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


Written by Tim Dirks

The 100+ Most Controversial Films of All-Time
Movie Title Screen
Film Title/Year, Director

Baise Moi (2000, Fr.) (translated "Screw or F--k Me")
D. Virginie Despentes

A hardcore hybrid of Natural Born Killers and Thelma & Louise, this drama about two abused women who turned vigilante was banned in its native France.

This daring and scandalous, unrated art-house import about heartless and irrational female sexual rage by two hardened and randy females was the first collaboration between French film-maker Virginie Despentes and former porn actress Coralie Trinh Thi. The script was adapted from Despentes' own 1995 novel.

The French female empowerment film was a very violent, sensationalist, bold, graphic and hard-core sex-filled version of Natural Born Killers (1994) and Thelma & Louise (1991) - a nihilistic and self-destructive picture that ran into extreme protest and controversy. Pressure groups sought to have the French government reclassify it as X-rated. It was banned in France, its native country of release.

The nihilistic and nasty road film set in modern-day France and shot on grainy digital video, featured two main female characters (both French adult film stars), lower-class French 'bad girls' who appeared to have lesbian tendencies:

  • Nadine (Karine Bach/Karen Lancaume), a tall part-time prostitute
  • Manu (Raffaela Anderson), a smaller, lower class, underaged, unemployed porn star actress

Its porno-style, animalistic sexuality (fellatio, ejaculation and penetration) included - in the first fifteen minutes - an explicit and brutal rape/sodomy scene in an abandoned underground parking garage (against Manu and a drug-addicted friend of hers), with a close-up insert shot of the violated vagina of the friend who was laid back on a table. Manu's friend struggled, screamed, and resisted (and was bloodily beaten), while Manu laid back on the floor acting very detached and accepted the violation from behind from the rapist - who soon became disinterested in her.

Rape of Manu's Friend (below)
Rape of Manu (Raffaela Anderson) (below)

Shortly later, the anarchic Manu shot her unsympathetic, abusive and contemptuous brother (Hacène Beddrouh) when he accused her of enjoying the rape. At around the same time, Nadine strangled her overbearing housemate during an argument and vicious fight. Manu stole 10,000 francs from her brother's stash, and then watched as her drug-dealing friend in another town was brutally murdered. She kidnapped (or joined up with) Nadine when they had a chance meeting at a metro station.

Manu forced her to drive them to Paris, as the two soon teamed up and told each other: "We'll follow our lucky star." They were tired of being pushed around by losers and low-lifes in their seedy, marginal neighborhood, so they decided to engage in a lucrative shooting crime spree and sexual romp across France.

Indiscriminate Sex
Nadine Practicing Her Aim
Nadine Seducing A Male Pick-Up

They went on a randomly vengeful, remorseless, violent sex/murder spree on both men and women:

  • a robbery/murder at an ATM of a female customer
  • instances of indiscriminate sex
  • running-down a car owner as they stole his parked car
  • the killing of a gunstore clerk
  • the stomping and murder of a male pick-up after he received oral sex
  • the murder of a lewd guy in a street
  • the point-blank killing of two cops at a checkpoint
  • the extreme gun-shot murder of an architect after robbing his safe

They also sought violent sexual revenge in a climactic scene set in a swingers sex club where they assaulted and killed the patrons, including ordering a racist-spewing gay man to his knees and shooting his brains out with a pistol stuck in his rear - the screen turned bright red and froze after the gunshot.

The entire film predictably ended violently when Manu was shot and killed by an auto-parts tire shop owner. Nadine retaliated by angrily murdering the man by emptying her gun into him, and then took Manu's body to a forest and burned it. She drove to a lakeside in order to suicidally put a gun to her own head but was surrounded and arrested by police before she could kill herself.

Hooker Nadine (Karine Bach) with Client

Nadine's Strangulation of Housemate

Manu's Murder of Her Brother

Two Female Characters: "The Bad Girls" Dancing Together

The Murdered ATM Female Customer

The Aftermath of Man Stomped to Death in the Head


The Murderous Pair's Massacre in a Swingers' Club

Nadine's Suicide Attempt

Requiem for a Dream (2000)
D. Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky's hallucinatory chronicle of addiction had to be released unrated when he refused to cut certain scenes, notably a degrading orgy.

