scandals The Most Controversial Movies of All Time  

Ann Casano
50.9k votes 5.5k voters 2.2M views 45 items

List Rules Every film on this list was publicly ridiculed or denounced in some way.

Since the beginning of cinema, films have been pushing the boundaries of what society deems to be “acceptable entertainment.” If filmmakers did not take chances, did not dare to question the establishment, and instead opt to walk the line - films like The Wild Bunch and Psycho would never have been made. Thankfully artists have always been there to challenge authority. These are the most controversial movies of all time.

Some of the movies on this list were banned and/or denounced because they were too violent and graphic like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist may be considered tame by today’s standards, but at the time of their release, many moviegoers and critics were shocked and appalled by their gratuitous violence.

Of course, religion has always and will always be a major contributor to controversy. Pretty much any film that has questioned the sanctimony and history of an established religion, like Christianity, is going to receive heat. Religious protesters in Paris firebombed a theater screening of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. The protesters thought the film’s depiction of the life of Jesus Christ should not include sex, lust, or temptation.

Some of the movies on this list are made for nothing more than shock value. Horror films like Faces of Death and Cannibal Holocaust are meant to disgust and push the boundaries of good taste, while other films like Midnight Cowboy and Bonnie and Clyde have stood the test of time and have become Hollywood classics.

There are several reasons why the films on this list (many more than just the top 10 controversial movies) were deemed controversial: too sexual, too violent, too graphic, too queer, too shocking, too much nudity. For whatever the reason, these are the most controversial movies of all time. Upvote those you think are the most controversial, whether or not you like the film itself.
Cannibal Holocaust is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Controversial Movies of All Time
Photo: United Artists
1 1,208 VOTES

Cannibal Holocaust


Although the horror film was made in 1980, it is still banned in several countries, partly due to its actual abuse of animals. Director Ruggero Deodato was even arrested on murder charges for the scene in which he filmed a naked woman being impaled (she was not actually impaled, it was just excellent special effects work).

Actors: Ruggero Deodato, Luca Barbareschi, Robert Kerman, Gregory Snegoff, Edward Mannix, + more

Initial Release: 1980

Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Also Ranked

#23 on The Most Horrifying Found-Footage Movies

#46 on The Best Found Footage Movies

#18 on The Most Nausea-Inducing Great Films

#35 on The Most Awkward Movies to Watch with Your Parents

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A Clockwork Orange is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Movies of All Time
Photo: Warner Bros, Columbia
2 2,805 VOTES

A Clockwork Orange


Stanley Kubrick deconstructs the nature of violence in his Academy Award-nominated X-rated romp. The 1971 cult classic was banned in several countries, including Britain, because the film reportedly, "represented a danger to society by inspiring the very violence it was seeking to explore and define."

Actors: Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke, Steven Berkoff, David Prowse, Adrienne Corri, + more

Initial Release: 1971

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Also Ranked

#2 on The Best Stanley Kubrick Films

#7 on The Best Science Fiction-y Psychological Dramas

#10 on The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made

#5 on The Best Dystopian and Near Future Movies

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The Last House on the Left is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Movies of All Time
Photo: Rogue

Wirter/director Wes Craven's 1972 saga of kidnapping, rape, and murder was initially given an X-rating by the MPAA. Because of the horror film's graphic sexual content, seven minutes of the movie's original running time were cut.

Actors: Martin Kove, Steve Miner, Fred J. Lincoln, Sandra Cassel, David Hess, + more

Initial Release: 1972

Directed by: Wes Craven

Also Ranked

#27 on Horror Movie Set-Ups You'd Least Like to Be Trapped In

#43 on The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

#28 on The Most Nausea-Inducing Great Films

#32 on The Goriest Movies Ever Made

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Faces of Death is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Movies of All Time
Photo: MPI Media Group
4 1,173 VOTES

Faces of Death


This shockumentary, and sleepover party staple, which reports to show "real" violent deaths, has been banned in 46 countries. There are a total of five Faces of Deaths films.

Initial Release: 1978

Directed by: John Alan Schwartz

Also Ranked

#35 on The Goriest Movies Ever Made

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