For nearly the entire history of film
production, certain films have been either boycotted
by political and religious groups or literally banned
by a regime
for political or moral
reasons. Paradoxically, banning a movie often completely fails to achieve its intention of preventing a movie from being seen—the publicity given worldwide to banned films
often results in it being given attention it might not otherwise receive.
With the advent of the Internet, the ability of groups or governments to ban a film is hindered. High-speed Internet access and better file compression give more people access to digital copies of movies that might not be available for viewing in cinemas.
Banning versus censoring
Many governments have commissions to censor and/or rate productions for film and television exhibition. From a government standpoint, the censoring
of films is more effective than banning, because it limits the scope of potentially dangerous or subversive cinema without overtly limiting freedom of speech.
In the United States, there has never been national censorship. However, currently the motion picture industry maintains the MPAA Ratings, which are issued to individual films submitted to the MPAA as a means of identifying those with content the board considers not suitable for children and/or teenagers. The MPAA system is purely voluntary, for both movie makers and theaters. However, almost all theaters in the U.S. use the MPAA system, and many will refuse to show films which are unrated.
From 1930 to 1964 film censorship boards did exist on state and/or local levels in some venues in the USA. The MPAA attempted to satisfy requirements of these disparate boards by creating films the Motion Picture Production Code in the late 1920s, another voluntary system designed and implemented by the MPAA. Films were either approved or not under the Code, and those that were generally had little or no problems passing muster with state or local censors.
Also, it is common for filmmakers to claim that their movie is banned when, in fact, the movies aren't banned but unable to find distributors. This is a common practice for both independent and foreign films. A recent example of this is the Toei Company's Battle Royale, a Japanese movie that has been unable to find distribution within the US because the Toei Company has demanded an unusually high distribution price with additional demands for its release. If a movie is not distributed because of economic reasons, it cannot truly be considered a banned movie.
Australia's OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification
) is responsible for much of the censorship, however each state and territory is free to make additional legislation. See also Censorship in Australia
In practice, films still get a short cinematic run before they are reviewed & prevented from being shown at cinemas or released on DVD, but broadband Internet access allows people who want to watch such films to do so.
|| Reason |
|| The Story of the Kelly Gang
|| Banned in Benalla and Wangaratta due to bushranger content. |
|| The Story of the Kelly Gang
|| Banned in Adelaide due to bushranger content. |
|| The Story of the Kelly Gang
|| Banned in New South Wales due to bushranger content. |
| 1928 - 1941
|| Dawn, Klondike Annie (starring Mae West), Applause (it contained chorus girls), Compulsory Hands, Cape Forlorn, The Ladies Man (sexual overtones), White Cargo (interracial theme), The Five Year Plan (discussed communism), All Quiet on the Western Front, Gang Bullets, Each Dawn I Die, Hell's Kitchen (three US gangster films), The King and the Chorus Girl, The Birth of a Baby ("not in the public interest"), Green Pastures, Susan and God (blasphemy), Reefer Madness and Of Mice and Men (sex and violence in combination).
|| Banned due to content (see left) |
|| The Monster and the Girl, The Man With Two Lives, The Invisible Ghost, and King Kong, Frankenstein, Dracula plus their respective sequels
|| Banned due to high impact scary violence and cruelty. |
- 1964 to 1970: R. J. Prowse is appointed Chief Censor and Campbell goes into the Appeals Board. During the liberal 1960s many more films were being banned including The Miracle, Viridiana, La dolce vita, Satyricon, The Silence, Blowup and Zabriskie Point.
- 1971: Customs Minister Don Chipp begins the development of a new classification system which includes the much-needed R18+ rating for adult content, meaning movies that were once banned are gradually released.
- 1972: Pink Flamingos was banned until 1984, when it is passed with an X18+ rating. Soon after the X18+ guidelines were amended and the film was effectively banned again. In 1997, the 25th anniversary of its release, the uncut version of the film was refused classification.
- 1975: Under pressure from Western conservatives, the OFLC viewed the arthouse Belgian film Vase de Noces (also known as Wedding Trough) and banned it from being played at the Perth International Film Festival (before this, film festivals were not held by restrictions of the censors). In a controversial move, the board lifted the ban on appeal, and the film was allowed to be screened.
- 1976: Pasolini's Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma is banned. Vase de Noces is re-banned, and it remains banned to this day.
