14 Movies That Have Been Banned Throughout the World


While it does not happen as often these days, there was a period when movies were commonly banned and added to the « video nasty » list, a collection of (usually horror) films deemed too harmful for viewing. These movies often possessed extreme violence, sexual content, or political themes. Every country has its unique list of banned movies, with most being unbanned in later years as artistic expression became more welcomed in cinema. These « video nasties » often prove to be classic movies that are worth watching.

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Getting banned earns a film a sense of notoriety, an element of danger that watching it may corrupt your innocent soul. Normally, the panic around these films proves to be overblown, and the rise of the internet and movie piracy has made securing banned films a trivial task. Under the modern eye, these movies might seem tame, but they remain a part of history due to their ban for different reasons – some more logical than others.

14 ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (2015)

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Image Via Universal

A controversial book adaptation and one that had mothers everywhere flustered. Fifty Shades of Grey follows the romance between college student Anastasia Steele and shady businessman Christian Grey. The film launched the careers of Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan and is known as one of the few mainstream erotic romance films.

With more of a focus on sexual activity than PG-friendly romance, the film received some backlash. While the film passed uncensored in many countries, CNN reports that Fifty Shades was banned in Indonesia, Kenya, and Cambodia, among others. These countries complained about the movie’s sexual content, claiming it bordered on pornography. Alas, Fifty Shades of Grey was successful elsewhere, spawning a trilogy and launching a new era for the erotic romance movie.

Fifty Shades of Grey Film Poster

Fifty Shades of Grey
Release Date
February 13, 2015

Cast
Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Luke Grimes, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora

Rating
R

Runtime
125 minutes

Watch on Max

13 ‘Lightyear’ (2022)

Director: Angus MacLane

Alisha and Kiko Hawthorne gazing into each other's eyes while holding a small boy in Lightyear
Image Via Disney

Telling the origin story of the space ranger that the legendary character in Toy Story is based on, Lightyear follows Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) as he embarks on a mission with a team of recruits. When the villainous Zurg rears his head, Buzz and the rookies must combat a robot army.

Despite being a family movie, Lightyear found itself banned in 14 countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. ABC reports this is due to a small scene where a same-sex couple shares a kiss. As the industry strives for greater equality in media, it is a shame that such a short scene is enough to cause an uproar.

Lightyear
Release Date
June 17, 2022

Cast
Chris Evans, Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer

Genres
Animation, Comedy, children

Watch on Disney+

12 ‘Zoolander’ (2001)

Director: Paramount+

Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander doing his famous pose while purple lights shine in the background in the film Zoolander.
Image via Paramount Pictures

If a central plot point of your film is the attempted assassination of the Malaysian prime minister, it should be no surprise when the movie is banned there. One of the defining comedies of the early 2000s, Zoolander stars Ben Stiller as a dimwitted supermodel who finds himself brainwashed to murder the world leader.

Zoolander was swiftly banned in Malaysia, and the movie was also banned in Singapore until 2006 to not upset their neighboring country. In fact, the Asian release of Zoolander replaces any mention of Malaysia with the subregion Micronesia, making it one of the many censored films to have different versions across the globe.

Zoolander
Release Date
September 28, 2001

Cast
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
89

Watch on Paramount+

11 ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ (2022)

Director: Kyle Balda

Gru and the minions riding a motorcycle down a street in Minions: The Rise of Gru
Image Via Illumination

The second prequel to the popular Despicable Me franchise, Minions: The Rise of Gru sees the yellow creatures teaming up with a young Gru (Steve Carell) for the first time. After Gru’s attempt to join a villainous group proves disastrous, the budding criminal goes on the run with his new friends.

While some movies are banned for being too progressive or featuring controversial content, Minions: The Rise of Gru was banned in Lebanon due to a character named Nun-chuck (Lucy Lawless). Literally, a nun who wields nun-chucks, The Rise of Gru was banned for portraying nuns as evil. In the pantheon of silly reasons for banning a movie, this one has to be among the most absurd ones.