Director Darren Aronofsky's effective and disturbing film told about the consequences of drug use for four individuals:

  • Sara Goldfarb (Oscar-nominated Ellen Burstyn), a lonely, TV-addicted, diet-pill-popping Brighton Beach widow
  • Harry (Jared Leto), Sara's heroin-addicted son
  • Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans), Harry's drug-dealing, ghetto-living best friend
  • Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly), Harry's pill-popping, drug-using girlfriend

Pre-release discussions claimed the film bordered on pornography and glamorized drug use.

Candy- and TV-Addicted Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn)
Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly)

Marion with Harry (Jared Leto)

In the film, Sara's increasing addiction to weight-loss measures (including overdosing) caused severe physical side-effects, and her acute obsession with being on a TV show eventually led to non-stop hallucinations and near insanity. In the film's central most important sequence, she imagined that she was the winner of the TV game show (with holograms of the host and his red-dressed companion appearing in her apartment). As the scene climaxed, her carnivorous refrigerator had broken free from the wall, opened its gigantic 'maw' and attacked her.

Sara's Description of Her 4-Pill Regimen
Sara's Hallucinations
Harry's Infected (and Amputated Arm)

In the meantime, to find a supply of drugs that were less expensive and had become scarce, Harry and Tyrone drove south to Miami, Florida, but due to heroin-hooked Harry's frequent intravenous injections, his arm had become severely and painfully-infected with gangrene. He and Tyrone were arrested and thrown in jail for possession. His arm became so serious that it required amputation.

Meanwhile, despairing and pained Marion, earlier seen in full-frontal before a mirror as she took drugs, prostituted herself to pay for her addiction. She had first prostituted herself with her therapeutic psychiatrist Arnold (Sean Gullette) to pay their bills, then in NY, drug-addicted Marion - desperate for heroin - prostituted herself to black pimp Big Tim (Keith David) who told her: "What I like best about party chicks is they give good head"; he opened his pants before she performed oral sex: "I know it's pretty, baby, but I didn't take it out for air." Afterwards in her apartment, she submerged her head underwater in a bathtub and screamed. Later, Marion was compelled to return to Big Tim to raise money to support her addiction

The most controversial sequence, argued as a necessary component and message that the cautionary film had to deliver about the consequences of drug use, was a nasty, extremely-graphic lesbian orgy scene with a shared anal dildo (at a Sunday evening degraded stag party hosted by black pimp Big Tim with lots of male spectators). When Marion's female partner asked: "So what are we gonna do now?" - (thinking of ways to increase their earnings in front of the frenzied crowd of party animals throwing bills at them), they decided to go "ass-to-ass" by sharing a two-headed anal dildo. The group of spectators went crazy, tossed money at them, and shouted: "Ass-to-ass!" and "Come! Come! Come!"

The scene shocked the MPAA which rated it NC-17 - Aronofsky appealed the ruling (which was denied), so the film was released unrated. A slightly-modified R-rated edited version of the film was released on video with a shortened sex scene.

As the film concluded, Harry (in the hospital), Marion (in her apartment), Tyrone (in jail) and Sara (brain-dead in a mental institution) were all curled up in fetal positions.

Drug-Using Marion

Marion Prostituted Herself to Big Tim (Keith David) for a Drug Score

Afterwards, Marion Screamed Underwater in a Bathtub

The Orgy Scene

The Crime of Father Amaro (2002, Mex.) (aka The Crime of Padre Amaro, or El Crimen del Padre Amaro)
D. Carlos Carrera

Condemnation by the Catholic Church actually helped make this melodrama about unchaste priests a blockbuster in its native Mexico.

This brave, melodramatic romance film from director Carlos Carrera was nominated as Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and became Mexico's biggest blockbuster due to the controversy it aroused (it broke Y Tu Mamá También's opening-weekend record, and surpassed the previous highest-grossing Mexican film of all time, Sex, Shame & Tears (1999) (aka Sexo, Pudor y Lágrimas).

The story of moral hypocrisy was adapted to modern times (the year 2002) from the 1875 book "O Crime do Padre Amaro" by late 19th century Portuguese writer Jose Maria Eça de Queirós. One of the film's criticisms, advertised with the tagline "Love...Lust...Sin," was that it wasn't faithful to the novel. It also wasn't to be confused with director Carlos Coelho da Silva's O Crime do Padre Amaro (2005, Mex.) based upon the same novel, with sexy Soraia Chaves portraying Amelia.

