. Triumph Of The Will

(Leni Riefenstahl, 1935)

Flag-waving and puffed-up parading in notorious Nazi rally doc.

Danger, danger! Widely regarded as the most powerful propaganda film ever made, Riefenstahl's technically impressive presentation of the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg sold Hitler's manic vision of an ascendant, militarily mighty Germany to millions of the population who couldn't make it on the day.

Hollywood director Frank Capra, who hit back with Allied riposte Why We Fight , said that Triumph ... “fired no gun, dropped no bombs, but as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, was just as lethal.”

15. Child's Play 3

(Jack Bender, 1991)

Low-grade horror threequel featuring Chucky the killer doll.

Danger, danger! The murder of two-year-old Jamie Bulger in February 1993 by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson – both aged just 10 – left the British public appalled and mystified.

A smug Sun newspaper offered an answer when it ran a front-page story explicitly linking the boys' actions to Child's Play 3 , wrongly suggesting the pair had seen the film in the weeks leading up to the murder.

Similar scapegoating had greeted the Hungerford massacre in 1987, with tabloids quick to pin blame for Michael Ryan's shooting spree on First Blood (Ryan had never seen it).

Next: A Fish Called Wanda , Battle Of Algiers, Passion Of The Christ... [page-break]

14. A Fish Called Wanda

(Charles Crichton, 1988)

Very British crime caper starring John Cleese and Michael Palin.

Danger, danger! If dying of laughter is just a figure of speech, nobody told Ole Bentzen. The Danish audiologist found the Cleese-com so hilarious that his heart rate rose to dangerous levels, resulting in a lethal cardiac arrest.

Coincidentally, British bricklayer Alex Mitchell died in similar circumstances while watching Cleese's Cambridge pals The Goodies on TV in 1975. His wife sent a letter to the trio thanking them for making her husband's final moments so pleasant.

13. The Tingler

(William Castle, 1959)

Vincent Price discovers a deadly parasite lodged at the base of the human spine which can only be killed by screaming.

Danger, danger! Director Castle bolstered the plot of this camp House On Haunted Hill follow-up with a raft of cheap tricks. Some cinemas had ambulances outside, with fake nurses in the foyer to aid hired 'fainters' in the audience.

Not content with merely scaring his customers, Castle also devised a way to physically shake them up.

At the climax, the 'parasite' bursts through the screen while Price bellows, “The Tingler is loose! Scream for your lives!”

Vibration devices under the seats then sent the audience into a shrieking frenzy.

12. The Battle Of Algiers

(Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)

Stark, verité-style account of the Algerian War of Independence.

Danger, danger! Banned in France for its sympathetic treatment of the Gallic-baiting Algerian National Liberation Front, Pontecorvo's look at radical insurgency and Imperial oppression became an inspiration for militant rebels the world over (the IRA and the Black Panthers have reportedly used the film as a training aid).

It was also shown for counter-insurgency purposes at the Pentagon in 2003 to provoke debate about Iraq.

Next: Passion Of The Christ, The Thin Blue Line, Fight Club ... [page-break]

11. The Passion Of The Christ

(Mel Gibson, 2004)

Guts-and-all account of JC's final 12 hours on Earth.

Danger, danger! When Mel told the world his Jesus movie was about “love, hope, faith and forgiveness”, what he forgot to mention was that it also featured agonisingly extended sequences of beatings, torture and death.

This apparently came as a shock to 57-year-old Peggy Law Scott, who died of a heart attack during the grisly crucifixion scene at a cinema in Texas.

The film's depiction of Jesus' Jewish tormentors also revved up a far-reaching anti-Semitic debate around Gibson, which resurfaced following his 2006 collaring for drunk-driving.

10. The Thin Blue Line

(Errol Morris, 1988)

Tigerish campaigning documentary which helped overturn an innocent man's conviction for murder.

Danger, danger! Wrongly imprisoned for shooting a Texas cop in 1976, Randall Dale Adams faced life in prison, before private dick-turned-filmmaker Errol Morris stumbled on the case in 1985.

Unconvinced of Adams' guilt, Morris carried out this filmed investigation, which uncovered proof that police had ignored, and even altered, various pieces of evidence to fit Adams to the crime.

The doc gave the case widespread coverage and was entered as evidence during the appeal, which saw Adams freed in 1989.

On his release, Adams' statement said it all (“The fact that it took over 12 years and a movie to prove my innocence should scare the hell out of everyone in this room”).

9. Fight Club

(David Fincher, 1999)

Violent, voguish and damning stare into the spiritual void of modern living.

Danger, danger! The searing charisma of Fincher's film has inevitably inspired various misguided copycats and lost souls.

Rumours of real-life fight clubs have rumbled for years and recently charges were brought against a group of Californian high-schoolers who'd started out brawling among themselves and then graduated to burglary and arson.

More disturbingly, a screening of the film in Sao Paulo was the scene of a double murder in 1999, when disaffected student Mateus Meira stood up mid-movie and opened fire on the audience with an Uzi.

Meira told police he'd been planning the shooting for years and chose Fight Club as he identified with Norton's narrator.