- 1984 : A governmental conference is held, resulting in the X18+ rating being introduced to cope with the upsurge in hardcore pornographic films, and the later abolition of X18+ rated material in most Australian states (ownership of hardcore porn remains legal). Cannibal Holocaust, an extremely graphic cannibal film by director Ruggero Deodato, was banned until 2005.
- 1986: Lucker the Necrophagous is banned due to its graphic necrophilia content.
- 1990: Gail Malone is fired and the Queensland Film Board of Review is disbanded when the new Labor Premier Wayne Goss is outraged that the Board had banned an edited version of Bad Taste after a three-week run in cinemas (the South Australian Classification Council cut it by a further 4 min 30 sec for an M rating). It is later released uncut on DVD. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was also banned for a brief period, but later released on VHS and DVD.
- 1992: The Chinese gore film Dr. Lamb, previously banned in 1981, is released with 9 m 30s cut (the poster is still banned). Nekromantik, its sequel Nekromantik 2 and Joe D'Amato's Buio Omega are banned for necrophilia content, The Beast in Heat is banned for excessive sexual violence and Final Exit are banned for controversial themes after customs confiscations.
- 1993: The ban on Pasolini's Salò is lifted. The MA15+ classification is introduced.
- 1995: Twelve queer films are banned from Tasmania's Queer film festival, including Spikes and Heels, Coming Out Under Fire, What a Lesbian Looks Like, Mad About the Boy, 21st century Nuns and Sex Fish.
- 1996: The Frighteners was banned in Tasmania because of sensitivity of the nature of the recent Port Arthur massacre (including a similar appearance of the film's antagonist and the gunman, Martin Bryant). The film has been since been televised and as released on VHS and DVD without problems.
- 1997: Pasolini's Salò is re-banned, a ban still in force.
- 2000: Romance is banned, but is later passed on appeal by the OFLC with an R18+ rating.
- 2002: Baise-moi is banned after initially being passed with an R18+ rating.
- 2003: Ken Park is banned, and NSW police close down a planned screening of the film.
- 2005: Wolf Creek was temporarily banned in the Northern Territory to avoid influence during the trial of Bradley John Murdoch for murder. It was re-released in the Northern Territory in January 2006. The OFLC unbanned a number of previously banned films including Cannibal Holocaust and The New York Ripper after a lengthy review. The South Australian Classification Council upgrades the classification of 9 Songs from R18+ to X18+, effectively banning it in South Australia (it remains R18+ in the rest of the country).
Prior to the late 1980s and early 1990s, all Canadian provinces banned films with no purpose other than the display of explicit sexuality or excessive violence.
At present, only films containing prohibited material (such as child pornography) or under court order (such as libel or copyright infringement) are banned in Canadian Provinces.
Because only 20 imported films are granted permission to screen each year in China, only blockbuster or widely known films are listed. It may be noted that some films which do not arrive in theatres nonetheless become available as pirated DVD editions.
- 1960: Ben-Hur, for containing "propaganda of superstitious beliefs, namely Christianity." (Never given permission to screen)
- 1994: To Live, for its satirical portrayal of various policies and campaigns of the Communist government. (Never given permission to screen)
- 1997: Kundun - regarded as Tibetan nationalism (Banned outright along with director Martin Scorsese)
- 1997: Seven Years in Tibet, for its view on a free Tibet. (Banned outright along with actors Brad Pitt and David Thewlis for life)
- 2000: Devils on the Doorstep, for its controversial portrayal of the Japanese Occupation of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War despite being a Chinese-made film (Never given permission to screen)
- 2005: Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, for its unflattering depictions of Chinese society (Never given permission to screen)
- 2006: Memoirs of a Geisha, over concerns it could rouse anti-Japanese sentiment. (Banned outright)
- 2006: Brokeback Mountain, for its depictions of homosexuality. (Never given permission to screen)
- 2006: Scorsese's The Departed, for suggesting that the government intends to use nuclear weapons on Taiwan, which is a very sensitive political issue. (Never given permission to screen)
- 2006: Over the Hedge was banned due to a difficulty with the DVD copy and some killing scenes to the animals. (Never given permission to screen)
- 2006: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, for its depiction of incest. (Never given permission to screen)
- 2007: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was banned because according to Xinhua, the state news agency of the People's Republic of China, 10 minutes of footage containing Chow Yun-Fat's portrayal of Singaporean pirate Sao Feng have been trimmed from versions of the film which may be shown in China. Chow is onscreen for 20 minutes in the uncensored theatrical release of the film. No official reason for the censorship was given, but unofficial sources within China have indicated that the character offered a negative and stereotypical portrayal of the Chinese people.
