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Intellectual Freedom

Cut, Censored, Banned: NCAC’s Top 40 Film Picks

Celebrate your Freedom to View by exploring the National Coalition Against Censorship's list of 40 films banned around the world.  All titles are available for check-out from the Film & Video Collection, located on the Lower Level of Morris Library.  Browse selections from this list below.  (Descriptions by NCAC)

Blue Kite, 1993

Provides a personal perspective on life in China during communist rule, following the life of Tietou, a child born in 1954. Before the film was finished, it was blocked by Chinese officials, and upon its release was banned. In addition, a 10-year ban was imposed on the director, who has said, “The fact that it can appear today seems like a miracle… The stories in the film are real, and they are related with total sincerity. What worries me is that it is precisely a fear of reality and sincerity that has led to the ban on such stories being told.”

Available on DVD.

Borat : Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, 2006

Not surprisingly, Borat was originally banned in Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as every Arab country except Lebanon. Even in the United States, the film was embroiled in controversy two years before its release and the controversy continued long after the movie was in theaters, with participants claiming they were not fully aware of what they were getting into. However, officials in Kazakhstan had a change of heart after recognizing that the movie “put Kazakhstan on the map.”

Available on DVD.

A Clockwork Orange, 1971

This 1971 British classic from Stanley Kubrick has earned a place on so many movie compilation lists, it hardly needs mention. However, as those list-makers must have felt, any round-up of controversial films would be mistaken to ignore this cult-favorite groundbreaking crime sci-fi dramatic thriller. Through disturbing and violent images, the film offers commentary and the relationship between social, economic, and political position and juvenile delinquency that rings true today.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

The Evil Dead, 1981

On a lark to a remote cabin, a group of friends discovers a Book of Dead that leads them to unknowingly release demons who possess every member of the group but one, who is left to fight for survival. The original was released in 1981 with an equally scary 2013 remake, both of which were banned in countries including Finland, Ukraine, and Singapore due to the high-level of violence, blood, sex, and gore. Makes you think twice about what books you take camping.

Available on DVD.

The Exorcist, 1973

When the story of two priests’ attempt to save a young girl possessed by a mysterious entity hit theaters in 1974, it had already been steeped in controversy, as the original trailer was banned from many theaters for being “too scary.” When the film was released, theaters provided “Exorcist barf bags” as a result of the moviegoers’ physical reaction to the movie. Despite the hullabaloo, the film was the first horror movie nominated for an Academy Award, and was the highest grossing picture until the release of Jaws.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Hail Mary / Je Vous Salue, Marie (1985)

In this 1985 drama, director Jean-Luc Godard provides a modern retelling of the virgin birth in which Mary works at a gas station, Joseph is a taxi driver, and Gabriel is just passing through town. The modern interpretation wasn’t appreciated by all, as it was banned in Brazil and Argentina and criticized by Pope John Paul II. One angry critic was so unhappy with the film, he threw a shaving cream pie into Godard’s face at the Cannes Film Festival.

Available on DVD.

The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988

Banned or censored around the world, including in Turkey, Argentina, Mexico, and Chile, and still in Singapore and the Philippines, this film explores the life of Jesus Christ from the perspective that he is a human. This portrayal of Jesus’ struggles with fear, temptation, doubt, and lust was so offensive to fundamentalist Christians that numerous physical attacks were made on theaters and theatergoers in Europe and as many as 600 protesters gathered in one of many events to prevent the screening of the film in the United States.

Available on DVD.

Pink Flamingos, 1972

A 1972 transgressive black comedy exploitation film written, produced, scored, shot, edited, and directed by John Waters—what more needs to be said? Now a beloved cult favorite that made drag queen Divine a star, the movie caused quite a stir due to its subject matter and various perverse acts shown in explicit detail. The film’s popularity was cemented by a rerelease in 1997 and has earned a spot on the UK’s 50 Films to See Before You Die. Not bad for a movie made on a budget of $10,000.

Available on DVD.


Shortbus, 2006


Although the movie has been branded pornographic and one of its stars was nearly fired from her day job for her participation in the film, Shortbus director John Cameron Mitchell’s intent was to “de-eroticize” sex and “remove the cloud of arousal to reveal emotions and ideas that might have been obscured by it.” The movie follows a group of New Yorkers, each with their own emotional and sexual storyline, who gather at a weekly Brooklyn artistic/sexual underground salon. Mitchell’s vision for Shortbus was to “employ sex in new cinematic ways because it’s too interesting to leave to porn.” 

Available on DVD.

Some Like It Hot, 1959

Some Like It Hot Poster ImageSexual confusion, cross dressing, and costumes that were just short of nudity didn’t help curb the critics’ confusion over this before-its-time film. Now considered a comic classic, at the time of its release, the movie’s blatant sexuality combined with the homosexual implications caused censors to challenge the movie with claims that it “promoted homosexuality, lesbianism, and transvestitism.”

Available on DVD and Blu-ray.