The 101 Most Controversial Films of All-Time
Sort by: Showing 1-50 of 101
Decade: Rating: List Type:
The Kiss (1900)
When Broadway sensations May Irwin and John Rice's notorious lip lock was immortalized on film, people were shocked!
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Even in 1915, D.W. Griffith's Civil War epic caused a stir for its stereotypical depiction of African-Americans.
The scars of WWI were still fresh when this Oscar-winning anti-war movie drew fire for portraying young German soldiers in a sympathetic light.
Though its sympathies were with the sideshow performers, this circus drama was criticized for casting real-life "human oddities.
Howard Hawks' classic was banned in several states despite pre-release changes designed to counter claims that it glorified gangsters.
Americans were shocked by the nudity and sexual frankness of this Czech drama about an unhappy wife searching for fulfillment.
Triumph of the Will (1935)
Often called the most powerful propaganda movie of all time, Leni Riefenstahl's gorgeous documentary glorified Nazi ideals and iconography.
This exploitation 'road-show' shocker was promoted as educational, although its underage nude swimming scene was considered offensive.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Critics loved it, but media mogul W. R. Hearst -- the inspiration for Kane -- used his influence to discredit Orson Welles' groundbreaking movie.
The Outlaw (1943)
Busty starlet Jane Russell's breasts cast a long shadow over this erotically-charged Western, outraging guardians of public decency.
Song of the South (1946)
Never available on video or DVD in the US, Disney's charming animated take on Southern folklore was tainted by its live-action sequences depicting happy slaves.
The Moon Is Blue (1953)
Well-bred people in the 1950s didn't use words like "virgin," "seduce" and "mistress" in public, but this mild sex farce did and became a cause celebre.
Baby Doll (1956)
The Catholic Legion of Decency condemned Tennessee Williams' lurid tale of a thumb-sucking child bride and the men who lusted for her.
Peeping Tom (1960)
British critics called Michael Powell's disturbing thriller about a tormented murderer perverted, necrophilic and trashy; his career never recovered.
Viewers accustomed to Hitchcock's polished Technicolor thrillers were stunned by this B&W shocker that dared to kill star Janet Leigh before the halfway mark.
Homosexuality was still a criminal offense in England when this thriller dared to take the side of gay men victimized by ruthless blackmailers.
Luis Bunuel's surreal masterpiece was widely condemned for its suggestions of incest, rape and necrophilia.
Stanley Kubrick played up the dark humor in Nabokov's novel about a middle-aged man infatuated with a pubescent girl, but the subject was still a shocker.
Mondo Cane (1962)
This Italian shockumentary was castigated for exploiting footage of lurid cultural practices from around the world.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
One of the most stylistically influential movies of the '70s was accused of glamorizing Depression-era bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
This avant-garde mockumentary about '60s youth was condemned as pornographic, even though it's more about political protests than free love.
Titicut Follies (1967)
Frederick Wiseman's disturbing documentary exposed abuse in mental institutions, but its unflinching footage of patients was called insensitive.
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures reviled Polanski's dark horror classic for mocking religion and making "perverted use" of Christian beliefs.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The only X-rated Best-Picture winner, this gritty movie discomfited some viewers with its frank, non-judgmental depiction of homosexuality.
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Sam Peckinpah's movie was both praised for its realistic vision of the dying West and lambasted for its graphic portrayal of savagely explicit violence.
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Moviegoers expecting to be titillated were taken aback by this drama's raw, taboo-breaking examination of misogyny and dysfunctional relationships.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The second (and last) X-rated Best-Picture nominee, Stanley Kubrick's evocation of a dystopian future appalled some viewers with its ultra-violence.
The Devils (1971)
Ken Russell's historical drama about womanizing priests, sex-crazed nuns, hypocrisy and hysteria in 17th-century France was banned in deeply Catholic Italy.
Dirty Harry (1971)
Was San Francisco cop Harry Callahan's contempt for modern criminal-justice protocols a liberal critique of vigilantism or reactionary propaganda? Debate raged.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Obscene or mature? Peter Bogdanovich's melancholy look at adultery, alcoholism and promiscuity in 1950s Texas divided moviegoers and critics.
Straw Dogs (1971)
A graphic double rape and its aftermath made Sam Peckinpah's movie about a mild-mannered mathematician driven to explosive violence a hot-button topic.