- See also: Censorship in the People's Republic of China, Film
Other films banned in Finland include:
- 1939: Beau Geste was banned until 1977 for portraying the Foreign Legion in a negative light and insulting French culture
- 1943: Le Corbeau was banned until 1969, first by the Nazis, then the French government, for dealing with collaboration.
- 1953: Les statues meurent aussi, a short film by Alain Resnais was banned. Its theme was that Western civilization is responsible for the decline of black art. The film was seen at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953 but subsequently banned by the French censor.
- 1957-1975: Paths of Glory was banned because it suggested that French soldiers in World War I executed their own soldiers for cowardice. This was done by the Italian and British armies, but there is no evidence that it was done by the French.
- 1960: Le Petit Soldat was banned on political grounds and the ban was lifted in 1963 with certain cuts.
- 1970: Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal, also known as Do not Deliver Us from Evil, was a movie based on the Parker-Hulme murder that was banned for blasphemy.
- 1956: The King & I
- 1968: Oliver!
- 1971: A Clockwork Orange
- 1973: The Exorcist
- 1977: Saturday Night Fever
- 1980: Cannibal Holocaust
- 1982: The Dark Crystal (possibly because of some of the ceremonial imagery seen in the film).
- 1983: Scarface
- 1989: Pet Sematary, Glory, and Back To The Future II (banned due to a scene where Ayatollah Khomeini is burning in hell. A cut version was later released).
- 1990: Henry & June
- 1993: Schindler's List
- 1995: Showgirls
- 1997: Boogie Nights
- 1999: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut; Three Kings and Anna and the King
- 2001: Zoolander (As it was seen as provoking Gay Rights)
- 2002: Pinocchio and Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heavens Door
- 2003: Bruce Almighty and Matrix Revolutions
- 2004: Fahrenheit 9/11, Catwoman, and Passion of the Christ, Harold and Kumar Go to the White Castle
- 2005: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Sin City and Brokeback Mountain
- 2006: The Da Vinci Code, Alexander, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
- 2007: 300
- 2008: Meet the Spartans, Harold and Kumar escape from Guantanamo Bay, You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Due to the small size of the country, films banned by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) are rarely even submitted for release in Ireland, due to the high costs of promotion and distribution for such a small area. Similarly, BBFC cuts are often left in DVD releases due to the difficulties in separating the two supplies.
Banned movies can still be viewed at private members clubs with 18+ age limits.
The government has media censorship based on British emergency regulations from 1948 stating that applies to domestic media, foreign newspapers and wire service transmissions from or through Israel. The Israeli Military Censor
has the power to turn off a broadcaster, stop information and arrest journalists, however these extreme measures have been rarely used. The Israeli Film Ratings Board has banned a few films containing obscene or racist material, or incitement to violence; for "expressing support for illegal or terrorist organizations" or questioning the government's actions against terrorists. An example is the 2002 film Jenin, Jenin
, in which survivors of the Battle of Jenin
were interviewed. The ban was lifted by the country's Supreme Court in August 2005.
Although there is a censorship board run by the government and in which one member is drawn from the Roman Catholic Church
, very few movies are not certified for release. Notably, Lion of the Desert
, starring Anthony Quinn
and concerning the Libyan revolution against Italy, and a few other films concerning Italian war crimes
during its brief colonial history were banned for a time during the post-Mussolini
period. Almost all Pasolini
's movies, including Salo: 120 Days of Sodom
(1975), were banned for a while but then released. Luc Besson's film The Big Blue
was banned for 14 years because Enzo Maiorca
felt that it inaccurately portrayed him and his rivalry with Jacques Mayol
. Last Tango in Paris
was banned for some time as well. Another Italian film, Cannibal Holocaust
, was banned in Italy from 1980-1984. It was banned on the belief that the actors were actually killed for the movie (i.e. that it was an actual snuff film
). When this was proven false, it was banned by an animal cruelty law (the film features the actual slayings of many animals), until the verdict was overturned in 1984. Also banned under Mussolini was the film adaptations of Ayn Rand
's novel We the Living
, titled Noi vivi
and Addio, Kira
strict censorship policy on nudity
, very few films are banned there.
Those that are banned are usually put under self imposed studio bans by the companies that produced them.
The film was never released on VHS, laserdisc or DVD and to this day the only way to see it is through its heavily edited US version.
