What Films Have Been Banned Worldwide?


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Louise Gorman answered
Over the years, there have been many films that have caused controversy, resulting in some of them being banned outright in particular countries. Whilst there aren’t many films that have been banned in every single country, there are ones that were so controversial at the time of their release that they still remain banned in particular countries today.

In the UK, several films in the 1980s were dubbed “video nasties” due to the amount of violence in them. The majority of these were horror films that were not well known and many were outright banned in the UK and in other countries.

Here are some of the most controversial films to be released:

I Spit on Your Grave

“I Spit on Your Grave” is a 1970s horror film that focuses on the theme of revenge. The story centres on a woman who spends her summer in the countryside to complete a novel that she is working on. Whilst there, she is brutally attacked by a gang of men, who destroy the novel that she is writing.  She later carries out a series of brutal acts in order to get her revenge on the men.

The film was banned outright in some countries due to scenes of graphic violence and torture. In the United States, a censored version of the film was released in 1980. In the UK, it made the 1980s video nasties list and was banned up until 2001, when a cut version became available.

Although the film still remains controversial today, a remake is currently being planned.

Cannibal Holocaust

Released in 1980, Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most controversial films ever to be made. The film centres on an American film crew, who travel to the Amazon Rainforest to film a documentary about the tribes that live there. The crew goes missing, prompting an anthropologist to go searching for them.
The anthropologist, who is accompanied by several guides, manages to locate several reels of film that were made by the missing film crew. The reels of film are played later, revealing what happened to the  crew.

“Cannibal Holocaust” was banned in a number of countries including Australia, Finland and New Zealand as a result of the film containing sexual violence and gore. It was also banned in the UK, where it made the video nasties list. It is thought that the film was banned in over 50 countries, though this has never been confirmed and some of the countries that originally banned the film have now lifted the ban, allowing the film to be released.

As well as the violence and gore, the film was also heavily criticised for containing animal cruelty. Several animals, including two monkeys and a turtle, were killed during the making of the film. When the ban was eventually lifted in the UK in 2001, the film was released with an 18 certificate, with all the animal cruelty scenes removed.

A Clockwork Orange

“A Clockwork Orange” was released in 1971 and is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name.  The story centres on Alex De Large, who is 17 or 18 years old (15 in the novel). Alex is the leader of a gang who regularly engage in a number of violent acts. After the violence leads to Alex killing a woman, he is placed in a prison, where he is placed under the Ludovico technique.  The technique includes forcing the patient to view a series of violent acts whilst suffering from the affects of drugs, which eventually cause the patient to become repulsed by what they are witnessing on the screen, leaving them unable to perform the acts themselves.  The film then deals with Alex’s reactions to the treatment.

Despite earning a number of positive reviews, the film was banned in several countries due to scenes of extreme sexual violence. In the UK, it was banned outright upon request from the director, Stanley Kubrick, after it was revealed that the film had been the main influence in a number of real life events, including the murder of a boy. It was later revealed that Kubrick had been receiving threats due to his involvement in the film and this was the real reason for him wishing for it to be banned. A year or so after Kubrick died in 1999, the ban was lifted and the film became available on VHS and DVD.

The Exorcist

Released in 1973, “The Exorcist” is one of the most popular horror films of all time. It is a film adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist”. The novel was thought to have been inspired by a real life incident in which an exorcism was performed on a boy.

The story centres around twelve year old Regan MacNeil, who begins to posses strange powers.  Her mother, Chris, takes her for a number of medical tests in order for doctors to identify what is wrong with her. Later, when Chris is advised to take her to see a psychiatrist, Regan’s behaviour becomes more aggressive. As the film progresses, Regan’s appearance changes dramatically, becoming more demonic. After a series of strange events take place, Chris seeks the help of a priest, Father Karras, who agrees to perform an exorcism.

“The Exorcist” was banned in several countries, including the UK, for its controversial themes and disturbing scenes, the most famous being the crucifix scene and the “spider walk” (the spider walk scene was not added until later, but still remains one of the most famous scenes in the film). The film was said to have affected viewers badly upon its release, with reports of people requiring medical attention after viewing the film. The film was also said to have led to several miscarriages. It was also thought that the film was cursed, with several actors being hurt during filming and at least one dying. The room where most of Regan’s possession takes place was also damaged in a fire.

