Controversial Movie Scenes That Crossed The Line
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
Sarah Kennedy's Performance In 'The Telephone Book' Was Too Raw For Audiences
Swedish Actress Britt Ekland Turned Heads in 'The Wicker Man'
Horror films, by their very nature of trying to induce shock and terror in the viewing audience, have long been renowned for their ability to push the limits of what is deemed publicly acceptable on screen. The 1963 British horror movie The Wicker Man was no exception. It follows a missing girl on a remote Scottish island where the inhabitants have turned to ancient Celtic paganism rather than Christianity as the protagonist attempts to resuce the missing the girl, played by the pictured Britt Ekland. The film was lauded (and still is) as a colossus of horror movies.
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)
Natalie Wood Gets A Little Too Groovy In 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice'
'Caligula'... The First Erotic Epic From Penthouse
Elizabeth Montgomery as the lead character in 'The Legend of Lizzie Borden' (1975)
Murder mysteries are a genre whose popularity has remained consistent throughout the generations. Tales of murder often lend themselves to questions about ethics, revenge, justifiable violence, psychology, and so on, and can often be controversial in how they ask these questions as well as being quite explicit. The 1975 film The Legend of Lizzie Borden was an example of this. The film follows a still unsolved murder from the 1890’s in New England. The prime suspect was played by Elizabeth Montgomery, who was depicted committing the murders in the film while in the nude, which was censored for American viewers.
Girl Power in 'Faster, Pussycat Kill! Kill!'
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. '
Brooke Shields as a 12-Year-Old Prostitute In 'Pretty Baby'
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
'99 Women' Earned An Early X-Rating
The above pictured and highly controversial film 99 Women is another example of how prison, especially women in prison can be used as a lens to examine the themes of hierarchy, sexuality, and so forth. 99 Women contained some very explicit sexual scenes to this end. However, unlike Chained Heat, the film was not well regarded, as it was viewed as explicit to no real end or purpose and although it achieved some financial success, it has none been particularly well remembered or preserved.
Jane Fonda Stuns In 'Barbarella'
'Bicycle Thieves' Earned Condemnation For a Few Shocking Scenes
'Black Sunday' Remains A Shocking Piece of Italian Horror
Faye Dunaway Brings The Heat to the Very Bloody 'Bonnie and Clyde'
'Cannibal Holocaust' is One Of the Few Horror Films That Was Actually Put On Trial
Some films create and innovate a new style of filmmaking that makes them standout. The 1980 Italian film Cannibal Holocaust was the first major “found footage” film, that is essentially a film that seems as though it is discovered firsthand documentary footage. The film was incredibly controversial due it’s depictions of cannibalism, violence towards animals, and sexual assault. It was banned in Italy and the director was charged with obscenity. It has developed a following due to its innovative concept and the found footage style later gained fame in films such as The Blair Witch Project.
Pam Grier Is Truly Mighty In 'Coffy'
Al Pacino's Turn As A Gay Hustler In 'Cruising' Made LGBTQ Audiences Furious
The latter half of the 20th century and increasing awareness and openness around LGBTQ issues opened up the possibility for films to be made about it. The 1980 film Cruising, starring the above pictured Al Pacino, follows a cop who goes undercover into New York City’s gay subculture to try and find a serial killer who has been murdering gay man. The film saw some success, but was heavily protested by the gay community for what was felt to be demeaning and stereotypical depictions
'The Deer Hunter' Showed The Brutality Of The Vietnam War
The Vietnam war, notorious for its brutality and horror, has been the subject of an immense number of films that seek to comment on war and the psychological effects of it. Few achieve this as deeply and transfixingly as 1978’s The Deer Hunter. It follows the experience of three soldiers captured by North Vietnam who are forced to play Russian roulette for the entertainment of their captors. Although successful and acclaimed, it was immensely controversial for it’s depiction of the North Vietnamese and the United States’ role in the war.
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.
'Flesh For Frankenstein' Faced Controversial Edits In Multiple Countries
Ed Wood's 'Glen Or Glenda' Remains Shocking To This Day
'John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!' Faced A Lawsuit For Bringing "Immeasurable Damage" To Notre Dame
'I Am Curious (Yellow)' Faced Censorship At Every Turn For Its Shocking Show Of Skin
'I Spit On Your Grave' Is Too Intense For Audiences To This Day
'Last Tango in Paris' Created International Controversy Upon Its Release
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'
Jayne Mansfield Stars In 'Promises! Promises!' The First Hollywood Film To Feature A Star In The Buff
Jack Nicholson Goes Full Hippie in 'Psych-Out'
'Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom' Remains A Brutal Viewing
Sam Peckinpah's 'Straw Dogs' Turned Audiences Off With Its Intense Sexuality and Violence
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.