- 1958: Varan the Unbelievable was put under a self imposed studio ban by Toho for some of the same reasons that Half Human was but was finally released in the 1980s on VHS and laserdisc (with a few lines of reportedly racist dialogue removed from the film).
- 1969: Teruo Ishii's exploitation flick Horrors of Malformed Men was put under a studio ban by Toei due to the film's numerous offensive elements.
These days, with the film currently unavailable in any format in Japan or the West, the only way to see it is through the occasional screening.
- 1974: Toho placed yet another one of their films under a self imposed ban, this time Prophecies of Nostradamus, an apocalyptic disaster film after a group of hibakusha, or Hiroshima survivors, saw the film and were highly offended by sequences showing a research party being attacked by radioactive cannibals and a pair of horribly deformed post-apocalyptic mutants fighting over a worm. After airing the film uncut on television in 1980, Toho withdrew the film from circulation entirely. Toho attempted releasing this film onto VHS in the late 1980s but was stopped due to protests. The only way to see the film is through the film's US version The Last Days of Planet Earth or through a grey market copy of the uncut version containing the time code at the top of the screen.
There was also a banning on extreme cruelty to animals. And the ones were about this film:
|| Reason |
| 1964 - 1971
|| Banned due to homosexual themes. A censored version was later released. |
| 1980 - 2006
|| Friday the 13th and Monty Python's Life of Brian
|| Banned on the same year. Ft13th is used for high impact violence and extreme cruelty/torture. And for the Life of Brian, due to offensive jokes to religious people. They're both passed with a DVD release. |
| 1984 - 2005
|| Cannibal Holocaust
|| Banned due to high impact violence and animal cruelty. A censored version was later released. |
|| Banned due to high impact violence, cruelty and child pornography. A censored version was later released. |
| 2006 - 2008
|| The Da Vinci Code
|| Banned by the prime minister of Norway until 2008. |
| 2007 - 2008
|| Saw IV
|| Banned due to high impact scary violence and cruelty until 2008. |
- The Pakistani government has banned the import of Indian and American films, leaving piracy as the only way to distribute them.
- 1999: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut , banned just like the show, South Park, because of the parody of Saddam Hussein. The censors and the audience walked out of the theater as it says, "The first non-pornographic movie to be banned in Pakistan." Even though it says uncut in this title, the cut version is permitted (the uncut version is still banned).
- 2006: The Da Vinci Code, out of respect for the Christian community there.
- 1982-1987 Blind Chance, like many of Kieslowski's films, it was banned for politically sensitive themes
- 1997 -Witajcie w życiu (Welcome to the life), a documentary film by Henryk Dederko about Amway in Poland was banned after the Polish office of the Amway Corporation managed to get a court ban on the movie because they claimed it was libelous.
- 1970: Catch-22 was banned until 1974 for the scene showing Capt. Yossarian naked in a tree.
- 1971: A Clockwork Orange was banned.
- 1979: The Life of Brian was banned because of offensive jokes of the religion.
- 1984: Cannibal Holocaust was seized by customs (specific year is unknown at this time). It was given an XX rating, which prevented it from being sold in the country. It is now rated 18 for a cut version (the uncut version is still banned).
- 1990: Henry & June was banned.
- 2007: Saw IV was banned because it refuses to cut out the parts not intended for South Africa.
- 1967: Komissar was banned. It was re-released in the late 1980s, winning nine awards, including the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
Currently, none of these films are banned anymore as of today.
|| Reason |
| 1922 - 1972
|| Banned due to high impact scary violence and cruelty. A censored version was later released. |
| 1979 - 2001
|| Monty Python's Life of Brian
|| Banned due to extremely inappropriate jokes about Christianity. A censored version is released. |
|| Mad Max
|| Banned due to high impact violence and cruelty. |
| 1984 - 1999
|| Cannibal Holocaust
|| Banned due to high impact violence and animal cruelty. A censored version has since been classified "15". However, bootleg copies for the uncut version are available. |
|| Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
|| Banned due to high impact scary violence and cruelty |
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
- 1932: Freaks is rejected by British censors and banned. Available from 1963
- 1952: Freaks is again rejected for a cinema rating certificate. Available from 1963
- 1954: The Wild One was banned from distribution in the United Kingdom until 1967. Now available
- 1960: La maschera del demonio was banned until 1968 due to its violent content.
- 1963: Freaks is finally passed with an X rating.
