Most Controversial Films
The 100+ Most Controversial
Films of All-Time

Introduction

Written by Tim Dirks

The 100+ Most Controversial Films of All-Time: Films always have the ability to anger us, divide us, shock us, disgust us, and more. Usually, films that inspire controversy, outright boycotting, picketing, banning, censorship, or protest contain content that includes graphic sex, violence, homosexuality, religious, political or race-related themes. They usually push the envelope regarding what can be filmed and displayed on the screen, and are considered taboo, "immoral" or "obscene" due to language, drug use, violence and sensuality/nudity or other incendiary elements. 'Controversial' films have always been considered a threat to mainstream, traditional (or decent) community standards. Inevitably though, controversy helped to publicize these films and fueled the box-office receipts.

The Main Factors Responsible For Making a Film Controversial


Extreme Sex (Nudity) and Misogyny

Political-Related Elements

Extreme Violence / Gore or Torture

Race-Related Issues

Extreme Profanity and Obscenity

Religious Issues or Blasphemy

There are about half a dozen main factors responsible for making a film controversial (and many films have multiple issues), including extreme sexuality or misogyny (including homosexuality or pornographic elements), political ideology, extreme violence (and gore or torture), racial issues, obscenity (profanity and vulgarity), rampant drug use, and religious issues (blasphemy, immorality, demonic elements, etc.).

Another common factor causing criticism has been a film's unwise casting choices (a phenomenon known as "whitewashing" - by placing a white performer in the role of a minority), most recently in films such as Ridley Scott's Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), Aloha (2015), and Rupert Sanders’ live action remake of Ghost in the Shell (2017).

Controversy-invoking films - in some cases known as 'Extreme Cinema' - may be from almost any genre - documentaries, westerns, erotic-thrillers, dramas, horror, comedy, or animated, and more. Standards for what may be considered shocking, offensive or controversial have changed drastically over many decades. From the earliest silent films, to the gunfights in early 30s gangster films, to the mid-60s countercultural changes when the ratings were modified, to current day bloodbaths, violence in films has always stirred controversy. The voluntary ratings system of the Motion Picture Association of America can influence a film's public showing in a theatre -- an NC-17 rating or an unrated film may often close down a film's screening and lead to commercial failure.



100+ Most Controversial Films

The following illustrated list is a solid collection of over 100 of the "Most Controversial Films" in cinematic history. They are found in the next set of web pages, in chronological order by film title. Each one is thoroughly described and provides information about the controversy.