The ban has been lifted in some countries. In the UK, the film was released the late 90s with an 18 certificate and was finally shown on television in the early 2000s.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

“Monty Python’s Life of Brian” was released in 1979. The film is a comedy and centres on Brian, a young man who was born under the same circumstances as Jesus Christ. Throughout the film, he performs a number of rebellious acts against the Romans, which leads to him being captured. He manages to escape but later attracts a large crowd of people who believe him to be the Messiah. Brian tries to convince the group that he is not the Messiah, but they continue to harass him, and he runs away from them only to end up being captured again and sent to be crucified.

The film was banned in several countries for it’s religious satirical themes and was branded blasphemous by many religious activists. The ban has only just been lifted in some countries. Despite being banned in the UK upon its initial release, the film has since been considered one of the greatest British comedy films of all time.

The Da Vinci Code

“The Da Vinci Code” is a 2006 film adaptation of the Dan Brown novel of the same name. The novel was extremely popular and fans eagerly awaited the release of the film. However, the film ended up being badly received by critics due to historical inaccuracies and was branded blasphemous in many countries by religious groups. Several groups tried to boycott the film and it was banned outright in some countries. The novel had also previously received criticism for inaccuracies but, unlike the film, was a world-wide success.

Protestors in the United States attempted to stop the film from being shown. The protests and negative response from critics did not stop the film from performing well at the box office though and it ended up being one of the highest grossing films of 2006.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was released in 1974. It is the first instalment in a series of well-known slasher films that centre on a killer known as “Leatherface”, who wears a mask made from human skin. The character is based on a real life serial killer, Ed Gein, who also wore masks of human skin.

The first film focuses on a woman, her brother and some friends, who stop at a gas station, which is owned by Leatherface and his family, to fill up their car. They come across a house not far from the gas station and discover that Leatherface and his family are killers.

The film was banned in many countries for containing scenes of extreme violence and gore. In the UK, it was placed on the video nasties list and banned until 25 years later, when it was released with an 18 certificate. Despite the controversy surrounding the film, it has since become one of the most popular horror films of all time, and in 2003, a remake was released.

The Last House on the Left

“The Last House on the Left” was released in 1972. It is a highly controversial horror film that tells the story of two girls Mari and Phyllis, who are abducted by a gang of criminals after attending a concert. They are tortured and brutally murdered by the gang, who later end up staying overnight at the home of one of the girl’s parents. The parents discover that the gang has murdered their daughter and carry out a series of brutal revenge attacks.

The film was banned in many countries for containing scenes of sexual violence and sadism. It was banned in the UK and wasn’t released properly until 2002, when it became available on DVD with an 18 certificate. An uncut version is also now available.

The film has been brought to attention recently due to a remake, which was released in early 2009. The remake differed slightly from the original, with character names being changed and several characters, including one of the girls, surviving. The revenge scenes with the parents were also less brutal.

The Evil Dead

“The Evil Dead” is a horror film that was released in the early 1980s. The film is the first instalment of three films and focuses on a gang of students who encounter evil spirits when they play a tape that contains incantations from “The Book of the Dead”.

The film contained much violence and gore, which caused controversy and resulted in it being initially turned down by US film distributors and being placed on the video nasties list in the UK. A fully uncut version wasn’t released in the UK until 2001, twenty years after the film’s release.

Despite the initial controversy, the film has since become extremely popular and several comic book adaptations and a musical have been released.


“Salò” is a film adaptation of the novel “The 120 Days of Sodom”. The film centres around the story of a group of boys and girls and are subjected to extreme violence and torture by a group of fascists in Italy in 1944. The group, who consist of the president, the Magistrate, the Duke and the Bishop carry out a series of brutal and humiliating acts on the boys and girls, who are eventually murdered.

The film was banned in many countries for containing scenes of  torture, sadism and extreme violence. The ban has now been lifted in most countries and an uncut version of the film is available on DVD.

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