Catholic groups in Mexico called for the scandalous film to be banned for its "vicious," defaming and unfavorable portrait of priests, and the church threatened to excommunicate its stars. The engendered controversy only aided the film's visibility and profitability.

Recently-ordained and celibate handsome 24 year-old priest Father Amaro (Gael García Bernal) on his first assignment was sent to a rural parish (steeped in illicit love, corruption and drug trafficking/money laundering by drug lords, misappropriation of peasant lands, and cynicism) in the remote Mexican town of Los Reyes.

There, the idealistic young priest became infatuated with beautiful, virginal 16 year-old devout catechism teacher Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón), in part due to her confessional that she erotically touched herself in the bath while having thoughts about Jesus, with his offering of advice: "Sensuality is no sin."

He spoke memorized portions of the Old Testament's "Song of Solomon" (or Song of Songs) to poetically admire her breasts while unbuttoning her blouse and disrobing her:

"Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. The joints of thy thighs are like jewels. Thy navel is like a round goblet which wanteth not liquor. Thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters and streams from Lebanon. Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb, honey and milk are under thy tongue. And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon."

Praises for Amelia's Beauty via the Biblical 'Song of Solomon'

He also draped her body in the Virgin's blue satin cloak ("You're more beautiful than the Virgin") originally made for the local church's statue of the virgin Mary, and engaged in an illicit union with her under the guise of training her to be a nun.

To make matters complicated, the young girl's mother, local cafe owner Sanjuanera (Angelica Aragon) had been engaged in a long-term affair with Amaro's superior, retiring priest Father Benito (Sancho Gracia). The film also included some blasphemous images, such as one of consecrated communion wafers being fed to a sickly cat by crazed parishioner Dionisia (Luisa Huertas).

After getting her pregnant, the young idealistic priest covered up the scandal by paying for a back-street abortion in an illegal clinic in the jungle, but she bled to death on the way to the hospital. Amelia's non-Catholic, ex-fiancee/boyfriend Ruben (Andres Montiel), a journalist interested in exposing church corruption, was blamed for impregnating Amelia, while Amaro was praised for trying to save her and her child.

Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón)

Father Amaro with Amelia

Draping Amelia in Virgin Mary's Blue Cloak

Irreversible (2002, Fr.)
D. Gaspar Noe

Walkouts were common during this French thriller, which depicted a vicious and lengthy rape and its brutal aftermath in reverse chronological order.

Frenchman writer/director Gaspar Noe's hard-hitting, graphic, profoundly disturbing and violent film about rape revenge, was non-linear - it was told in flashback and reverse order in continuously-filmed takes, similar in structure to Christopher Nolan's Memento (1999), with the theme:

"Time destroys everything."

The fatalistically-tinged film implied that the characters in the film were predestined (irreversibly) to face what would happen to them. It was also revealed that the film deliberately caused nausea, vertigo and unease in the viewer (and provoked many walk-outs) through two techniques:

  • the opening 30 minute's low-frequency bass drone (almost inaudible) was accompanied by a wildly moving, shaking, and bobbing camera
  • during the opening credits, there was an excessive use of stroboscopic lights (warnings were required to be displayed on the poster and DVD box)

It was also noted for its excruciatingly-long, almost-unbearable, painful-to-watch, nine-minute real-time beating and anal-rape sequence - shot with a static camera. In a Parisian pedestrian underpass lit by a reddish glow, beautiful and erotically sexual Alexandra (or "Alex") (Monica Bellucci), earlier seen being flirtatious in a revealing dress while dancing, accidentally came upon rapist/pimp Le Tenia/Tapeworm (Jo Prestia) beating up transvestite prostitute Concha (Jaramillo) in the tunnel. She found herself to be his new victim.

As he endlessly assaulted her (verbally and physically), threatened with a knife, coerced her, and thrust into her, he continued to call her foul names ("F--king high-class swine"), and asked: "You bleeding or you wet?" Afterwards, she attempted to crawl away, and he kicked her in the face: ("I'm gonna fix your face, I'm gonna fix it good"), beat her with his fist, and smashed her face into the pavement until she went into a coma. He pronounced her "dead meat" when he was finished with her.

