Isn’t it great to snuggle up and watch a nice comedy, romantic film, or family-film? It sure is, but have you considered watching one of the most controversial movies of all time instead? These are movies that have shocked us but have also gotten us to think deeper. They still hold up today and it seems that they’ll be with us for a long time.
Whether in classic cinema or contemporary cinema, there are controversial movies that might make you uncomfortable when you see them – but you’ll want to see them nonetheless.
Some of you might be glad that these movies were made. Others will hate the directors who were behind these cinematic achievements. Regardless of your opinion, you just can’t stop talking about these movies.
Join FactsVerse to learn about the Most Controversial Movies of All Time…
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Martin Scorsese has often incorporated religious themes in his films. One of his most recent films, Silence, followed Christian missionaries held captive in Japan. But before this film, he had made another film with religion in its focus. This film, was the opposite of silence and caused a huge uproar.
The Last Temptation of Christ starred Willem Dafoe as Jesus of Nazareth and told his story just before the crucifixion. In the last act of the film, Jesus is seen as being tempted and wanting to live a normal life like any other man.
The film caused a huge controversy as did the novel it was based on. Cinemas were burned if they dared play the film and people were attacked if they watched the film. While in our secular age, The Last Temptation of Christ isn’t discussed as much – it still remains one of Martin Scorsese’s most provocative films.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Before we had arguments on whether video games inspire violence, society scrutinized Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange.
The film shows characters engaging in sadistic acts of violence and are constantly seen enjoying it. There’s almost a humor that they feel when they hurt others. These scenes are disturbing even today and at the time, many acts of violence were committed in countries such as England. Upon arresting these miscreants, they stated that they were inspired by A Clockwork Orange.
Stanley Kubrick was embarrassed by the impact that A Clockwork Orange allegedly had on the larger society. While many filmmakers defend their work – no matter how shocking – Stanley Kubrick felt that he had made a film that inspired some people to hurt others. He demanded that the film be pulled from cinemas. He even once sued a pub that showed the film in later years.
It was only after Stanley Kubrick’s death in 1999 that A Clockwork Orange was screened again and then released on home video.
The film is still just as violent as ever and will make you question whether we can be desensitized to even the most sadistic violence.
LAST TANGO IN PARIS
The Godfather, released in 1972, gave an opportunity for Marlon Brando to give one of his greatest performances. The same year, an independent film set in Paris came out and he gave one of his most raw performances in cinema. The film was Last Tango in Paris and it became controversial due to its raw sex scenes. While this was commonplace in European cinema and the director Bernardo Bertolucci was no stranger to such films, it was still a shock for puritan America.
The sexuality in this film was erotic but also frank. Some scenes were crass yet one couldn’t turn away from them. One of the most controversial scenes involved Marlon Brando lying on top of Maria Schneider – and that’s all the details we’ll give you for this video.
This scene was discomforting when it was released in 1972 but is now even more discomforting as it was revealed that this scene wasn’t in the script and wasn’t rehearsed beforehand. Rather it was done at the suggestion of the director without informing the actress first.
Maria Schneider didn’t have much of a career after this film and only appeared in a few films. She stated that she was truly traumatized by the experience of this film. It’s considered a great work of art but its content was controversial then and even more now since the revelations.
Dustin Hoffman is usually not a fan of violent films and claimed to have only been in this film for the money. Susan George’s character went through a harrowing experience in this film yet the actress claims this is one of her best acting experiences! Go figure!
Straw Dogs features an American mathematician moving to the English countryside with his wife who grew up in a seemingly-charming village. But underneath the façade, is a village full of violence and sadism.
The film features a controversial scene where Susan George’s character is attacked by two men who wish to sleep with her – one after the other. The most controversial part of this scene is that after some time she stops fighting and there have been debates on whether she actually enjoyed the incident. Clearly, not a film for everyone!
The sheepish character played by Dustin Hoffman gets pushed around and is provoked throughout the film. The film makes us question whether we can truly be peaceful and whether we all have violence in us if we’re pushed far enough.
We live in a world where it’s become normalized to take out or phones and film anything – whether its someone saying something offensive in an effort to ‘cancel’ them or filming nightclub goers getting drunk and of course, making homemade adult movies.
But there was a time when we didn’t all have a camera at our disposal. In such times, if one used a camera to film lurid subjects – especially without consent in a voyeuristic manner, we shunned them.
This is the focal point of Peeping Tom – a film so controversial that it ended Michael Powell’s career – even though he was one of the most respected figures in British cinema. The film flopped and audiences were too disturbed to watch it – though it is now considered a masterpiece.
It follows a lonely man who uses his camera to film women without their consent – and then kills them afterward. Truly a film today that’ll make us think about how voyeurism and recording others has become so normalized – and whether this has been a horror for our society.
DO THE RIGHT THING
Racism is a topic that is often discussed in American society and one that’s been discussed throughout American cinema. Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing is one of his best and remains a controversial film that you can’t stop thinking about.
It shows the tensions that build between African-Americans and an Italian-American pizzeria owner over the course of one hot day in Brooklyn. The film was controversial as many worried it would stoke up tensions between the races.
The film is still discussed today as are the themes behind them…
Have you seen a film so controversial that the director was accused of murder? If not, then you clearly haven’t seen Cannibal Holocaust!
This film follows a group of European explorers who visit a cannibal tribe in Papua New Guinea only to get attacked by them. The film was controversial due to its graphic violence and exploitative look at indigenous tribes. There are scenes of animal torture and murder which were actually performed in the film.
The director also asked the actors to step away from the limelight upon the film’s release as he wanted to give the impression that the film was an actual documentary. It was believed that these actors had actually been killed and the director was tried in court. The actors had to come out of hiding and storm into court just to prove his innocence!
SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM
World Cinema has no shortage of controversial films and there was one film that, though made in Italian, went far beyond Italy’s borders and was a shock to many English-speaking audiences. Based on the Marquis de Sade’s novel, Salo Or The 120 Days of Sodom is considered one of the most controversial movies of all time – and the #1 controversial film for many.
While perhaps not as violent as A Clockwork Orange or even an ordinary action thriller today, it’s one of the most nihilistic films you’ll ever watch.
It shows young people who have been held hostage at a large mansion and are repeatedly subjected to cruel torture. They are made to perform awful acts including eating excrement. The abuse from the adults to the young people is incredibly discomforting and there’s no pleasure or entertainment from this film at all – what else to expect?
But the film provokes discussion and that’s why it’s still, perhaps reluctantly, watched today. Just as the nihilistic book survives, so does this film as it makes us question the world we live in and provokes discussion and disgust.
These are the most controversial movies of all time and if you’ve seen them, perhaps you want to give them a closer look. If not, they’ll make you think – but now you know about their violence and disturbing scenes, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Are you a fan of any of these controversial films? These are some of the best films ever made – in part because of their artistic merit and perhaps in part of the shock that they caused and continued to cause.
Now, here’s what we’d like to hear from you:
Do you think that today’s films try to challenge their audiences?
Or do today’s filmmakers try to play it safe and want to focus more on generic entertainment?