- 1968: Roger Corman's film The Trip was banned due to glorification of LSD. It is later unbanned but not released in Britain until the mid-1990s.
- 1972: The Last House on the Left was banned by the BBFC until 2002.
- 1974: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was passed uncut in 1999.
- 1975: Umberto Lenzi's Il paese del sesso selvaggio is banned.
- 1981: Ruggero Deodato's La casa sperduta nel parco (The House on the Edge of the Park) is banned until 2002.
- 1984: The infamous video nasty list is created to protect against obscenity. Films on this list were banned and distributors of said films were viable to be prosecuted (some of the films were banned before this list was made). This list banned 74 films at one point in the mid-1980s, but the list was eventually trimmed down when only 39 films were successfully prosecuted. Most of the films (even of the 39 successfully prosecuted) have now been approved by the BBFC either cut or uncut (see Video Recordings Act 1984).
For a list of films included in the list, see Video nasty
- 1989 Visions of Ecstasy is banned under blasphemy laws, and is presently the only film banned in the UK due to blasphemy.
Films are usually not banned today in the United States, as the section on freedom of speech
in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution
is usually enforced. Decades ago, however, obscenity was a valid reason for a film to be banned in certain cities across the nation.
- 1908: The James Boys in Missouri and Night Riders are banned in Chicago.
- 1915: The Birth of a Nation banned in several American cities, including Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
- 1917: The film Birth Control, produced by and starring Margaret Sanger banned, with the New York Court of Appeals holding that a film on family planning work may be censored "in the interest of morality, decency, and public safety and welfare". Message Photo-Play v. George H. Bell, 179 A.D. 13 (1917).
- 1919 - 1920: Within Our Gates banned in Chicago, New Orleans, and Omaha, for its depiction of interracial rape, lynching, and racial discrimination.
- 1926: The Red Kimono, based on a real-life Chicago murder case and political scandal, banned in Chicago.
- 1928: The Racket banned in Chicago.
- 1931: Frankenstein banned in Kansas for its portrayal of cruelty.
- 1932: Freaks banned in Cleveland.
- 1932: Scarface, a violent gangster movie set in Chicago, is banned in Chicago.
- 1936 - 1966: The 1931 version of "The Maltese Falcon" (not to be confused with the better known "cleaned-up" 1941 version) could not be shown in its unedited "lewd" version.
- 1945: Scarlet Street banned in New York City, according to Jan Morris' book Manhattan '45.
- 1949: Pinky was banned by the city of Marshall, Texas because it portrayed an interracial couple, a violation of the city's censorship code.
- 1953: The Moon Is Blue banned in Jersey City, New Jersey as "indecent and obscene.
- 1961: Victim banned in many American cities due to language.
- 1968 - 1991: Titicut Follies is barred from distribution to the general public by court order because the movie was considered a violation of the privacy of the prison inmates it filmed.
- 1969: I Am Curious (Yellow) is banned as pornography. After three court cases, it was unbanned when the anti-obscenity laws concerning films was overturned.
- 1987: Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is banned from sale, distribution, and public exhibition by court order after a civil trial on copyright infringement. Director Todd Haynes had failed to obtain the proper licenses to use several Carpenters songs in the film.
- 1988: The Last Temptation of Christ banned in Savannah when city leaders sent a petition to Universal Studios requesting a ban. However, opened in Savannah on September 23, 1988, 6 weeks after national and worldwide debut.
- 1997: The Tin Drum (film) was briefly banned in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, who deemed the film child pornography. The shot in question depicted minors performing oral sex.
- 2002 - present: The Profit, a film that borrows elements of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, was prevented from release when the Church of Scientology claimed the film could taint the jury pool in the wrongful death trial of former member Lisa McPherson. A legal dispute with investor Robert S. Minton has kept it from being released even after the suit was settled. The Disinformation Book Of Lists and The Times have characterized The Profit as a "banned film" in the United States.
Theoretically, free speech in the U.S. can also be limited if it might cause a clear and present danger of an imminent lawless action, or constitutes a copyright violation.
- Forbidden Films: Censorship Histories of 125 Motion Pictures by Dawn Sova ISBN 0-8160-4336-1
- Behind The Mask of Innocence: Sex, Violence, Crime: Films of Social Conscience in the Silent Era by Kevin Brownlow, 2nd ed. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992). Contains considerable information about film censorship in pre-1930 America, and discusses banned silent films in great detail.