Watch on Netflix

10 ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (2006)

Director: Ron Howard

Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon giving a speech in The Da Vinci Code
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

A hit with book clubs the world over, The Da Vinci Code faced the same controversies as the novel it is based on. When renowned symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) becomes the prime suspect in a murder, he joins a young French woman (Audrey Tautou) on the run. Together, they stumble into a mystery involving the Catholic Church and a two-thousand-year-old cover-up concerning Jesus Christ.

As is to be expected, religious societies do not like it when their faith is called into question, and protestors targeted the film. The Da Vinci Code was banned on religious grounds in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Samoa, and Sri Lanka. Many claimed The Da Vinci Code to be a work of blasphemy, ironically giving the film more attention than it would have received otherwise.

the da vinci code
Release Date
May 17, 2006

Cast
Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
146

Watch on Tubi

9 ‘Barbie’ (2023)

Director: Greta Gerwig

Margot Robbie as Barbie waving at Barbie World in Barbie
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Based on the legendary toy, Barbie stars Margot Robbie as the titular character who goes on a wild ride with Ken (Ryan Gosling). When the duo manages to leave the magical Barbie Land and explore the real world, they discover both the good and the bad of humanity.

While Barbie smashed the box office all over the world, it did not do so in Vietnam. The Barbie ban is because of a map featured in the movie that shows the controversial nine-dash line. Vietnam considers the line offensive, as it represents China’s claim of the represented area. The minor controversy did little to slow Barbie at the box office, but it was noteworthy enough to give the trades something to talk about.

Barbie Film Poster

Barbie
Release Date
July 21, 2023

Cast
Margot Robbie, Simu Liu, Ryan Gosling, Helen Mirren, Ariana Greenblatt

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
114 minutes

Rent on Amazon Prime

8 ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ (2022)

Director: Sam Raimi

Benedict Cumberbatch and Xochitl Gomez as Doctor Strange and America Chavez looking seriously in the same direction in 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'
Image Via Marvel

Settling into his role as the Sorcerer Supreme after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finds himself on a new journey after crossing paths with America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). As the pair travel through the multiverse, they discover threats both new and familiar.

Part of America’s backstory is that she is trying to get back to her home universe, where she lived with her two mothers. This decision to include a same-sex couple, however brief, upset some countries, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was subsequently banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. However, the ban did not affect the box office, as Multiverse of Madness ended its run with a not-too-shabby $955 million.

Watch on Disney+

7 ‘The Simpsons Movie’ (2007)

Director: David Silverman

The citizens of Springfield look on in horror in The Simpsons Movie
Image via 20th Century Fox

This is an amusing one. When The Simpsons finally released their first feature film in 2007, it played in theaters everywhere except Burma (now known as Myanmar). At the time of The Simpsons Movie‘s release, Burma was threatened by a rebel group whose flag used the colors yellow and red. Feeling the public viewing of everyone’s favorite yellow-skinned family would cause bias, the film was banned outright.

The whole scenario ironically feels like something that could happen in a Simpsons episode and is one of the stranger reasons for a film being banned. The movie itself plays like an extended episode and follows the family as they try to save Springfield from destruction by a government agency.

The Simpsons Movie
Release Date
July 25, 2007

Cast
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
87

Watch on Disney+

6 ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Leatherface swinging his chainsaw around in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Image Via New Line Cinema

While it might seem tame by today’s standards, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was one of the most terrifying horror films at release and is one of the best slasher films currently available for streaming. Following five friends who run out of gas while traveling through Texas, they soon fall one by one to the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface and his crazed, cannibalistic family.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre drew plenty of controversy due to its violent content and was initially refused classification in Australia and the UK, as discussed on the British Board of Film Classification’s website. Further resubmissions passed with an R rating, while the movie was also banned for a time in Germany, Norway, Ireland, Singapore, Sweden, and Iceland.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Release Date
October 1, 1974

Cast
Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal

Rating
R

Runtime
83

Watch on Peacock

5 ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ (1988)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Barbara Hershey, Willem Dafoe, and Harvey Keitel as Mary Magdalene, Jesus Christ, and Judas Iscariot among a group of pilgrims in The Last Temptation of Christ
Image via Universal Pictures

Any film that focuses on religion is bound to cause controversy, and Martin Scorsese‘s The Last Temptation of Christ can claim to be the most banned movie in the world. The film stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ and follows his life and the many temptations he faces in his journey. Throughout the film, Jesus struggles with feelings of lust, imagining himself engaging in sexual activities.

