Classic Movie Scenes That Pushed The Boundaries
By | January 20, 2023
Elizabeth Montgomery as the lead character in 'The Legend of Lizzie Borden' (1975)
Today, hardly a day goes by where there is no controversy or public debate about whether or not various films or other programs have crossed a line of what is acceptable to depict on film. Such debates consume an enormous amount of the public’s collective consciousness, and it seems sometimes that it’s all we ever do. It is easy to forget, however, that such debates are as old as film itself.
Many films over the decades have been controversial for their depictions of various things. Excessive violence, sexual themes, and use of questionable language in films have been magnets for public debate around their suitability to be shown and whether or not they degrade society through their being shown. This list is a journey back in time and an examination of some films from yesterday that fit that description.
'Onibaba' Remains One Of The Most Horrifying Films Of The 1960s
Before 'Wonder Woman'... Lynda Carter In 'Bobbi Jo and the Outlaw'
Lynda Carter is most famous for her role as Wonder Woman, but it was not her feature film debut. That came a few months after the release of Wonder Woman in the film Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw. It follows Carter as a young, amateur country music singer, who escapes her life as a waitress and joins with Lyle, played by Marjoe Gortner, who fancies himself a modern day Billy the Kid. They are eventually joined by her sister and her boyfriend and embrace a life of crime. The film was notorious for some explicit scenes featuring Carter.
'A Clockwork Orange' Was Pulled From Theaters In The UK By Its Director, Stanley Kubrick
'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' Brought Exploitation Cinema To The Mainstream
Behind The Scenes With Madeline Kahn and Mel Brooks on 'Blazing Saddles' (1974)
Jamie Lee Curtis As The Ultimate Final Girl In 'Halloween'
Halloween has long been a cliché setting within which to set a horror film. The apex of this notion is the 1978 classic Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis, as this picture shows, in her film debut, and others such as Michael Meyers. The film is lauded as a classic of the horror genre and was even selected by the Library of Congress as being worthy of special preservation. It was controversial at the time due to the sexual themes in the film, but has stood the test of time as being one of the better horror films ever made.
"Marriage functions best when both partners remain somewhat unmarried." -Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, 1966
The behavior of celebrities has always been a cause for public debate and controversy on ethics and personal decisions due to the fact celebrity behavior is covered by tabloids and is always in the public eye. The public often loves nothing more than they do a celebrity scandal, particularly one regarding an affair. Sometimes, controversial statements on subjects like this from celebrities become hot button subjects of debate. This quote by the pictured actress Claudia Cardinale, justifying infidelity, is a great example thereof.
'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' (1975)
Comedy and senses of humor change from generation to generation: often, something one generation finds hysterical will be found to be utterly boring by the next. Some films, however, stand the test of time and become classics of comedy. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one such film that has never gone out of fashion. The film follows parodies of King Arthur and his court trying to find the illusive holy grail, and their adventures along the way. Since it’s release, it has secured a place on the Mount Rushmore of all-time comedies, but remains controversial to some due to it’s language and themes and the subjects it mocks.
Raquel Welch Courts Controversy In 'Myra Breckinridge'
Is 'Possession' The Scariest Movie of All Time?
PJ Soles, Joey Ramone Goofing Around in between scenes in 'Rock N Roll High School'
Peter Fonda Courts The Counter Culture in 'The Trip'
The counter-culture movement of the mid to late 1960’s generated no shortage of controversy. The use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD by the counter-cultural community was emblematic of this. The above pictured appropriately titled 1967 film The Trip examined the use of LSD and its effects. Written by the legendary Jack Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda, the film was immensely popular and well received for it’s depiction of the drug but quite controversial when it was released due to the fact it explored and promoted the drug at all. '
Audiences Are Still Scandalized By 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'
Sybil Danning Stuns In 'Chained Heat'
The Graduate Shocked Audiences With Its Winter-Summer Romance
'Bicycle Thieves' Earned Condemnation For a Few Shocking Scenes
'Black Sunday' Remains A Shocking Piece of Italian Horror
The Violence Of 'Django' Turned the Western Genre Upside Down
'The Evil Dead' Made Audiences Run From Theaters
No Art Film Shocked Audiences Like 'Flaming Creatures'
Underground artistic films are often breeding grounds for boundary pushing controversy. The pictures 1963 experimental film Flaming Creatures is the absolute picture of this phenomenon. The film is a loosely structured collection of scenes in which most of the characters are dressed in drag. The various scenes are quite graphic, particularly some that have vivid and explicit sexual content. The filmmakers were charged with obscenity and the it was banned, but as a result of this it became a symbol of fighting against such laws and therefore famous as a result.