After that, Marcus and Alex's ex-boyfriend Pierre (Albert Dupontel) searched for retribution through the dingy underworld of Paris, looking for and eventually brutally beating a suspected rapist named The Tapeworm. There was the horrific, violent and vengeful retaliatory scene of a man getting his head beaten to a pulp with a fire extinguisher in a gay S&M night-club sex bar with leather-bondage patrons, called The Rectum. [Note: The victim of the lethal beating, not known until later, was not La Tenia - who watched from nearby.]

Also earlier in the chronology (the film's final scene) was a love-making (or spooning) scene of Alex with boyfriend Marcus (Vincent Cassel, Bellucci's real-life husband). She had explained earlier to her friends during a subway ride the secret to love-making pleasure - it was a turn-off for a man to be too focused on a woman's pleasure.

As Alex and Marcus laid together in bed after awakening, she described a foreshadowing dream of a red-lit tunnel that broke into two. She also said she was a few days late with her period (it was soon learned that she was pregnant with Marcus' child). They got up for a few moments and danced naked in the living room, then returned to the bedroom after Marcus told her: "I wanna f--k your ass" - almost the exact same words used by the rapist.

One of the film's final images was of Alex holding her pregnant, swelling belly on a bed, below a wall poster of the foetal 'Star-Child' in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (with "The Ultimate Trip" tagline). The camera also soared into the blue sky, and then settled on her sunbathing on a blanket on a vibrantly green park lawn, where the camera then circled dizzingly above a lawn sprinkler as children pranced through the water.

The Horrific Rape Sequence

The Head Bashing of Suspected Rapist

The Film's Final Scene (Actually Early in the Film)

Ken Park (2002)
D. Larry Clark

Unsimulated sex scenes sparked accusations that filmmaker Larry Clark exploited his teenaged cast, and it was barely distributed in the US.

This was another controversial film from co-director Larry Clark, in which the director was accused of exploiting young teens and lasciviously filming unsimulated sex. Clark's film was banned in Australia, and never issued in wide release in the US. Its plot was about four dysfunctional, abusive families in Visalia, California and their teenaged skateboarders, with themes of teenage suicide and wild sexual experimentation. The film also included other scenes of graphic oral and masturbatory sex and nudity, violence, suicide and incest.

It opened with the suicidal death of red-haired, freckled teen skateboarder Ken Park (Adam Chubbuck) in a Visalia, California park, when he pulled out a gun from his pack and blew his brains out.

[Note: The motivation for killing himself was revealed later - he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant.]

In another of the film's scenes, scrawny teen Shawn (James Bullard) made out with his girlfriend Hannah's breast-enhanced mother Rhonda (Maeve Quinlan). They both fondled each other through their underpants, and then after being excited and getting wet, she asked: "Take my panties off." He provided her with oral sex, too fast at first when she requested: "Slow." As he pleasured her, she removed her bra, and further instructed him to speed up by guiding his head until she experienced an orgasm:

"Go just a little faster. Yeah, that's it. Right there. Move with my hips. Go on. There you go. Oh, s--t, s--t. Good boy, Shawn. That's a good boy. Oh my God, keep licking."

Teenaged Shawn with Rhonda (Maeve Quinlan)

[Note: The image of the two of them engaged in sex was often displayed, in part, on the film's video/DVD cover and poster.]

She let him rest his head between her breasts. After she bathed in a tub (as he laid back smoking a cigarette in bed), she kissed him while massaging him (inside his underpants), when he asked: "Whose dick is bigger, mine or Bob's?" She smiled and laughed: "Yours."

In one controversially-graphic scene of auto-erotic self-asphyxiation designed to increase his own sexual arousal, death-obsessed, masturbation-addicted, sociopathic parent-less teenager Tate (James Ransone), who wore a T-shirt saying "Keep it Simple," choked himself with a long green dressing gown belt tied to a doorknob while he pleasured himself (to climax) watching Anna Kournikova playing tennis. He had earlier killed his doting, smothering grandparents that he was living with - murdering them during a scrabble game - also for purposes of sexual arousal. He explained:

"I killed my grandfather, because he is a cheater who likes to tell war stories, and I killed my grandmother because she's a passive-aggressive bitch who doesn't respect my privacy."

