NME looks back at the controversial movies that have been denied a release in the UK and abroad
With news that Monty Python’s Life Of Brian is to be shown in Bournemouth for the first time next month following a 30-year ban, here’s a gallery featuring 12 other films deemed unsuitable for public consumption in particular regions of the world. Some of them will surprise you more than others…
The Simpsons Movie – Burma: Strange but true – The Simpsons‘ 2007 big screen adventure was banned in Burma because the country’s Motion Picture and Video Censor Board has outlawed the colours red and – here’s the kicker – yellow in all movies. Poor Homer and Marge.
Back To The Future trilogy – China: In 2011, China decided to censor time travel in TV and movies, branding it “frivolous” subject matter. Ever since, the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown have been effectively banned there, with Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure also prohibited for the same reason.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – Norway, Sweden and Finland: Steven Spielberg’s warm, fuzzy sci-fi is rightly considered an all-time family classic, but upon its release in 1982, those under the age of 12 in Norway, Sweden and Finland weren’t allowed to see it – with or without their parents – because it was deemed to portray “adults as enemies of children”.
The Exorcist – UK: Home video copies of William Friedkin’s controversial horror classic were removed from UK shelves in 1988 and remained prohibited for 11 years, though the film played occasionally in cinemas during this period. The BBFC lifted the ban in 1999 after concluding that the film, “while still a powerful and compelling work, no longer had the same impact as it did 25 years ago”.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut – basically everywhere: Cartman and co’s big screen debut took a satirical swipe at freedom of speech and film censorship, so it was ironic (but probably inevitable) that it got banned in Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Not Canada though.
A Clockwork Orange – UK: Stanley Kubrick’s teeth-grindingly violent crime film was passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in 1971, but the director asked Warner Bros. to withdraw it the following year after the press claimed it was inspiring copycat attacks. A Clockwork Orange has only been readily available in the UK since Kubrick’s death in 1999.
Last Tango In Paris – basically everywhere: In the UK, the notorious sodomy scene featuring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider was reduced by censors before this film could be approved for release. But in numerous countries including Chile, South Korea and Portugal, Bernando Bertolucci’s sexually explicit erotic drama was banned outright for decades.
Last House On The Left – UK: Wes Craven’s 1972 directorial debut was deemed so violent by the BBFC that its initial cinema release was vetoed. After briefly being distributed on home video in the early ’80s, the bloody horror flick was banned again under the Video Recordings Act 1984 and remained unavailable in the UK until 2002, when it was approved with 31 seconds of cuts.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – UK: The BBFC kept this supremely influential slasher movie out of cinemas in 1975, and following a brief home video release, it was banned again until 1999, when it was resubmitted to the BBFC and given an 18 certificate. The following year, it was shown for the first time on British TV by Channel 4.
Cannibal Holocaust – UK: This infamous Italian horror movie featuring images of sexual assault, violence towards animals and graphic brutality was banned in the UK from 1983 until 2001, when it was approved for home video release with around six minutes of cuts. In 2011 the BBFC approved a less heavily-edited version featuring just 15 seconds of cuts, but the film is still banned elsewhere.
Reservoir Dogs – UK: Quentin Tarantino’s super-gory debut became a box office hit when it opened in UK cinemas in 1993, but it was banned on home video here until 1995. To meet demand while VHS copies were only available on the black market, the distributors simply decided to re-release Reservoir Dogs in UK cinemas in June 1994.
The Human Centipede II – UK: In June 2011, the BBFC denied this gruesome Dutch horror film a direct-to-video release, saying it made “little attempt to portray any of the victims as anything other than objects to be brutalised, degraded and mutilated”. That October, after the distributors made 32 compulsory cuts totalling over two and a half minutes, the film was granted an 18 certificate.