What does it take to get a movie banned? There are many reasons why countries might not want to distribute a film that goes against some of their cultural norms. Sometimes it’s political and sometimes it’s religious.
Let’s take a look at some of the strangest movies that have been banned by countries around the world. While some of them make a bit of sense, others are really quite surprising. Did you get a chance to see these films when they were released?
The Hunger Games
We know what you’re thinking: a children’s film about young teenagers being forced to hunt and kill each other should be absolutely fine. Well, not everyone agrees. According to Vietnam, the movie about an authoritarian and totalitarian world is not appropriate.
The country felt that the franchise was too aggressive and violent for young kids and so it was banned. In the rest of the world, The Hunger Games went on to gross almost $3 billion at the global box office.
Anyone who is anyone knows the current craze with superhero movies. There seems to be a new release every few months – and thanks to the multi-billion dollar rewards, they won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Well, it turns out that Wonder Woman would cause a few extra problems for the people of Lebanon. They banned the film’s release since its star, Gal Gadot, is an Israeli actress. While it initially passed the country’s standards for distribution, it was activists who canceled the release.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The original 1975 classic horror film was banned by the British Board of Film Classification. Mainly, the BBFC claimed that it had a disproportionate about of terror and what they called ‘abnormal psychology’.
It took six years before The Texas Chainsaw Massacre earned a home video release. In 1999, they finally awarded it an 18 certificate and was eventually even broadcast on cable television. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time? Hollywood remade the film in 2003.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
This one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. If you’ve seen Borat, you’ll know that Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t exactly paint a positive image of Kazakhstan. The mockumentary was banned in several countries including, you guessed it, Kazakhstan.
Despite the initial outrage and ban, data showed that applications for visas to the Middle Eastern country actually increased after the film’s release. So maybe it was a benefit for the country and not a hindrance?
It’s hard to believe today, but Brokeback Mountain was both a controversial and groundbreaking movie at the time of its release in 2005. It tells the story of Ennis and Jack – two male lovers who kept their romantic relationship a secret for more than 20 years.
There were several cinemas in Utah, USA, that banned the film upon its initial release. Overseas, Brokeback Mountain was also banned in Malaysia since it ‘wouldn’t be right for our local audiences.’
Cast your mind back to a time when we thought the world was going to end in 2012. The Mayan calendar ‘predicted’ that it would be the end of the world as we know it due to extreme weather and destruction.
Well, there’s one country that didn’t need fears being increased through the medium of film: North Korea. Apparently, anyone who was caught watching or distributing the film would be sent to five years of hard labor in prison.
This 1999 drama tells the story of two women who were arrested and put in a Thai jail for smuggling drugs. Even though it was set in Thailand, it resulted in every single Claire Danes film being banned from the Philippines – but how?
Well, it turns out that Brokedown Palace was filmed on location in the Philippines even though it was set in Thailand. While promoting the film, Danes spoke badly about the production experience that the President of the Philippines banned every single Claire Danes film across the country!
District 9 is one of the most unique films on our list. The sci-fi classic is set in South Africa and tells the story of aliens who live above Cape Town and in apartheid-like conditions. But why was it banned?
Well, there are moments in the film that portray Nigerians as ‘criminals, cannibals, and prostitutes who sleep with extraterrestrial animals’. Consequently, Nigeria banned the movie from being shown in cinemas – even prompting an apology from Sony Pictures afterward!
Quentin Tarantino’s first film shows a little too much blood and violence for some people. When it was released in 1992, the BBFC had a few problems with the famous torture scene. While they didn’t outright ban the film completely, they did request a few changes.
First, it was forbidden that anyone under the age of 18 sees the film in cinemas. Then, the home release of the film was delayed for a total of three years before authorities in Britain decided it was ok to have in people’s homes. Today, it remains a classic movie in cinematic history.
Back To The Future
Back To The Future is one of the defining movies of the 1980s. It spawned two sequels and has become a cultural gem in the 30 years since its initial release. So, which country banned it from its cinemas?