The film ended with an idyllic sex orgy scene between a trio of teenagers who were in both give-and-take positions - seeking refuge from their troubled lives:

  • Peaches (Tiffany Limos), a nymphomaniac
  • Claude (Stephen Jasso), abused
  • Shawn

The Suicidal Death of Ken Park

Suicide of Tate

Sexual Threesome: Peaches (Tiffany Limos), Claude (Stephen Jasso) and Shawn (James Bullard)

The Magdalene Sisters (2002, Ire./UK)
D. Peter Mullan

The Magdalene Asylums in Ireland, run by the Sisters of Mercy on behalf of the Catholic Church, were scandalous and misguided institutions for the sexual humiliation and control of young girls rejected from society or their families.

Scottish writer/director Peter Mullan's second feature film, a severe melodrama, was denounced by the Catholic League for its semi-historical recreation and depiction of religious and sexual repression, rebuke and abuse in Ireland during the 1960s. [Note: The last of the asylums was closed in 1996.] Several of the actual victims of the Magdalene laundries were interviewed about their ordeal in Sex in a Cold Climate (1998), producer/director Steve Humphries' TV documentary.

The docu-drama told a barbaric and scandalous story of three Irish girls, abandoned by society, cast out by their families, and treated as slaves at Magdalene Sanctuary run by the Sisters of Mercy. The "fallen" young ladies who had committed mortal sin were considered immoral, or impure (for being flirtatious, or for being raped or having an illegitimate child). Shy red-head Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) was raped in an attic during a local dance by her cousin, and was incarcerated for naming her attacker. Unwed mother Rose/Patricia (Dorothy Duffy) gave birth to a child out of wedlock and was forced to give up the child. And orphan Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) was accused of being too cute as a smiling temptress and was therefore in mortal danger.

The trio of sexual troublemakers ("fallen" women) were brutalized, sexually humiliated, subsisted on bowls of oatmeal-slop, and lectured on the evils of the flesh by a group of Catholic nuns and priests in the prison-like confines. Soft-spoken saintly Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan) was actually cruel, callous, sadistic and tyrannical. The women were told that they could redeem themselves in the convent laundry service or workhouse, "working beyond human endurance to remove the stains of the sins" they allegedly committed, for 8-10 hours a day, 7 days a week. The three girls defied a century of injustice, lack of rights, dysfunctional sexual control, and no privacy to free themselves from the asylum.

Its most notorious scene showed a lineup of naked girls stripped as they stood before the cold-hearted nuns before tea time.

The Humiliating Nude Lineup
Left image:
Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff), 2nd from left
Crispina (Eileen Walsh), 5th from left
Rose/Patricia (Dorothy Duffy), 6th from left
Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) 7th from left

Frances, middle

They were inspected and compared by various bodily criteria (the smallest and largest breasts, biggest behind, and hairiest private parts). One of the disdainful nuns chided, demeaned and ridiculed the nude subjects:

- "Some of you could do with cuttin' down on the potatoes. Arms by your side....Frances, you know, I never noticed before, but not only do you have the tiniest little breasts I've ever seen, but you got no nipples. Do you see that? It can't be natural, girls. We're all agreed. Frances has the littliest breasts, but who's got the biggest?"
- "I'd say it was Patricia."
- "No, she's just broad in the back. Turn around, Patricia. See, she's just big in the back. Patricia, you have a brickie's (bricklayer's) back. A couple of tattoos and you could pass yourself off as a navy (sailor). No, biggest breasts definitely have to go to Cecilia. Give yourself a round of applause, Cecilia. (Cecilia applauds herself.) Good girl. So we've covered biggest breasts, littliest breasts, biggest bottom. So that only leaves us with the hairiest. Crispina, step forward, and Bernadette, step forward. Stand beside each other. Crispina, get your hands away from there! Get them away. Bernadette, you have more hair down there than you have on your head. But the winner is... Crispina. Crispina, you've won. Why are you crying?"
- "I don't know, sister."
- "Well, neither do I. It's a game. Ah, put your clothes on, the lot of ya. It's time for tea."

The Magdalene Sisters

Patricia (Dorothy Duffy)

(l to r): Crispina (Eileen Walsh) and Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone)

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

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