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20 Movies Banned in the United States

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Newsweek
20 Movies Banned in the United States – Which Bette Midler Movie?
BY JAMIE BURTON
8/5/21


Life of Brian

Movies can be heartwarming, uplifting, and entertaining, but they can also be disturbing, controversial, and downright shocking. Over the history of cinema, many movies have been deemed too offensive to be seen by audiences and subsequently banned to protect viewers.

Whether for political reasons, acts of indecency, or because of religious beliefs, films of all types can find themselves in trouble and receive a ban before they’re even released.

Here’s a list of 20 movies that caused a stir and were duly banned in the United States of America.

The Birth of a Nation – 1915


The Birth of a Nation – 1915

An incredibly important film in the history of cinema and in American history, The Birth of a Nation was originally called The Clansman.

The silent movie was banned in several American cities for its racist content and portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan. Many of the black characters seen on screen are played by white actors in blackface, and it also shows African American men as sexually aggressive toward white women. Meanwhile, KKK members are portrayed as the heroes of the movie.

Although controversial, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry because it is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”Birth of a Nation was a technical advancement in cinema history, but it contains incredibly outdated views. David W. Griffith Corp

Birth Control – 1917


Birth Control – 1917

The movie was produced by and starred sexual health activist and educator Margaret Sanger. She decided to make a film about birth control and family planning.

The New York Court of Appeals agreed the movie had to be censored “in the interest of morality, decency, and public safety and welfare.”

Häxan – 1922


Häxan – 1922

This Swedish silent horror movie was banned for seven years after its production because of its use of torture, nudity, and its themes of witchcraft and Satanism.

It was frequently banned or censored when released in countries outside of Sweden.

Scarface – 1932


Scarface – 1932

1932’s Scarface starred Paul Muni as Tony Camonte in the lead role. David W. Griffith Corp

Not the Al Pacino version. The original Scarface was based loosely on the 1929 novel Armitage Trail.

The movie was censored by some states and banned in five others for its glorification of crime.

Ecstacy – 1933


Ecstacy – 1933

This Czech film was banned for its highly suggestive content. This included showing sexual intercourse and female orgasm, although it never showed more than the actor’s face. The film wouldn’t play in the United States until 1935 when it was censored in many states and banned in Pennsylvania altogether.

Ossessione – 1943


Ossessione – 1943

Ossessione fell foul of copyright issues and was banned in the U.S. for 33 years. The Italian movie is based on the James M. Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice to which MGM owned the rights.

Lost Boundaries – 1949


Lost Boundaries – 1949

This movie was banned in Atlanta and Memphis for its racial themes. It was reported to be banned because it was liable to “create dissension and strife between members of the white and colored races, and would be likely to cause disorders, disturbances, and clashes between the races.”

The Vanishing Prairie – 1954


The Vanishing Prairie – 1954

Not many Walt Disney programs are very controversial in the United States, but this documentary managed to get banned in New York. The movie about pioneers on the Oregon Trail upset some people because it showed a buffalo giving birth. The ban was eventually lifted after a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Viva Maria! – 1963


Viva Maria! – 1963

Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau starred in this adventure comedy movie that was banned in Dallas for its sexual and anti-Catholic content.

Titicut Follies – 1967


Titicut Follies – 1967

“Titicut Follies” was taken out of distribution for the invasion of privacy of inmates at a prison for the criminally insane. Zipporah Films, Inc.

This documentary movie about criminally insane prison inmates was banned from distribution because it was considered a violation of the privacy for the patients featured.

It was banned from distribution in Massachusetts by court order.

I am Curious (Yellow) – 1967


I am Curious (Yellow) – 1967

The state of Massachusetts banned this movie about the sexual awakening of a young girl as it was classed as pornography. The Supreme Court eventually overturned the ban and the obscenity rules for films as a whole changed shortly after that.

Pink Flamingos – 1972


Pink Flamingos – 1972

John Waters’ movie shocked many audiences with its graphic and obscene content. New Line Cinema

John Waters’s comedy was banned across many towns in America for 25 years. Its portrayal of homosexuality, explicit sexual content, animal cruelty, and inclusion of the lead character eating dog feces turned many a stomach. His next dark comedy Female Trouble was also reportedly banned for similar themes.

The Thorn – 1974


The Thorn - 1974 - Bette Midler - Banned Movies
The Thorn – 1974

This religious satire was banned after being re-released in 1974 because of how it exploited the fame of one of the stars, Bette Midler.

The film was legally challenged on the grounds that its title and advertising deceptively exploited Midler’s fame. Its release was blocked in the United States, but it did get shown overseas.

The Tin Drum – 1979

German film The Tin Drum was briefly banned in Oklahoma and Canada after its release when a district court judge decided the film contained child pornography. The scene it was banned for allegedly depicted oral sex between an underage boy and a grown woman.

The movie did go on to win the Best Foreign Language award at the Oscars.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian – 1979


Life of Brian

One of the most famously controversial movies of all time, this British comedy irked many people in the Christian community for its depiction of the story of Christ. It was banned in many small towns across America, but can widely be seen now and is considered a comedy classic.

Cannibal Holocaust – 1980


Cannibal Holocaust – 1980

The title may give away the reason why this Italian movie was banned in several countries. The found-footage style film featured intense gore and was investigated after its release to determine whether the scenes were staged or real.

Seven animals were also killed during the production of the movie with six of those deaths seen on screen. The animals killed included a large turtle, a squirrel monkey, a pig, and a boa constrictor.

The Last Temptation of Christ – 1988


The Last Temptation of Christ – 1988

Martin Scorsese’s epic movie imagines what life would have been like for Jesus had he not sacrificed himself and died on the cross. Willem Defoe plays Jesus with Harvey Keitel starring as Judas. David Bowie also features as Pontius Pilate.

City leaders in Savannah, Georgia, got the film banned in their town for six weeks, but it went on to get a worldwide release anyway.

The Profit – 2001


The Profit – 2001

The Church of Scientology blocked the release of this movie for five years. The film borrowed elements of the life of Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard, and it was claimed the movie could taint the jury pool in the inquest into the death of former member Lisa McPherson.

Hillary: The Movie – 2008


Hillary: The Movie – 2008

Produced by conservative group Citizens United, the release of this video-on-demand documentary was blocked. That’s because it was due out in January 2008 and was classed as an electioneering communication as it mentioned a candidate within 30 days of a primary.

This was a violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

The Yes Men Fix the World – 2009


The Yes Men Fix the World – 2009

A film created by the societal and political activists The Yes Men, it was the subject of legal action by the United States Chamber of Commerce over its content.

In order to get around a ban, The Yes Men made the movie available on the internet through BitTorrent and torrent websites. Written by and starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Carol Cleveland, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” caused uproar across the globe in Christian communities. Cinema International Corporation

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One thought on “20 Movies Banned in the United States

  1. “THE THORN” was originally released as “THE DIVINE MR J” in the early seventies. It was released on VHS as “THE THORN” in the early 80’s.

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