'John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!' Faced A Lawsuit For Bringing "Immeasurable Damage" To Notre Dame
The Religious Text In 'Life of Brian' Set Off Alarm Bells Across The World
Sue Lyon Made Audiences Salivate In 'Lolita'
'Midnight Cowboy' Is The Only X-Rated Film To Win an Academy Award
The Brutality Of 'Peeping Tom' Shocked British Audiences in 1960
Divine Still Shocks Audiences With the Final Scene of 'Pink Flamingos'
Jack Nicholson Goes Full Hippie in 'Psych-Out'
No Film Shocks As Much As 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'
'The Devils' Was Built To Stir Controversy
'The Exorcist' Convinced Audiences That The Devil Wanted Their Souls
The MPAA Hated 'The Moon is Blue'
The 1950’s was a time of strict cultural conformity and frowned upon controversy and movies pushing the limits of social acceptability. For this reason, the 1953 movie The Moon is Blue was a controversial one. It follows a young unmarried woman who goes to the apartment of two older playboy men. They are disappointed when their efforts to win her over fail as she much prefers to discuss the hot button cultural issues around sexuality of the day. The discussion of these topics on film made it a controversial release.
Marlon Brando In 'The Wild One'
Cybill Shepherd Turned Heads In 'The Last Picture Show'
The counterculture and post counter-culture years of the late 1960’s and 70’s led to movies and other art taking a more critical look at the decades that came before, such as the 1950’s, when explicit films were far more taboo. An example of this is the 1971 teenage coming of age drama The Last Picture Show. The film followed a group of high schoolers in Texas during the early 1950’s and the latter stages of their teenage years. It generated some controversy due to it’s sexual content, but overall, is regarded as an excellent film that portrays the slings and arrows of adolescence well. Famed critic Roger Ebert even named it the best movie of 1971.
'The Wild Angels' Brought Biker Hedonism To The Big Screen
'Titicut Follies' Exposed The Horrific Conditions In Mental Hospitals... and Was Condemned For Doing So
Often times, governments are far more interested in trying to censor documentaries directly investigating societal issues than they are in doing so with provocative films. Titicut Follies was a documentary that was released in 1967 that investigated and shed light on a mental hospital in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Frederick Wiseman produced and directed the film, and it exposed the awful conditions of the facility. The state of Massachusetts went to great lengths to block its release, stating that it violated the inmates right to privacy. It was not until 1992 that it was publicly shown on PBS.
Disney's 'The Vanishing Prairie' Got Almost Became Extinct Thanks To The Censorship Board
The Focus On Homosexuality In 'Victim' Made It A Target Of Censorship Boards In the US and the UK
Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau Get Revolutionary in 'Viva Maria!'
'The Wild Bunch' Proved To Be Too Bloody For Censors
Charles Bronson Stars In 'Death Wish,' A Film That Critics Felt Went Too Far
The crime wave of the late 1960’s made the issue a highly salient one in the public eye. As such, films addressing the issue became popular. Few achieved as much success as 1974’s Death Wish starring Paul Bronson. It follows a man whose wife and daughter are murdered on their way home by criminals. Bronson’s character embraces vigilante justice and hunts down criminals to kill them. The film was controversial for its violence but was highly successful.