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The Most Controversial Movies of All Time

Updated November 14, 2019 120.2k votes 13.1k voters 2.7m views45 items

List RulesEvery 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 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 what they depicted.

Some of the movies on this list are made for nothing more than shock value. Horror films like 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.

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.

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  • Todd Solondz's 1998 independent film sort of tricks its viewers into caring about offenders. Universal Pictures, which financed the film after it won the International Critic Award, ultimately cancelled distribution plans after seeing the film for the first time, on the basis of "moral grounds." The movie was eventually released by a different studio and without an MPAA rating.

    • Actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jared Harris
    • Released: 1998
    • Directed by: Todd Solondz
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  • Although the horror film was made in 1980, it is still banned in several countries, partly due to its treatment of animals. Director Ruggero Deodato was even brought in by the authorities due to the scene in which he filmed a woman being skewered (it was just excellent special effects work).

    • Actors: Ruggero Deodato, Luca Barbareschi, Robert Kerman, Gregory Snegoff, Edward Mannix
    • Released: 1980
    • Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
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  • In the original Human Centipede, for no particular reason, a Dutch scientist snatches a few tourists and turns them into one stitched-together creature. Sequels are typically a "bigger" event, and director Tom Six promised audiences even more grotesqueness: "The movie makes the first film look like My Little Pony in comparison."

    • Actors: Lee Nicholas Harris, Dieter Laser, Dominic Borrelli, Daniel Jude Gennis, Ashlynn Yennie
    • Released: 2011
    • Directed by: Tom Six
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  • This shockumentary, and sleepover party staple, which reports to show "real" demises, has been banned in 46 countries. There are a total of five films in the series.

    • Released: 1978
    • Directed by: John Alan Schwartz
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