Violent, politically radical and sexually transgressive, Melvin Van Peebles' indie movie reflected the simmering rage of disillusioned African-Americans.
Deep Throat (1972)
The dirty movie that ushered in "porno chic," Deep Throat sparked heated debate and precedent-setting court cases that challenged assumptions about obscenity.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Wes Craven transformed Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, a fable about rape, revenge and redemption, into a crude, taboo-breaking shocker.
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Art or pornography: That was the question raised by Bernardo Bertolucci's juxtaposition of lust and despair, starring Hollywood icon Marlon Brando.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
Cult provocateur John Waters used bizarre, crude, tasteless and sexually grotesque images to challenge cultural mores in his first feature.
The Exorcist (1973)
The sight of 13-year-old Linda Blair vomiting, swearing and abusing herself with a crucifix horrified a broad swath of moviegoers and critics.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Disenfranchised rural cannibals slaughter soft city folks in the first "meat movie," a horror tale rooted in realistic violence and social malaise.
Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)
A US distributor added hardcore inserts to Bo Vibenius' grim rape-revenge movie, and the combination of porn and violence confused and angered moviegoers.
Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975)
Inspired both by art-house sensation The Night Porter (1974) and real-life "Bitch of Buchenwald" Ilse Koch, this sex/torture movie spawned a wave of "nasty Nazi" movies.
A Real Young Girl (1976)
Hired to make a soft-focus, sexy-teen movie, French filmmaker Catherine Breillat instead delivered an explicit evocation of disturbing desires.
Radical Italian artist Pier Paolo Pasolini's movie equated fascism and sexual torture, and its graphic images aroused outrage and disgust.
Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)
Women Against Pornography unwittingly raised this ugly horror movie's profile by denouncing its relentless, misogynistic violence.
In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
Nagisa Oshima's graphic examination of all-consuming sexual obsession was seized by US Customs and cut before being released.
The Message (1976)
Though this epic biopic deferred to Islamic law by never showing Mohammed, it was still condemned as sacrilegious and banned in many Arab countries.
Tacking a cynical "real" murder sequence onto a ho-hum exploitation movie generated enough media outrage to make Snuff a lucrative hit.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Michael Cimino's depiction of friendships tested by the horrors of Vietnam won a Best-Picture Oscar, despite accusations of historical inaccuracy and racism.
Faces of Death (1978)
The fact that it was "banned in 40+ countries" was a selling point for this morbid collection of death scenes, some real and some fake.
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Vilified as a misogynistic wolf in faux-feminist clothing, this rape-revenge movie so incensed critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel that they tried to have it pulled from theaters.
Pretty Baby (1978)
Louis Malle's decision to cast 12-year-old Brooke Shields as an underage New Orleans prostitute struck many as verging on child exploitation.
Load more items (51 more in this list)
These are the films that caused uproars around communities during the time of their release. Whether a film be a documentary, a western, a thriller, a drama, a horror, a comedy, or an animated feature film; any film has the potential to shock and anger the world. Those film makers who pushed against the norm either intentional or by total accident should be remembered for their films and the affect they had on the time period. *Add on note plot summaries credit goes to AMC movie site*
67 votesInteresting, Beautiful, Absolutely Wonderful Lists (175 lists)
list by pacificus
Published 2 years, 8 months ago 8 comments
25 votesCensored Cinema (13 lists)
list by Gia
Published 4 years, 7 months ago
2 votesFavorite Lists (18 lists)
list by Alexander Asatiani
Published 1 year, 10 months ago
People who voted for this also voted for
But When Does it End? I Wanna Go Home...
Feed Your Dark Side
The Most Iconic Images in Cinema History
Scum of the Earth: The Most Hated People Ever
The Idiot's Guide To Famous (Classic) Filmmakers
Only directed one movie... but very interesting
Entertainers Who Died While Performing
Films Condemned by the Legion of Decency
Best Movies of 60s
The 67 Most Influential Films Ever Made
Fictional Character Crossover Fights
Brotherhood Bonding Films
Films that Roger Ebert didn't like that I did :3
SwornShadow's Pics from the Net
Roger Ebert's 4 out of 4 star Films
SwornShadow's 2013 Film Diary
Cult Flics People need to see :D