Well, it turns out that China has strict laws when it comes to time travel and their depiction in films and television shows. Anything that can alter or change historical events is immediately banned, which is most of the entire franchise!
When writing Rambo, Sylvestor Stallone planned to include stories from the Burmese locals. He did this by casting many of them as extras in the film. Well, one of the stars is Muang Muang Khin, who plays a General from Myanmar.
Since the film has a negative portrayal of Myanmar, the country banned it from reaching a cinematic release. In fact, the cast and crew even received death threats during the production! Thankfully, no one was injured during filming or after the release.
2001’s Zoolander stars Ben Stiller as the loveable male model who is brainwashed to murder the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Well, you can understand why Malaysia may not be happy with that!
Because of that, the film was banned from Malaysia and never released in its cinemas. It is unclear if the ban was lifted in time for its sequel, released in 2016. Apparently an official spokeswoman for the Home Office declared the films ‘definitely unsuitable’. Maybe next time!
2016’s Deadpool was the surprise hit in a year that proved R-Rated superhero films could make enough money at the box office. A big part of a movie’s success is reaching the market in China – where audiences can grow by a billion people!
Amazingly, Deadpool still managed to make a lot of money despite being banned in China for, well, pretty much everything. It had bad language, violence, nudity, and more. While usually a film is tweaked to make it suitable for Chinese audiences, there was simply too much here to make it coherent.
This 2007 epic film portrayed the Battle of Thermopylae and led to an outright outcry in Iran. The plot, which sees a war between Persian King Xerxes and the Greek Spartans was said to be ‘cultural and psychological warfare’.
The Iranians said it showed Persians to be tricked by the Greeks, as well as coming across as cruel and an ‘insult’ to the culture. Warner Brothers denied the claims that they sought to offend anyone, but it didn’t stop the movie from getting banned in Iran.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Anyone who saw 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street surely sure plenty of sex, drugs, partying, and profanity. While it is an extreme look at some of the culture on Wall Street, it was Kenya that didn’t seem too impressed with it.
The Kenya Film Classification Board banned the film due to the extreme scenes seen throughout the three-hour film. If you’re seen watching the film in Kenya, you could be fined and sent to prison! Not worth it if you ask us…
Beauty and the Beast
One of Disney’s most highly anticipated live-action remakes was generally welcomed by audiences around the world. However, it was Kuwait that didn’t approve of the film and its release. Was it the monster, the magic, or the romance that stirred controversy?
It turns out it was none of that. In fact, it was the inclusion of LeFou – Disney’s first openly gay character – that would cancel the film’s release. Cinemas only found out afterward and even offered refunds after people complained.
This dystopian movie from 1979 originally garnered acclaim upon its release, even making more than $100 million at the time. That worldwide gross was considered a lot for the 1970s, and all countries contributed to it except two: Sweden and New Zealand.
It turns out that these two countries banned the film for one particular scene where a character is burned alive inside his car. It was deemed too similar to other gang violence recently seen inside the countries. The bans were ultimately lifted in 2005.
A Clockwork Orange
This dystopian crime movie certainly left an impact on audiences when it was released in 1971. The graphic scenes of violence, rape, and nudity made for some uncomfortable viewing for audiences. So much so, that some countries banned the film because of it.
A Clockwork Orange was banned in Singapore upon its release and remained banned until 2011. Local audiences were shocked to see the brutal world that director Stanley Kubrick created, but appreciated it as the art it is today.
Another appearance here by Sacha Baron Cohen – this time as his outrageous character Bruno. The comedy film was a return to form for the actor who had previously wowed audiences with Borat in 2006.
Well, not everyone was on board with the production. Ukraine banned the film due to the extreme depiction of homosexuality and full-frontal nudity. The country claimed that Bruno would ‘damage the effect on its moral health’. According to the Ministry of Culture, the character was too extreme and explicit.
