Here’s Why These Films Were Banned From Movie Theaters
Movies are a staple of entertainment, and since the movie theater became such a popular space to enjoy movies, there has always been controversy surrounding what movies they decide to screen for a mass audience. Even with the MPAA rating system in place, there are still a lot of movies that theaters have refused to show and for a plethora of reasons.
We’re taking a look back at the most interesting, and often surprising movies that theaters wouldn’t show. In some cases, these movies were banned by entire countries and in others, the films were only denied by a few theaters.
The Interview Came Under Threat Of Violence For Theaters
The threat of terrorism is definitely a good reason to cancel a movie showing, but when that movie is a huge blockbuster comedy that’s highly anticipated, the public can get a little angry. That’s what happened when The Interview wasn’t allowed to be screened across the United States.
The reasons that many of the big movie theater groups wouldn’t show it was public safety – saying that they felt uncomfortable knowing that a group of hackers had threatened to attack any theater that screened the film.
A Clockwork Orange Was Too Violent For Some Countries To Handle
Now noted as one of the best movies in Hollywood history, this groundbreaking movie was extremely controversial for its time. Even now, watching it is very shocking. The portrayal of violence and sociopathic behaviors made many theaters pull or outright refuse to show the film.
It was also banned in many countries including Ireland and Singapore, due to its awful depictions of violent crime. These days you can see it in the theater and even on stage, with many theaters reintroducing A Clockwork Orange and hailing it as a cult classic.
Scarface Stereotyped Italians
When we mention Scarface, most people think of the 1983 movie starring Al Pacino. However, prior to this version, there was an original that was created back in the 1930s. Although it was a popular movie amongst those who had seen it, and it was based on a hugely successful book that came before it, many movie theatres chose not to show it because of the movie’s negative and controversial stereotyping.
Many Italian-Americans didn’t want to see the movie portraying Italians as gangsters and dangerous types as they thought it reflected badly on them and stirred cultural tensions. Many movie theatres respected their viewpoint and didn’t show the film.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Was Banned And Highly Censored Based On Location
It probably won’t surprise you to find out that this masterpiece was banned in many theaters. Whilst it’s still one of the most popular and highly regarded horror movies ever made, the original chainsaw massacre was deemed too violent and disgusting to be shown in theaters.
West Germany and Singapore completely banned the film due to it’s explicit violence, and in other countries outside the US it was censored to make it less offensive.
Monty Python’s Life Of Brian Was Banned In Norway And Ireland
Another movie that hit the headlines for inciting religious controversy and disrupting the peace was Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The satire is a hilarious comedy about a man who is mistaken for Christ. It’s very tongue in cheek, but many thought that it was degrading to multiple religions and shouldn’t be shown.
Citing their reasons for not showing it as blasphemy, Norway and Ireland both banned the movie from theaters when it was first released.
Brokeback Mountain Was Banned In The South And Various Countries Outside The U.S.
This amazing movie gained a lot of press – both good and bad – for its depiction of a gay relationship. Although it was released in 2005, the movie still caused a lot of controversies and was not shown in some theaters due to its depiction of gay cowboys.
It particularly disturbed theater-goers in the South, who take their religion and cowboy history very seriously – both of which they thought the movie disrespected. Outside fo the US the movie was also banned for its portrayal of homosexuality.
The Evil Dead Is A Cult Classic That Didn’t Get Much Love From Theaters
This shocking movie was not known for being shown in movie theater as its violent and disturbing plot became a bit of a taboo. Hardly any theaters in America showed the movie when it was originally released in 1981. Since that time it has become a popular cult classic that has fostered many spinoffs.
It’s full or torture, violence and generally not very nice things, so we’re not surprised that it made it onto this list.
Last Tango In Paris Was Deemed Inappropriate For The Big Screen
Once again, sexual content has placed this film on the list of movies that theaters wouldn’t show. It was banned in many countries because of its explicit nature, however, in the US it was well-received as a cult classic.
It follows the love affair between a French woman and American man, however, some movie theatres chose not to show it because of the eroticism that they deemed inappropriate for the screen.
Beauty And The Beast Was Banned In An Alabama Theater
The banning of this movie in Alabama is one of the more surprising and shocking on the list. One drive-in theatre thought that the character of LeFou was portrayed as gay – which they did not like one bit.
This homophobic banning shocked people while the theater’s owner said it was banned to protect children from seeing sin. The very Christian culture of that particular movie theater and location made the gay portrayal too much to handle.