The association of Jesus with sex drew hatred from several religious groups, and The Last Temptation of Christ was banned in numerous countries for its perceived blasphemous content. It remains outlawed in the Philippines and Singapore, where Netflix was recently forced to remove the film from their library due to government interference.

Rent on Amazon Prime

4 ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ (1999)

Director: Trey Parker

The South Park boys having a good time at the movies in South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut
Image via Paramount Pictures

Unsurprisingly, South Park‘s jump to the big screen was banned in several countries. After an R-rated Terrance and Phillip movie escalates into an invasion of Canada, Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny must save the day in one of the best animated musicals not made by Disney.

Never ones to shy away from controversy, Trey Parker and Matt Stone‘s film received a Guinness World Record for « Most Swearing in an Animated Movie. » This emphasis on profanity and its portrayal of Saddam Hussein as Satan’s gay lover caught the ire of numerous censor boards. The LA Times reports that Hussein himself banned the movie in Iraq, legitimizing it as an infamous source of distasteful, inflammatory humor.

Watch on Paramount+

3 ‘Battleship Potemkin’ (1925)

Director: Sergei Eisenstein

A group of sailors looking ahead in Battleship Potemkin
Image Via Goskino

A silent film from Soviet Russia, Battleship Potemkin, tells the true story of Russian sailors aboard a battleship who rebel against their officers. Sick of the cruel treatment from their commanders and the rotten food they are served, the men risk their lives to ensure they are treated fairly and equally.

Released between the two World Wars, Battleship Potemkin was disdained by governments for its seemingly anti-war message. Both France and the UK banned the movie for fear that it would spread this same message to its citizens, potentially causing soldiers to revolt like the ones portrayed in the film (according to the British Board of Film Classification’s website).

Watch on Max

2 ‘Persepolis’ (2007)

Directors: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud

Persepolis wearing her Punk Is Not Ded jacket and being reprehended by two women in the film Persepolis.
Image Via Diaphana Distribution

Persepolis tells the true story of its creator’s childhood during the Iranian revolution and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war. Its striking black-and-white visuals make for an effective contrast to the confronting and very human tale that it tells.

While the film was highly acclaimed overseas and garnered an Academy Award nomination, Persepolis proved controversial in Iran. The Iranian government decried the film for an unfaithful portrayal of the Islamic revolution, and Persepolis was also banned in Lebanon. This ban was eventually overturned due to complaints from political parties. The controversies did little to stain its legacy, and Persepolis often ranks among the all-time best movies.

Persepolis
Release Date
June 27, 2007

Cast
Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites, François Jerosme

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
95

Rent on Amazon Prime

1 ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his two Droogs sit with glasses of milk staring at the camera in A Clockwork Orange.
Image via Warner Bros.

One of Stanley Kubrick‘s most celebrated works, A Clockwork Orange, also proved to be highly controversial. The film follows the exploits of teenage psychopath Alex (Malcolm McDowell), who is imprisoned for committing rape and murder. When he volunteers for an experimental rehabilitation program to reduce his sentence, his life begins to unravel.

Due to its graphic content and scenes of sexual violence, A Clockwork Orange was banned for decades in countries such as Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and Singapore. After Kubrick and his family received death threats due to the film, he had the movie pulled from UK theaters, and it remained hard to see until after his passing in 1999.

a-clockwork-orange-movie-poster

A Clockwork Orange
Release Date
December 19, 1971

Cast
Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, John Clive, Adrienne Corri

Rating
R

Runtime
136

Rent on Amazon Prime

NEXT: Superhero Movies Banned in Other Countries

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