The Da Vinci Code
You can’t make a film like The Da Vinci Code and not expect a bit of a push back from critics. Notably, the movie drew its biggest criticism from the Roman Catholic Church. It turns out they didn’t like being the center of a conspiracy surrounding the Holy Grail!
According to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavre: “We profess Christian religion in the country, and that film depicts some thoughts about this person called Jesus Christ that Christians adore as not only as a good man, but was himself God, and such a film basically undermines the very roots of Christianity in the Solomon Islands.”
Barney’s Great Adventure
You’re going to have to ask Malaysia as to why Barney’s Great Adventure was banned across the country. Apparently, the country claimed it was ‘unsuitable for children’, which is bizarre because that’s literally Barney’s target audience.
Authorities said the dinosaur and his friends were inappropriate for young eyes and so it was banned from ever getting released in cinemas. Today, it still remains banned across the nation – although people might be able to watch it online if they find it.
If we want to examine how audiences and standards have changed over the years, then all we need to do is look at the example of Scarface. The 1932 original film was produced by Howard Hughes and was banned in five US states. Why?
It was decided that the film glorified violence and crime pertaining to Al Capone. Strangely, there have been far more violent films since this one in 1932, particularly the 1983 remake from director Brian De Palma.
Today it doesn’t seem too graphic, but audiences were blown away by The Exorcist when it hit cinemas in 1973. The revolutionary special effects partnered with Linda Blair’s performance as a possessed child had audiences running from the cinemas.
The United Kingdom banned video copies from rental stores in 1988 and kept the restrictions in effect for 11 years. Eventually, the ban was lifted since it didn’t have the same impact as time went on. Today, young audiences won’t consider it scary at all!
How many films almost cause a world war against North Korea? Well, you can blame Seth Rogan and James Franco for harming international diplomacy with their 2014 comedy The Interview.
The satire was banned in North Korea as well as certain cinemas across the United States. Kim Jon Un threatened cyber warfare over the film’s release and even caused the famous email hack on Sony Pictures – releasing thousands of confidential emails. The US CIA confirmed that North Korea was behind the terrorist attack due to the contents of the film.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
We can always rely on the United Kingdom to throw a ban on a comedy film! Monty Python’s Life of Brian was banned upon its 1980s release due to being ‘blasphemous’. For those who haven’t seen it, the film spends a lot of time criticizing and parodying religion.
It turns out the UK wasn’t the only country upset by the film’s content. Norway and Ireland also restricted viewings of the film. At its New York screening, the film was met by protests across multiple faiths.
What could possibly go so wrong for a Disney film about Winnie the Pooh? How is it that this light-hearted family movie was banned in China and had billions of people miss out on this wholesome film?
It turns out that it was banned because of comparisons between Pooh and Chinese ruler Xi Jinping. Apparently, he didn’t want audiences to notice the striking resemblance between the two of them – so he banned the film! We think that is objectively hilarious.
This 1967 romantic film about an Egyptian man and Jewish girl caused quite the controversy. At the time of its production, the Six-Day War broke out that caused conflicts between the cast and the crew who were from both sides.
There was one passionate love scene between the two stars that stirred the pot and it caused Egypt to ban the film when production had finished. Apparently, the country criticized actor Omar Sharif for kissing a Jewish woman on camera.
Last Tango In Paris
This erotic film starring Marlon Brando and Maria Scheider caused quite the stir when it was released in 1972. There are a few moments on screen that show sexual violence, uncensored actions, and generally questionable situations.
The United States released the film but on the condition that some of the scenes were removed. In countries like South Korea, Portugal, and Chile, the film was completely banned for decades after its initial release.
Saw 3D might be the latest in the long-running horror franchise, but it’s hardly special in receiving its ban from several countries across Europe. Many of the seven films over the last few years have been banned from countries like Germany, Romania, and Spain.
It’s not hard to see why countries would ban films from the Saw franchise. The sheer amount of blood, gore, and violence are enough to make even the strongest of us squirm in our seats. To date, they are some of the most profitable horror movies ever made.
