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The 20 Most Controversial Movies of The 1990s

13 March 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Emiliano Serrano Lara


A decade that saw a reconfiguration of the world order and the beginning of the overcrowding of technology, the 90’s meant also an interesting balance in cinema.

Carrying the 70’s conscious creativity and the 80’s blockbuster settlement, the 90s were rich in productions that became a matter of interest to diverse audiences.

Controversy surrounding 90’s movies seems to illustrate that regard. Both mainstream and incendiary independent productions raised polemic due to clichés in some cases but to their major experimentation with transgression in the others.

Although the 90s were generally a decade ready to receive the ideological and aesthetic guidelines of those exercises, as an non-avoidable property of controversy, the classic debates towards the boundaries of the experimentation with violence and taboo surrounding them were not eliminated.

The next list comprises some of the 90’s most controversial commercial and independent movies. It comprises titles that depicted sensible issues of their time and titles that overcame their context to be regarded as classics today.


20. Aladdin (Ron Clements, John Musker, 1992)


Aladdin is Disney’s adaptation of one of the One Thousand and One Night’s most known tales about an impoverished young man who finds a marvelous lamp.

Though a major sample of the so called Disney’s Renaissance, Aladdin faced major controversial problems due to what was regarded as the stereotyped racist depictions of its characters.

If that controversy was not matter enough to overshadow Aladdin’s undeniable success, the verse of one of its songs was ultimately changed due to a protest carried by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which seemed to have enough reasons to protest since that verse talked about cutting ears as a lovely property of the Arabian homes.


19. Henry and June (Philip Kaufman, 1994)

Henry and June

Henry and June follows the love triangle carried between Anaïs Nin and the Miller marriage in a 1931 Paris. Rich in themes such as voyeurism, homosexuality and promiscuity, this erotic movie gained the honor of settling the NC-17 rating after a quest from several important figures of the industry, who signed a letter regarding Henry and June’s original X-rating as unfair and requesting something between X and R instead.

As a result, the MPAA launched the new NC-17 rating and Henry and June became the first NC-17 movie, something that meant the MPAA regarded it as only one step down from X-rated pornography.


18. Boy Meets Girl (Ray Brady, 1994)

Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets Girl is the movie about a man who somehow wakes up strapped to a dentist chair and facing brutal torture after meeting a woman in a bar.

In a politically correct form of censorship, the movie was denied a rating certificate by the British Board of Film Classification. As a result it was featured nearly entirely in the underground scene.

Banned on video for eight years, Boy Meets Girl was finally released uncut in DVD. Today it is a cult title among the exploitation genre supporters.


17. Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997)

Funny Games (1997)

Arguably a satire of the familiar Heimatfilm, Funny Games follows the nightmarish turn of an idyllic family vacation, as a family is forced to take part in sadistic “games” to fulfill the entertainment of two disturbingly charming psychotic young men.

Labeled as unnecessarily cruel and violent, the movie is more about the gaps it forces the audience to cover. Audiences, nevertheless, didn’t seem to receive this warmly as the movie’s premiere in the Cannes Film Festival showed.

Haneke, nevertheless, again, seemed to have announced the rage his movie would raise as he stated that his main intention was merely to make a somehow moralistic comment on the influence of media in society.


16. Bandit Queen (Shekhar Kapur, 1994)

Bandit Queen

Bandit Queen is a biographic movie about Phoolan Devi, a revolutionary politician who overcame several forms of brutality.

The movie was widely acclaimed in major film festivals. Nevertheless, its infamous rape scene, today widely acclaimed and analyzed, drove some of the critics who approved it to question the relevance of its graphic violence and others to openly accuse the movie’s production of having carried such a scene for mere financial reasons.

Those concerns were nothing compared to the rage Bandit Queen raised in its country, where court actions to ban it in India were initially undertaken.


15. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)

South Park Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

The South Park movie is a cocktail of bad taste and politic incorrectness following Stan, Cartman, Kyle and Kenny as they find themselves involved in a potential war between the United States and Canada.

In spite of counting with several sequences of racism, obscenity and blasphemy that enraged several conservative groups, the movie’s gorgeous game with controversy was overall acclaimed by critics.



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  • John Davidsson

    Terrific list, though I must say that it is quite outrageous that Takashi Miike’s brilliantly disturbing masterpiece Audition got left out from this otherwise superb list.

    • Joel Zachariah

      I don’t think it was controversial… disturbing any day it is

      • John Davidsson

        Disturbing, political, experimental and hard hitting – I’d say that makes it pretty controversial by any reasonable standard.

    • ShpotSb

      It was released in 2000 in Japan. Not really a 90s movie

      • John Davidsson

        It can be argued to be a 90’s movie or a 00’s movie.

    • Jimi LaMort

      I don’t think it’s half as disturbing as his VISITORQ or FUDOH: The Next Generation.

      • John Davidsson

        Strongly disagree with you there mate, love those two films but they don’t hold a candle next to the slow melting madness of perfect pacing and uncompromising strong arm story-telling that is Ôdishon – easily Miike’s best film.

  • William Bunchy Mcpherson

    It’s amazing how serious people took JFK back when it was released. Watching it today it’s such an overblown parody of the JFK assassination conspiracies that it’s hard to believe that Stone wasn’t purposely buffooning them. Most of the performances were well over the top and some of the flashbacks are so implausible, like uniformed guerrilla soldiers loading weapons into trucks on the streets of New Orleans unnoticed by anyone.

    • Still D.R.E.

      I used to hate that movie because the title kinda misleads audiences to think it’s a JFK biopic (which I think would have been a much better movie)

  • Lee Canestrini

    Damn, you did NOT like JFK did you?

  • Tara

    I would add Naked (1993) and Lost Highway (1997)

  • Happiness and Funny Games stand out on that list as damn near masterpieces. Funny Games, even now after so many years, seems to have seared itself into my retinas and brainpan so horrifically I could never bring myself to watch Haneke’s own US remaking.

  • George Romerofan

    JFK, I remember falling asleep in the cinema after one and a half hours! The Divide ( 2011 ), 8MM ( 1999 ), Irreversible ( 2002 )

  • fantail31

    Fight Club! The film of the 90’s! where was it?

  • JFK is as close as most Americans will ever get to hear or know about what went on before and after the Kennedy assassination. Sure, it’s got its flaws, but it’s never about what the movie is but of the message it sends.

    I personally loved the cinematography, as well that closing monologue by Kevin Costner’s character: “Do not forget your dying kin. Show this world that this is still a government of the people and by the people . . . it’s up to you!”

  • Jimi LaMort

    Natural Born Killers is just a big budget Hollywood rehash of the superior Belgium film MAN BITES DOG, from two years earlier. IMHO

    • Relf

      It’s written by Quentin “copy paste” Tarantino, who is known for stealing everything

  • Granted Tarantino was given the top 2 slots but how did Pulp Fiction escape this list? I also recall The Piano being threatened with the NC-17 rating. Jane Campion refused to change it saying she was fine with releasing it UNRATED. Miramax won out making brief edits in order to receive an R-rating. The UNRATED version was released on Blu-Ray in Canada which really isn’t that different from the U.S. release.

  • Nicolás Soto Ray

    Clean, shaven