The Last Temptation Of Christ Angered The Christian Community
If you’ve seen this film, you’ll know why it caused a lot of controversy amongst Christians. The movie depicts Christ going through very human conflicts, whilst being God. He struggles with the notion that he could live a happy normal life, and in parts shuns being God and doubts religion.
Christians were not happy about this depiction, which to them seemed entirely fictitious. It was banned in theatres all over the world including three in the US and many others abroad. One theatre was even set on fire by Catholic fanatics after the movie was screened.
Another very tragic and shocking film that was banned from a movie theater was Slender Man. This time the movie theater’s reasoning sounded fair. The movie is about a character who was created off the back of a meme, which prompted two 12-year-old girls to stab their friend 19 times.
Incredibly, the girl survived. But seeing as the violence happened so close to home for a Wisconsin theater company, they decided not to show it out of respect for the victim and so as not to incite any more violence.
Borat Was banned By Arab Countries
Who can forget the loveable and hilarious Borat? This character was controversial but very, very funny and brought something completely fresh to the big screen. However, whilst it was a major hit in the US, many Arab countries banned it and wouldn’t show it at all due to the connotations of the Cohen regime.
In America, a handful of theaters didn’t show it because it was too controversial, however, for the most part, it was considered a hit!
Back in 1915, a woman named Margaret Sanger decided to write and direct a film to display her work on contraception for women. The film was shown once at a private theater and was then banned by movie theaters. There was even a law made against the film that claimed it was too inappropriate for public consumption.
The law came into place so that films didn’t fall under the first amendment, meaning that they could be made illegal. As a result, the movie was never again shown in theaters, despite the decision to ban the film being overturned in the 1950s.
The Vanishing Prairie Was A Disney Banned Film In New York
In the 1940s, Disney created a few short movies about the West and all the beauty that can be found there. They were a hit, however movie theaters in New York decided that the images of animals were too graphic, and banned the movie.
The main issue was a buffalo giving birth, which was considered too graphic to be shown on the big screen. At the time, people found the ban a little strange, and New York theaters were eventually allowed to screen the movie.
Ecstasy Was Too Much For A 1930s Crowd To Handle
Compared to the kinds of movies we are exposed to now, and with the rise of the internet meaning we can get our hands on anything, this movie wouldn’t be that shocking to us. However, in 1933 when this movie came out intercourse and female nudity was not to be discussed or viewed in public.
As a result, the movie, which featured a woman naked running around a field, was banned from movie theaterss and was banned for viewing completely in the US until 1940.
I Am Curious (Yellow) Was Seized By US Customs
This movie was pretty groundbreaking for its time, and like the above movie, it caused a lot of controversy due to its sexual nature. The title is a good give away for what the movie is about – it follows a young lady who discovers her sexuality and becomes invested in various social issues as well.
It’s set in Stockholm and features an interview with Martin Luther King, who was randomly visiting at the time of filming. It was banned because of its sexual nature and was even seized by US customs. The ban was lifted in 1969.
Battle Royale Depicted Too Much Violence Among Children
If you want to watch something scary, eerie and a little bit disturbing then Battle Royale is for you. It’s often compared to the Hunger Games and involves a lot of violence that was deemed too much for many theaters in the US.
That being said, the movie did gain cult status in Japan and became known around the world. It is now regarded as one of Japan’s most successful films.
Hail Mary Undermined Christianity And Was Banned All Over The World
This is another film that got in trouble for blasphemy, due to its explicit sexual portrayals that put the Virgin Mary into a modern context to display the story. The movie is intelligently shot and has been praised for its art, however, in the early days hardly any theatres would show the film due to its religious connotations.
Theaters wouldn’t show it in the US and outside of the US countries like Brazil and Argentina banned it completely on the grounds that it undermined religion.
Fat Girl Was Banned Over The Age Of Its Actresses
This indie movie was not shown in very many US theatres due to its disturbing depiction of female sexuality. The most intimate scenes in the movie are thought to be highly inappropriate for the movie theater due to the age of the girls involved.
Many theatres feared that although it was artistically crafted, the movie would be too controversial for viewers and they thought that many would find it very distasteful. Some theaters did show it, but it didn’t go down as a classic.
Forced Vengeance Is Banned In Finland
Countries like Finland had a bit of an issue regarding the strong subject matter and unnecessary gore. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times breaks the movie down, making it apparent why Finland would ban the film.
Thomas wrote that by the middle of the movie, “bone-crunching, flesh-ripping violence so dominates the screen that the film simply starts drowning in a sea of blood. By the end, it’s hard to care, let alone differentiate, between the good guys and the bad.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Had A Profit-Share Issue
A number of smaller movie theatres decided not to show the Star Wars movie that came out in 2017, due to the way that the revenue was split between the theatre and the makers of the movie.