You would think that a Steven Speilberg film highlighting the significance of the Holocaust would be practically mandatory viewing for history buffs. Well, the people of Indonesia would disagree. In fact, the country banned the whole film when it was made. But why?
They claimed that the film was ‘too sympathetic to the Jewish cause’. While it was obviously going to be sympathetic to Jews and their history, it is surprising that a country would not want to promote that.
As far as our research goes, this is the only James Bond film that was banned in a country. If you need to know what caused the 1965 film to get banned, then all you need to do is ask Israel.
It turns out that Israel pulled Goldfinger from cinemas after six weeks after it was revealed that one of the actors, Gert Frobe, had past ties to Nazism. A few months later, the film was unbanned after a Jewish man told the Vienna Embassy that Frobe had helped hide him during the war.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is one of the most financially and critically successful documentaries of all time. Well, you can thank the world’s audience for that. Except for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Michael Moore film was banned from those two countries after its release in 2004.
It turns out that they didn’t like the way Moore was critical of the Iraq War and of Saudi Arabia’s royal family. Even though those two regions banned it, the film still managed to make shockwaves around the world.
Milk stars Sean Penn in the autobiographical drama about Harvey Milk – the first openly gay person to be elected into public office in California. While the 2009 film was a celebration for the expansion of civil rights for most parts of the world, Milk remained banned by Romania and Samoa.
It wasn’t initially explained why the film was banned from Samoa, but the country later clarified that it was ‘inappropriate and contradictory to Christian beliefs’. They made special note of the sex scenes included in the film.
Sex and the City 2
If you ever find yourself in Vietnam, don’t expect to see posters for Sex and the City 2 anywhere! The 2010 rom-com movie was banned by Vietnam for being a conflict in ‘cultural values’ for the nation.
Sex and the City 2 was the sequel the spin-off film from the successful HBO television show of the same name. While it wasn’t considered as successful as its predecessor, the film made almost $300 million around the world.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey was the 2015 film adaptation of the book of the same name. The highly anticipated film was a critical failure but financial success – leading to two mediocre sequels. However, lonely housewives in Zimbabwe, Cambodia, and Indonesia had to miss out on the fun.
This is because they banned its release in cinemas due to the explicit content of the sex scenes between the actors. Some cities offered screenings with edited footage, although it wasn’t a popular alternative for cinemagoers.
What could possibly be so bad about Shrek 2? The animated film stars an ogre and his wife as they travel to Far, Far, Away and meet a group of mythical creatures. So why is it that Israel banned the film’s release in 2004?
One character threatens to ‘perform a David Daor’ on someone, implying a castration. This might be pretty dark for a kids’ film and Israel agreed. They demanded the joke was taken out about Daor, a famous singer, before it could be released in Israeli cinemas.
Rocketman highlights the life of British rock icon Elton John. It’s pretty safe to say that a film about his life would contain a few references to his wild lifestyle in the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly for Samoa, they would never get the chance to see what he got up to.
The country banned the release of Rocketman due to the graphic sex scenes and drug use portrayed in the film. The country doesn’t approve of the inclusion of gay sex in the story and didn’t want to release a version with it edited out.
The Simpsons Movie
It’s hard to imagine something like The Simpsons ever being banned by countries for its content. The longest-running cartoon of all time has been on our screens for 30 consecutive years – so what made the film so special?
Well, it turns out that Myanmar (Burma) banned the release of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie – as well as the broadcast of the whole show! The reasons actually had nothing to do with the content of the material. The Simpsons is banned due to the “juxtaposition of the colors yellow and red”, which they interpret as support for political rebel groups.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Here’s another beloved film that wasn’t banned by one film, but actually by three! It turns out that not everyone thought ET was a cute and loveable alien. Authorities in Sweden, Norway, and Finland banned the film from anyone under the age of 12 – but why?
They felt that the family might have scared young children and so they banned young kids from watching the movie in cinemas. Also, Nordic traditions didn’t approve of how the film portrayed ‘adults as enemies of children’. Can you imagine not watching this growing up?