Won’t somebody please think of the children?!
Banning movies is by no means a new thing: if you can release something, you can ban something. We’re in a current slump of movie releases, not because they’re all nasty gory porno flicks, but because Covid has us on lockdown. We’re banned from going outside, so if you can track it down, why don’t we list some movies that were banned for you to seek out? Fight the power from the comfort of your sofa.
A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick, 1971
Banned from: 1973 – 1999
This one is a little more complicated than a simple banning. It wasn’t so much banned as withdrawn from the UK a whole two years after it’s initial release following a request from director Stanley Kubrick. Though originally thought to be because of copycat violence, it was actually because of death threats Kubrick’s family received.
Following this the film was not shown in the UK on his demands until his death in 1999 following the release of Eyes Wide Shut. But it’s fine, A Clockwork Orange is widely considered a masterpiece, a favourite of Kubrick fans and naysayers alike, made the career of Malcolm McDowell and brought renewed interest to the book by Anthony Burgess.
Sergio Corbucci, 1966
Banned from: 1969 – 1993
The film that launched Franco Nero’s career, and a shameless cash-grab on the Spaghetti Western craze following Leone’s brilliance. This loose take on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo was banned due to excessive violence and the moral tone. Since the distributor refused to make the cuts the BBFC demanded, it remained unreleased until 1993 when it was released on VHS as an 18, and on DVD in 2004 as a 15. The film itself is itself a fairly workaday shoot ‘em up western with a cool central character and clearly made an impression on Quentin Tarantino, but isn’t much more than a curiosity.
Sam Peckinpah, 1971
Banned from: 1971 – 2002
Famous for Dustin Hoffman’s bedraggled nerd on the poster with his smashed glasses, this rape-revenge thriller taken from the novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon M. Williams, Peckinpah co-wrote the film that was infamous as one of his most violent and nihilistic films. Though originally released with an X following a few cuts, the Video Recordings Act made it impossible to get it released due to rape scenes that were “positively” depicted.
The film was not widely released for many years; following cuts and re-attempts to appease the Board of Film Classification the film was finally released uncut in 2002, but remains controversial for the brutal violence, implication that village folk are savages and the suggestive rape. Despite this, it proved influential enough to be referenced in things as varied as The Hills Have Eyes and The Simpsons. A remake was made in the early 2010s to negative reviews.
The Panic in Needle Park
Jerry Schatzberg 1971
Banned from: 1971 – 1974
The first leading role for Al Pacino in only his second film was a controversial one. Banned in the UK for three years until finally being slapped with an X rating. The film was forced to make several cuts, due to its frank depiction of drug abuse, including mushrooms, cannabis and injection of illegal substances, which are not permitted if they a positive message or are instructional. Given the true-story nature, this was why the film was banned and then cut. The film now remains an underrated work for Pacino that many have been holding the torch for, but moreover, is now uncut.
Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom
Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975
Banned from: 1975 – 2000
Taking inspiration from book by the Marquis de Sade, this is certainly a controversial film. Referred to as a horror art film, this World War II film was Pasolini’s final outing before his murder, and is infamous for its intense depictions of violence, sadism, sexual deviance and murder.
The excessive nudity and violence along with biting comments on the political and socio-historical also made it hard to classify. It’s now no longer banned, and available on DVD or Blu Ray and is considered an art masterpiece, but for the most part, it’s just an excessive and nasty film.
Andrzej Zulawski, 1981
Banned from: 1981 – 1991
Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani star in this film which follows a spy and his wife who begins to show distributing behaviour after asking for a divorce. The film’s violence had it banned for a decade, the film’s subtext proved elusive to many people and some comment that a scene in which Adjani laughs and throws herself against the wall of a subway has proved to be too much for many people, but has found cult success after it was championed by many people, including Mark Kermode.
The Evil Dead
Sam Raimi, 1983
Banned from: 1983 – 1990
Banned thanks to the likes of Mary Whitehouse and holding the distinction of being the first “Video Nasty”, Raimi’s horror debut remained banned for many years thanks in no small part to graphic violence, intense horror and the famous sequence of a woman being assaulted by a tree. Eventually, when people calmed down and stopped thinking movies were going to possess us, the film got released and people loved it, and no trees assaulted anyone.
I Spit on Your Grave
Meir Zarchi, 1978
Banned from: 1984 – 1991
Perhaps best known now for the poster image of a woman from behind with her buttocks on show – Demi Moore according to her memoir – the rape revenge thriller was banned due to it’s violence, it’s nasty depictions of a woman being gang raped and how it watches with perverse pleasure. A cut version was released in 2001 where it could be shown in cinemas. The film was kicked around time, famously Roger Ebert called it “a vile bag of garbage”, a remake came along in 2010 and was just as awful.
Ruggero Deodato, 1980
Banned from: 1984 – 2001
You know that bit in Kong: Skull Island where the spider-tree monster stands in that dude, and it’s bamboo leg goes right through his mouth and skewers him? That’s a Cannibal Holocaust reference. The original found footage movie was believed to be a snuff film. Arrested for obscenity, director Deodato had to prove that it was a movie and that no one had died during production.
The film was released with 5 minutes of cuts and 44 seconds. Much of it came from actual accounts of violence towards animals, which the BBFC take particular issue with. But the film has remained an inspiration to found footage films and cannibal films, and is a favourite of Eli Roth who referenced it in his The Green Inferno, so do with that information what you will.
A Cat in the Brain
Lucio Fulci, 1990
Banned from: 1999 – 2003
Fulci makes gross movies anyway, but this meta-film sees him playing himself as a tortured filmmaker who loses his grip of the world and violence happens. The film was banned due to unacceptable levels of violence, and watching even twenty minutes proves they were right. Fulci isn’t exactly a mainstream director anyway so it doesn’t much matter but if you like nasty movies, this might be one to check out.
Koji Shiraishi 2009
Banned from: 2009 – Present
Thanks to its depictions of sexual torture which the censors do not like, this Japanese horror film remains banned, and will likely remain that way for some time. The censors found that unlike others of the same ilk such as Hostel or Saw the film did not have enough contextualised reasoning for its sadistic images. Since that’s basically the whole film, we might never see it.
The Human Centipede 2
Tom Six, 2011
Banned from: 2011
A gross sequel to a gross film and forms the mid-part of a gross trilogy, this one was banned due to sexual violence, scenes of forced defecation and a scene where someone masturbates with a piece of sandpaper. The film is quote unquote meta in that someone who watches the original film becomes obsessed and wants to make their own.
After some back and forth, the film was released with 32 cuts over two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, and, of course, with 18 age rating attached. It got awful reviews, because, much like the other two films in the series, it’s sexist, gross, filled with bad acting, and poorly written.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.