15 Movies You Never Knew Were Banned in U.S.
Get ready for the bizarre reasons that get movies banned in America. These are films that inspired protests, boycotts, and sometimes court cases.
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Titicut Follies (1967)
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Director Frederick Wiseman invented the modern documentary with his roving camera that aimed to capture direct reality. His 1967 film Titicut Follies depicted situations inside of a state hospital for the criminally insane. The film was banned in Massachusetts, where it was filmed, purportedly for violating the privacy of the inmates, but it also exposed the shocking conditions within the asylum. If you wanted to snack when this movie first came out, you wouldn’t have been able to reach for the classic movie munch. Here’s why movie theater popcorn was originally banned.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
This British comedy is a biblical satire that follows the life and times of Brian of Nazareth. The film stirred outrage, was labeled blasphemous, and even given an ‘X’ rating in England. It opened in the United States to multiple protests by religious groups. Senator Strom Thurmond attempted to ban the film in his home state, South Carolina, on the grounds that it mocked Christians. Protests and cancellations of the film also took place in North Carolina, Louisiana, and New Jersey. Those protests sparked other protests by groups against censorship. Check out these 50 other things you won’t believe are banned in the U.S.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
The 1980s brought on the popularity of the slasher flick—especially ones with a murderer tied to a certain date like Jason in Friday the 13th or the weirdo Michael Myers on Halloween. So it’s no surprise that a director decided to cast Santa Claus as an ax murderer. Parents across the nation drew up petitions to try to get the film banned. Angry parents protested in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Milwaukee, but they ended up getting the film a lot of free publicity. Nostalgic for the 80s? Watch one of the classic 80s movies you definitely should have watched by now.
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Martin Scorsese’s artsy take on the story of Jesus sparked uproars and protests. Willem Dafoe starred as Jesus in a mostly sedate rendition of the story, but protesters found the film offensive anyway. In Savannah, Georgia, a county commission actually passed a resolution against the movie. The film also caused controversy and protests in Oklahoma, Texas, and in small cities across the nation. Theaters showing the film were vandalized in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. You might be shocked by the banning given how uncontroversial it’s content is, but you won’t believe these movie trivia facts that are shockingly true.
MGM studios produced Tod Browning’s Freaks but cut some 25 minutes of footage deemed too shocking before releasing it. It was so disturbing to audiences that it was quickly withdrawn from circulation. Browning cast actors with physical disabilities, many actual circus performers, in his horror movie about circus life. The director, himself a one-time circus performer, intended to depict the humanity of life as an outsider, but audiences still find the film controversial and exploitative. Don’t miss the 20 books that were banned for being too controversial.
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Many prominent Black leaders aimed to ban D.W. Griffith’s horrifically racist blockbuster before its premiere on the grounds that it was an “open call to hatred and violence.” The film presents the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, but that didn’t stop President Woodrow Wilson from screening it at the White House and offering support. The peaceful protests from Black citizens at the time are now considered by historians to have been a model for the civil rights movement to come.
Before Al Pacino uttered “say hello to my little friend” in the 1983 version, there was the original Scarface, reportedly based on the life of Al Capone. The ’30s film was just as iconic and so shocking it was banned in five states. Why? Because it glorified violence, crime and gang life long before Tony Soprano and Vito Corleone in The Godfather stole America’s heart. The gangster genre is still one of the most popular in America. Check out these 13 karaoke songs you never knew were banned.
The Exorcist (1973)
This possession film was outright banned in the United Kingdom, while the trailer took some heat in the United States. It was pulled from theaters after reports of audience hysteria and even vomiting. Despite its scary subject, the film went on to be a huge hit. Love this movie? You’ll be fascinated by the real-life exorcisms that actually happened.
This silent Swedish film was banned in the United States for years due to its depiction of demonic deviants and various sacrilegious and sexual shenanigans, many of which are set in churches. It was deemed too deplorable for American audiences, but was eventually screened in 1929 and hit the art circuit with a recut and rerelease in the 1960s. It even has a reputation these days for being avant-garde. We’re just glad that Haxan isn’t one of the horror movies based on real events.
The Vanishing Prairie (1954)
Disney’s acclaimed nature documentary won an Academy Award, but it was stilled banned in New York on the grounds that it might corrupt morals. It contains footage of a buffalo giving birth, which struck someone as too problematic for viewers. The ban was lifted shortly after. These are the 3 things never allowed in Disney movies.