Sadly, for small theatres, the 65% ticket revenue costs were just too much, and the demands like insisting the movie was shown for a minimum of four weeks in the largest auditorium made it difficult for smaller theatres to turn a profit.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny Was Also Released On Netflix
The sequel to the iconic movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, was released in 2015. But Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm from theaters as its predecessor.
Instead of solely being released to theaters, the studio decided to do something a bit unorthodox (at least for the time). The sequel film was released to Netflix at the same time it was put in theaters. As a result, Regal decided against showing the movie in its IMAX theaters.
Beasts of No Nation Had A Simultaneous Netflix Release
The 2015 release of Beasts of No Nation should have been a huge production. The film showcased the harrowing tale of child soldiers in South Africa. Unfortunately, some of the biggest theater companies in the country refused to screen the movie.
Carmike, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark all rejected the film and didn’t allow it in their theaters. The reason being that when Beasts of No Nation was released, it was also released to the streaming giant Netflix.
AMC And Regal Refused To Screen Roma
The 2018 drama Roma was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning for Best Director and Best Cinematography. It even became the first-ever Mexican entry to win Best Foreign Language Film. Despite its eventual critical acclaim, both AMC and Regal refused to screen the movie.
The theater companies’ refusal came when Netflix refused to eliminate the movie from its catalog upon the Oscar showcase screenings. Apparently, having Roma available to subscribers was enough to deter the two theaters, even though that’s where it was originally released.
Raya And The Last Dragon‘s Disney+ Release Was A Big No-No
Disney fans were very excited about the release of Raya and the Last Dragon. Unfortunately, the film came at a time in 2021 when theaters were still up in arms about bringing people in. Because of this, Disney decided to do something a bit different. They released the animated film to their streaming platform, Disney+.
This wound up greatly angering Cinemark theaters so much that they refused to screen the film in any of their 345 theaters during opening weekend!
AMC Refused To Screen Fast 9 And Other Universal Films
The year 2020 was strange for movie theaters. But even with stay-at-home orders, there were some companies that were not overly pleased when studios released their films to streaming services of on-demand platforms before screening them in theaters. One such company is AMC.
After the success of Trolls World Tour on VOD, AMC decided it would no longer screen Universal Studio’s films. They literally boycotted them! This included Fast 9 when it was finally released in 2021.
The Birth Of A Nation Was Banned In Many States
Considering The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915, there were bound to be some questionable aspects to the film. But even the production company probably couldn’t have expected the movie to be banned in a few states and big cities across the nation solely due to its racist content.
Upon its release, the silent film was banned from being screened in Kansas, West Virginia, Ohio, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Even so, the film was a huge commercial success.
I Am Curious Was Too Promiscuous
The Swedish film I Am Curious made its way to the United States in March of 1969. When it finally made its way across the pond, there was one state that wasn’t overly fond of the idea of showing it in family-friendly theaters.
I am Curious was very promiscuous with its content, showing one too many scenes that weren’t suitable for theaters during the time. So, Massachusetts decided to go ahead and ban the film.
The Thorn Exploited Bette Midler’s Fame
A lot happened with the 1971 film The Thorn. It was banned multiple times for various reasons. The first reason being that its original title, The Divine Mr. J, was pretty much exploiting Bette Midler’s growing fame as the Divine Miss M.
Ironically, that was the second time it was banned. The first time had to do with the fact that the entire premise of the film was a satire about Christian evangelism. Movie-goers didn’t appreciate it.
The Tin Drum Was Banned In Oklahoma
The 1979 film The Tin Drum is interesting. It’s about a boy who refuses to come into the world unless he is given a tin drum. Then, upon his third birthday, he wishes never to grow up; he’s granted his wish. Now, the film shows various scenes of physical intimacy which a particular state didn’t appreciate.
Oklahoma banned The Tin Drum, citing the state’s obscenity laws for portraying underage intimacy. Eventually, they turned over the ruling and began allowing the film.
Cannibal Holocaust Was Banned For Obvious Reasons
Finished in 1980, Cannibal Holocaust didn’t exactly make it far in terms of viewings. With its violent, provocative, and lewd content, many countries around the world weren’t interested in having the film within its borders, including the United States.
The film was banned in the United States for many years. Then, in 1985, exploitation distributor Trans American Films released an unrated version of the film. Later, Grindhouse Releasing released the film on both VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray.
