films 6 Controversial Movies That Started International Incidents  

Ann Casano
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There have been plenty of controversial films that were banned in several countries. However, only a few movies have caused international incidents or resulted in real-life violence. These banned movies that caused worldwide problems.

Where’s the line between art and glorified violence? What one spectator clearly sees as a movie satirizing violent culture may trigger complete outrage in another viewer. One film on this list sparked so many violent copycat crimes that the director himself banned his own movie in his home country while another film on this list was considered so obscene by a court in Italy that its director was prosecuted and his civil right of voting was revoked for five years. Interestingly, both of those films were nominated for multiple Academy Awards.

Many of these films that caused problems are still banned around the world. You won’t see The Interview anytime soon in North Korea. In fact, Kim Jong-un was so outraged by the comedy that it (allegedly) resulted in the notorious Sony hack. Read all about that controversial movie and more in the list below.


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Who would have thought that a goofy comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as celebrity journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could cause such an uproar? On November 24, 2014, a hacker group called the "Guardians of the Peace (GOP)" successfully hacked Sony Pictures and publicly released personal information about the company's employees, personal emails, and copies of not-yet-released Sony films.

The hacker group demanded Sony not release The Interview and even threatened terrorist attacks at movie theaters that did screen the comedy. The government of North Korea quickly emerged as the prime suspect behind the hack and even called The Interview an "act of war" and threatened "merciless retaliation." Surprisingly, the North Koreans' threats worked. Sony decided to cancel the film's big premiere and wide release, however, it did release the film digitally. It also had a limited theatrical run. 

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Richard Attenborough's 1987 biopic chronicles the friendship between white South African journalist Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) and black activist Steve Biko (Denzel Washington) during apartheid-era South Africa. In the film, Woods is forced out of the country because of his investigation into Biko's death while he was in police custody. Cry Freedom was initially approved by government censors, however, authorities banned the Academy Award-nominated film hours after its premiere because they felt it served as a threat to public safety.

The Minister of Justice, Hendrick J. Coetsee, stated that Cry Freedom violated the law against quoting banned persons (Woods is banned in South Africa). The film's premiere caused a slew of explosions and bomb threats at several South African movie theaters, including a gasoline bomb in Port Elizabeth.

The announcement that the movie had been pulled by the government caused public outrage. The South African Council of Churches said of the white minority-led government that they were trying to hide "its shameful history from its people (without) learning from that history that peace and justice must in the end triumph."

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Martin Scorsese's 1988 Academy Award-nominated film depicts a more human side to Jesus Christ. It was widely condemned by religious protesters internationally and banned in several countries throughout the world. It was so controversial that Blockbuster initially refused to carry the film.

A group of activists in Paris firebombed a viewing of the movie, injuring 13 people. Several other cities in France also had violent incidents during screenings of the movie, including releasing tear gas and setting off stink bombs inside movie theaters. A representative from Universal International Pictures said of the acts, "They have massacred the film's success, and they have scared the public." Meanwhile, a leader of one Roman Catholic group intent on stopping the film from being screened stated, "We will not hesitate to go to prison if it is necessary."

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Oliver Stone's 1994 satirical crime movie was named the eighth most controversial film of all time by Entertainment Weekly. The over-the-top violent movie about two homicidal lovers on the run has been linked to at least 12 copycat murders in the United States and abroad.

One 2006 crime in Alberta, Canada was especially gruesome. Jeremy Allan Steinke (who was 23 years old) and his 12-year-old girlfriend, who became Canada's youngest convicted killer, murdered her parents and her 8-year-old brother. All three victims were stabbed to death. Hours before committing the murders, Steinke allegedly watched Natural Born Killers and said to his friends that he and his girlfriend should go about their plans to kill her family in a similar manner. Additionally, Steinke said to an undercover officer, "You ever watch the movie Natural Born Killers?... I think that's the best love story of all time..."

The film caused controversy worldwide. The UK publication The Daily Mail called the film "evil" and said, "If ever a film deserved to be banned, this is it." Oliver Stone and Time Warner were even sued by one victim's family for "distributing a film they knew, or should have known would cause and inspire people to commit crimes." The lawsuit was thrown out in 2001.

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