  1. The Kiss (1896)
  2. The Birth Of A Nation (1915)
  3. Un Chien Andalou (1929, Fr.)
  4. L'Age D'Or (1930, Fr.)
  5. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  6. Freaks (1932)
  7. Scarface (1932)
  8. Ecstasy (1933, Czech.) (aka Exstase)
  9. Triumph Of The Will (1935, Ger.)
  10. Child Bride (1938)
  11. Citizen Kane (1941)
  12. The Outlaw (1943)
  13. Song of the South (1946)
  14. The Miracle (1948, It.) (aka Il Miracolo) (short) (part of L'Amore (1948, It.) (aka Ways of Love))
  15. The Moon Is Blue (1953)
  16. Baby Doll (1956)
  17. Peeping Tom (1960, UK)
  18. Psycho (1960)
  19. Victim (1961, UK)
  20. Viridiana (1961, Sp./Mex.)
  21. Lolita (1962, UK)
  22. Mondo Cane (1962, It.)
  23. Blood Feast (1963)
  24. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  25. I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967, Swe.)
  26. Titicut Follies (1967)
  27. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  28. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  29. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  30. Carnal Knowledge (1971)
  31. A Clockwork Orange (1971, UK)
  32. The Devils (1971, UK)
  33. Dirty Harry (1971)
  34. The Last Picture Show (1971)
  35. Straw Dogs (1971)
  36. Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song (1971)
  37. Deep Throat (1972)
  38. The Last House on the Left (1972)
  39. Last Tango In Paris (1972, It./Fr.)
  40. Pink Flamingos (1972)
  41. The Exorcist (1973)
  42. Thriller: A Cruel Picture (aka They Call Her One Eye, Hooker's Revenge, and Thriller - En Grym Film) (1973, Swe.)
  43. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  44. Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975, Canada)
  45. Salo (1975, It.) (aka The 120 Days of Sodom)
  46. Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) (aka The Incredible Torture Show and Sardu: Master of the Screaming Virgins)
  47. In the Realm of the Senses (1976, Jp./Fr.) (aka Ai No Corrida, or L'Empire Des Sens)
  48. The Message (1976, 1977) (aka Mohammed, Messenger of God)
  49. A Real Young Girl (1976, Fr.) (aka Une Vraie Jeune Fille)
  50. Snuff (1976, Arg/USA)
  51. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  52. Faces of Death (1978) (aka The Original Faces of Death)
  53. I Spit On Your Grave (1978) (aka Day of the Woman)
  54. Pretty Baby (1978)
  55. Caligula (1979) (unrated version)
  56. Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, UK)
  57. The Warriors (1979)
  1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980, It.)
  2. Cruising (1980)
  3. Heaven's Gate (1980)
  4. Cannibal Ferox (1981, It.)
  5. The Evil Dead (1981)
  6. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
  7. Hail, Mary (1985, Fr.) (aka Je vous salue, Marie)
  8. Year of the Dragon (1985)
  9. Blue Velvet (1986)
  10. Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer (1986, released in 1990)
  11. Bad Taste (1987, NZ)
  12. Nekromantik (1987, Germ.)
  13. The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
  14. Man Behind the Sun (1988, HK) (aka Hei tai yang 731)
  15. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989, UK)
  16. Do The Right Thing (1989)
  17. Henry & June (1990)
  18. JFK (1991)
  19. Aladdin (1992)
  20. Basic Instinct (1992)
  21. Dead Alive (Brain Dead) (1992, NZ)
  22. Boxing Helena (1993)
  23. Bandit Queen (1994, India)
  24. Natural Born Killers (1994)
  25. Kids (1995)
  26. Crash (1996)
  27. Lolita (1997)
  28. Dogma (1999)
  29. Romance (1999, Fr.) (aka Romance X)
  30. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
  31. Stigmata (1999)
  32. Baise Moi (2000, Fr.) (translated "Screw or F--k Me")
  33. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
  34. The Crime of Father Amaro (2002, Mex.)
  35. Irreversible (2002, Fr.)
  36. Ken Park (2002)
  37. The Magdalene Sisters (2002, UK)
  38. The Brown Bunny (2003)
  39. The Dreamers (2003)
  40. Oldboy (2003, S. Korea)
  41. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
  42. Kinsey (2004)
  43. 9 Songs (2004, UK)
  44. The Passion of The Christ (2004)
  45. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  46. Hard Candy (2005)
  47. Hostel (2005)
  48. The Da Vinci Code (2006)
  49. Shortbus (2006)
  50. United 93 (2006)
  51. Hounddog (2007)
  52. September Dawn (2007)
  53. Martyrs (2008, Fr/Can.)
  54. Antichrist (2009, Denmark)
  55. A Serbian Film (2010, Serbia) (aka Srpski Film)
  56. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009 or 2010), The Human Centipede II (full sequence) (2011), and The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (2015)
  57. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013, Fr.) (aka La Vie d'Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2)
  58. The Interview (2014)
  59. Cuties (2020)
For the many other milestone films with scenes that were especially notorious, infamous, controversial, or scandalous, see this site's further write-ups on Sex in Cinema, Scariest Scenes, Sexiest Films of All Time, and the genre of Sexual/Erotic Films. Entertainment Weekly's June 16, 2006 issue contained a listing of their top 25 "Most Controversial Movies of All-Time" - all included here plus many more entries.

Please do not proceed any further if you are not interested in this kind of material


The 100+ Most Controversial Films of All-Time
(chronologically, by film title)
Intro | Silents-1930s | 1940s-1950s | 1960-1961 | 1962-1967 | 1968-1969
1970-1971 | 1972 | 1973-1974 | 1975 | 1976-1977 | 1978 | 1979
1980-1982 | 1983-1986 | 1987-1989 | 1990-1992 | 1993-1995 | 1996-1999
2000-2002 | 2003-2005 | 2006-2009 | 2010-present


Previous Page Next Page