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story Had A Copyright Lawsuit
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is a 1987 documentary discussing singer Karen Carpenter’s last 17 years of life and her struggles with anorexia. Originally, the film was well-received. It’s even become a cult classic. The thing is that it was taken out of circulation and banned in 1990.
Richard Carpenter had viewed the film and didn’t like how it portrayed his late sister or the rest of the family. As it turned out, Carpenter was able to bring director Todd Haynes to court for copyright infringement. He never asked to use the music from the Carpenter’s record label, A&M Records. Haynes lost the lawsuit, and the film was banned.
Ernest And Bertram Was Banned Due To Copyright Infringement
The 2002 spoof tragic comedy Ernest and Bertram brought viewers behind the scenes of Sesame Street and what could have happened had Bert and Ernie actually been more than just friends. The film was very well-received at the Sundance Film Festival. But, when it came time for the actual release, it wasn’t so simple.
The film was never released in theaters because the Sesame Workshop served producer David Spears with a cease and desist order for copyright violation!
The Profit Was First Banned In Florida
The 2001 movie The Profit is a spoof film parodying the Church of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. As one might assume, the Church didn’t appreciate being made fun of, so the Foundation for Religious Tolerance of Florida began protesting the film.
Eventually, the Church wound up blocking the film’s distribution in Florida. Then, as a result of the Lisa McPherson case in 2002, a Florida judge further banned the distribution of the film in the rest of the country. Eventually, the ban was lifted.
Titicut Follies Violates Privacy
In 1967, the documentary film Titicut Follies was released, showcasing the lives of the patient-inmates in Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminal instance. While the film was well-received and wound up winning awards, one state had an issue with the film.
In 1968, Massachusetts Superior Court judge Harry Kalus ordered that the film stop distributing across the state and that all copies be destroyed. His thought process was that the film violated the basic privacy rights of the inmates.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Was Pulled From Theaters
Silent Night, Deadly Night was one of the most controversial films to come out of the 1980s. The movie was about a young boy who suffered from PTSD after seeing his parents killed on Christmas Eve by some guy dressed as Santa. Well, parents across the country didn’t like the subject matter, especially since it was released around Christmas.
During theatrical screenings, people picketed outside. Eventually, advertisements for the film were pulled out of the papers, and theaters stopped showing the film. All of this within six days of its initial release!
Even With 25 Minutes Cut, Freaks Was Still Banned In Atlanta
Upon its initial test screening, the 1932 circus-themed film Freaks was considered too weird and grotesque to show to an audience. So, director Tod Browning went back and cut around 25 minutes of the 90-minute film. Still, there were people who didn’t think the movie was suitable for a theater.
Across the country, people were walking out of theaters and saying nothing but bad things about the film. Atlanta, Georgia, didn’t even find a need to put it in their theaters at all!
Häxan Was Banned From 1922-1929
In 1922, the silent horror film Häxan was released. The film tells the story of the origins of witchcraft, something that wasn’t an overly popular theme back in the day. The film was banned from 1922-1929 all throughout the United States.
But witchcraft wasn’t the only reason for it being banned. People also weren’t too keen on the themes of Satanic worship, graverobbing, or possessed nuns. Or the fact that there was some nudity involved throughout the story.
Party Girl Was Banned In Birmingham, Alabama
The 1930 film Party Girl follows the story of a businessman as he gets involved in some illegal activities with an escort agency. As it was 1930, many people didn’t enjoy how the film discussed ladies of the night mingling with well-to-do men.
Because of this, many cities across the United States opted to ban the movie, even though it was already released in theaters. One such city was Birmingham, Alabama. They didn’t want anything to do with the film.
The Vanishing Prairie Was Banned In New York
The Walt Disney documentary The Vanishing Prairie was released in 1954 and discussed the pioneers traveling across the Oregon Trail. It was an educational video that was well-received by those who took the time to watch it.
Well, it turned out that thing could be “too educational” back in the ’50s. New York wound up banning the film because of one scene. During the scene in question, a buffalo is shown giving birth; New York thought it was too graphic and had the film banned from the state.
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye Was Banned For Multiple Reasons
Kissing Tomorrow Goodbye was a film noir released in 1950. It follows the story of a career criminal, Ralph Cotter, who escapes prison, murders his escape partner, and woos his partner’s sister, Holiday. As some may guess, their romance doesn’t exactly work out in the end. The plot did go over very well in the state of Ohio.
The film was banned in Ohio for being “a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality and an extreme presentation of crime with explicit steps in commission.”