This article contains discussions of murder, sexual violence and cannibalism.
While censorship is a tool that some directors might wish governments didn't have, it's a tool nonetheless. With these movies, however, the efforts of governing bodies were all in vain.
Most notorious in the video nasty era of the '70s and '80s, but still continuing to this day, censorship bodies are keen to limit the distribution of movies that they see as "morally corrupting." Despite their efforts, however, the Streisand Effect often takes effect, making a movie more famous than it ever would've been otherwise, all because people were desperate to stop audiences from seeing it.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader, The Last Temptation Of Christ is a marvelous retelling of the Christ narrative. The movie follows Jesus Christ, played by Willem Dafoe, as he struggles with a wide array of temptations during the last days of his life.
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Unsurprisingly, there are those who believe it to be deliberatively provocative. Scorsese, however, insists this was never his intention. In spite of his best efforts, several US cities banned the movie, with Blockbuster Video also refusing to distribute it. There is little question that this quest to censor the movie failed: it endures as a beautiful and intimate retelling of the Jesus story, and many consider it to be Scorsese's most underrated picture.
The Evil Dead (1981)
From director Sam Raimi, the man behind Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse Of Madness, The Evil Dead follows a group of friends who take a retreat to a cabin in the woods. What they don't realize, however, is that the cabin hides a dark past, which could come back to haunt them.
Infamous for its so-called "tree-rape" scene, The Evil Dead remains, to this day, a shocking movie. Labeled as a "video-nasty" in the UK, the movie gained notoriety as a gruesome, grisly picture. Word of mouth spread amongst midnight audiences, and the picture managed to become a cult classic, spawning two sequels, both of which improve vastly upon the original.
The Last House On The Left (1972)
The debut feature from Wes Craven, The Last House On The Left is an exploitation picture bound to unnerve anybody. The movie details the fate of a teenage girl, raped and murdered by a vicious gang of thugs, and her father, who vows revenge on the lot of them.
Blending elements of dark comedy with almost uncanny realism, the movie was bound to ruffle some feathers. It was prone to numerous cuts before the U.S release and received an outright ban in the UK, one which lasted through the '80s and '90s. Despite this censorship, however, the movie gained a reputation and has since become a cult classic.
The Driller Killer (1979)
The controversial classic from art-house eccentric Abel Ferrara, The Driller Killer is a grimy slasher movie with a wicked sense of humor. The movie tracks the life of a budding artist, played by Ferrara, who turns to violence as the incessant noise of his life drives him mad.
Released without much fuss in the U.S, but dismissed as tasteless trash in the U.K., the movie was banned just a year after its release. This ban was in small part thanks to the now-iconic poster, which depicted a drill going through a man's forehead. Ferrara, then an unknown, found himself at the center of a media frenzy. Attention flooded his way, and the movie became an underground sensation.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
A disturbed masterpiece from Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of friends in Texas who go to check on their grandfather's grave. When they stumble across a strange house, however, they are oblivious to the danger they're about to face.
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Despite its vast success at the box office and significant cultural influence, the movie was banned in the U.K. over a year after its release. By this point, controversy and word of mouth followed the movie wherever it went. The movie was visceral, relentless, and utterly unflinching and its notoriety built over the years. The movie was finally shown on British TV in 1998 in spite of its ban and it lives on in infamy to this day.
Polish director Andrzej Zulawski's Possession, a haunting and surreal movie, is an art-house exploration of marital breakdown. The movie follows a couple on the brink of divorce, played by Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani, and the increasingly strange behavior of the wife.
Widely hailed as a masterclass in both acting and atmosphere, Possession was, again, lumped into the category of "video nasty," and seeing it became almost impossible for general audiences. This continued for around a decade. Over the years, the movie was praised by critics and audiences alike, particularly by English critic Mark Kermode, and fans were finally able to see Zulawski's terrifying magnum opus.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
A favorite of director Eli Roth, Cannibal Holocaust kicked up a storm upon release. The movie, shot in the style of found footage, follows a rescue team attempting to retrieve a crew of filmmakers from deep in the Amazon Rainforest.
The violence in the movie was so realistic that the director was faced with charges of murder, though these were completely false. The movie did get banned in several countries, mainly due to animal cruelty, as real animals were injured and even killed for the production. In spite of the bans, the movie played up its disturbing nature, expanding its audience and making it an essential watch for fans of extreme cinema.
A Serbian Film (2009)
So graphic and violent it's almost absurd, A Serbian Film follows the exploits (literally) of a former pornographic actor, as he's offered the role of a lifetime. To provide for his family, he decides to partake in a series of increasingly sadistic acts, all of it for the ultimate sick pleasure.
The movie was made, ironically enough, as a rebuttal to the strict censorship in Serbia, though it faced far wider censorship than this. The movie was banned in several countries, as a result of its extreme sexual and violent content. In spite of this, or rather because of it, the movie has an enormous following online, where it almost became a challenge to watch the movie.
The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) (2011)
Perhaps more controversial than the original, The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) is a self-referential dark comedy. It follows Martin, a security guard at a parking lot and Human Centipede obsessive, who decides to make his own version.
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An exercise in poor taste, The Human Centipede 2 was banned for distribution in the U.K., as well as in Australia and New Zealand. While the original had a less than stellar reputation, having been parodied in an episode of South Park, the sequel did receive some praise for its darkly comedic tone, as well as its haunting cinematography, no doubt increasing its audience over time.
Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom (1975)
The final masterpiece from Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of Italy's finest ever directors, Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom tells the story of four libertines shacked up in a fine manor house. Whilst there, they round up 18 young people and engage in acts of increasing depravity.
Still banned in many countries even to this day, Salo has compelled and repulsed people, often in equal measure. It is probably the most famous of Pasolini's works; many people know of the movie or of its reputation, and it is necessary viewing for those interested in the history of cinema, or in the history of Italian politics.