Next: Babel, An Inconvenient Truth, Man From Deep River... [page-break]

8. Babel

(Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006)

Multi-stranded high-drama/tragedy straddling Morocco, Mexico and Japan.

Danger, danger! A scene of strobe-lit nightclubbing was at the centre of a public health warning in 2006, after several people reported experiencing nausea and headaches during the sequence.

Oddly, only Japanese cinemagoers were affected, recalling a similar incident in 1997 when around 700 children had seizures during flashing-light sequences in a Pokémon episode.

Perfectly illustrating the media's penchant for alarmism, a Japanese news clip upped the 700 to nearer 12,000.

7. An Inconvenient Truth

(Davis Guggenheim, 2006)

Al Gore is your unlikely host for this impassioned essay on the stark realities of climate change.

Danger, danger! “Global warming has been stopped, gasoline costs 19 cents a gallon, George W Bush is Baseball Commissioner…”

The world as it could have been if Al Gore had won the 2000 Presidential race, according to Gore himself during his appearance on Futurama.

Having missed his shot at the White House, the environmental campaigner instead set about saving Earth with this impassioned plea for change.

It has influenced governments across the world, while a copy has been sent to every secondary school in the UK.

6. Man From Deep River

(Umberto Lenzi, 1972)

A British photographer is captured by a Burmese tribe and goes native.

Danger, danger! This grisly exploitation landmark kickstarted the cycle of cannibal movies which came out of Italy during the '70s and '80s.

Featuring genre-staple scenes of bloody violence, the film has the distinction of being banned twice in the UK under different names – on its initial release and on video as Deep River Savages .

It's also one of the movies that kicked off the '80s 'Video Nasties' panic.

Even today, four minutes of "unsimulated animal killings" remain cut from the DVD.

Next: Jackass, La Haine... [page-break]

5. Jackass: The Movie

(Jeff Tremaine, 2002)

Professional mentalists hurt themselves in the name of entertainment.

Danger, danger! Jackass -inspired injuries and accidents are predictably common.

The most cursory Googling reveals a roll-call of scorched genitals, shattered limbs and criminal charges motivated by Johnny Knoxville's crew of clowns.

The unluckiest pranksters don't survive to press charges - like Albuquerque teen Stephen Paul Rauen, killed after a bonnet-riding stunt went wrong.

Despite plastering 'Don't try this at home!' warnings over their stunts, it seems the Jackass boys did too good a job of convincing everyone that being stupid and falling down is cool.

4. La Haine

(Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)

Three multi-ethnic kids embark on an ultimately tragic mission of revenge following Parisian ghetto unrest.

Danger, danger! Kassovitz's edgy, energetic debut was a high-profile hit in its native France, where it launched a media debate about police brutality and poverty-stricken slums that culminated in then-President Alain Juppé holding a mandatory screening for his cabinet.

The police response to the criticism was uniquely French – while frowning on suggestions of brutality, a spokesman admitted the film was “a beautiful work of cinematographic art that can make us more aware of certain realities.”

Next: Sicko, The Last Temptation Of Christ... [page-break]

3. Sicko

(Michael Moore, 2007)

Shock-doc merchant Moore rages against inadequacies in the US healthcare system

Danger, danger! Bowling For Columbine 's standout moment came when Moore dragged a survivor of the high school massacre to K-Mart, demanding a refund for bullets still lodged in his body.

The stunt proved Moore was willing to exploit emotive issues to prove a point.

Sicko takes the principle further, as he escorts injured 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba to receive treatment they can't afford at home.

The film irked the Feds enough for them to threaten to impound it, on the grounds of border violations.

2. The Last Temptation Of Christ

(Martin Scorsese, 1988)

Marty focuses on Christ's humanity in the most controversial biopic ever.

Danger, danger! Angered by a 'What if?' sequence showing Jesus ducking the crucifixion and doing The Bad Thing with Mary Magdalene, Christian demonstrators picketed Universal studios over the release of Scorsese's subversive, but theologically rigorous work.

Violence erupted in cinemas – Catholic fundamentalists launched firebombs into a theatre in France, burning audience members.

“People object to the idea of the film rather than the film itself,” Scorsese insisted.

“I showed it to my local priest and he didn't have a problem with the sexuality. Although he did say it was a little too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday.”

Next: And The Number One Most Dangerous Movie Of All Time Is... [page-break]

1. Jaws

(Steven Spielberg, 1975)

A seaside town is terrorised by a peckish Great White Shark.

Danger, danger! “Everybody likes to dice with death,” beamed Spielberg in 1975.

“After Jaws, a lot of people will rush into the water, not out of it.”

Which just goes to show how wrong you can be, even if you have just made the movie that will go on to reshape the film industry.

Empty resort towns along the US coast told the real story, showing how Universal's monster hit was not only scarring psyches (for life) but also crippling the tourist industry.

But, for good or bad, the big-budget Hollywood machine was created by Jaws .

The movie set box-office records – becoming the first film to break $100m – and captured the public imagination in a way that other blockbusters have been trying to emulate ever since.

Like This? Then try...

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter for the latest news, features and reviews delivered straight to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter

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.