The 20 Most Controversial Movies of The 1990s

14. Boxing Helena (D. Jennifer Chambers Lynch, 1993)

Boxing Helena

Boxing Helena follows a disturbed surgeon who erects the woman he is obsessed with as a “Venus de Milo” after amputating her limbs.

Widely distant from her father’s debut, Jennifer Chambers Lynch polarized the critics with Boxing Helena, a film that faced several production problems.

Provocative, the film is a deployment of psychosexuality that enraged feminists who call it misogynistic.


13. Romance (Catherine Breillat, 1999)


Romance is Catherine Breillat’s allegory about the gaps between sexuality and love. It follows a sexually frustrated alienated teacher as she embarks in a journey of empowerment and carnal redemption.

The film is one of Breillat’s most controversial movies, as it faced overall censorship due to its extremely graphic depictions of nudity and the nihilism of its message.

So far, that doesn’t sound Romance is different from any other movie of Breillat’s peculiar filmmaking career. Romance, nevertheless, counted with the performance of the pornographic actor Rocco Siffredi as well with an infamous sequence of unsimulated oral sex.


12. The idiots (Lars von Trier, 1998)

The Idiots (1998)

Lars von Trier’s landmark film of Dogma 95 – The Idiots centers in a group of middle class inept adults as they diversely commit with incarnating a living allegory about the decadence of society by bringing out their “inner idiot”.

The blasphemous resolution of Lars von Trier’s already controversial Breaking the Waves was nothing compared with the controversy The Idiots raised. Widely publicized and covered by critics and media, the film’s depiction of disability was regarded by several people as cruel.

If that depiction was not enough, the movie counts with a raw orgy sequence that quite disturbed some audiences.


11. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)


Based upon Dream Story, Arthur Schnitzler’s Freudian novella about untold desires, Eyes Wide Shut follows the dream-like night of a doctor as he pushes himself in an unsatisfying but dangerous odyssey of rediscovery after his wife confesses that she has fantasized about having sex with other men.

Perhaps unfairly, Kubrick’s cinematographic testament was surrounded by tons of morbid attention due to its erotic feature of one of Hollywood’s most iconic couple at the time.

Ambiguous and slow as Kubrick took care to reproduce the dream-like atmosphere of Schnitzler’s novella, Eyes Wide Shut raised controversy surrounding the opinion this deceased legendary director had of it as well as its over-perfectionist symbolic orgy scene.

While it is still unclear whether Kubrick was satisfied with his carrying of it, Eyes Wide Shut is generally regarded as an unexpected but worthy closure of his filmmaking career. As for its orgy scene, Eyes Wide Shut faced major edits during its American distribution.


10. Lolita (Adrian Lyne, 1997)


Lolita is Adrian Lyne’s adaptation of Nabokov’s classic about the obsession of the highly educated Humbert Humbert, a mature literature professor, with the savage and vulgar girl Lolita.

Comparing Lyne’s adaptation with Kubrick’s classic may be unfair and inevitable. Nevertheless, in spite of being regarded as mediocre in comparison with the old version, Lyne’s Lolita is rich in elements that reproduce the cheerful but melancholic spirit of Nabokov’s book. Also, it found in Dominique Swain the worthy performer of Lolita that Sue Lyon couldn’t be.

In spite of the 35 years that separated it from Kubrick’s classic, due to the uncomfortable nature of its matter, Lyne’s Lolita were still disturbing enough to shock both audiences and critics. The movie thus suffered multiple cuts and edits that ultimately affected its quality.


9. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998)

Dylan Baker - “Happiness”

Happiness is a dark comedy about three sisters and the people surrounding them as everyone desperately wish to achieve happiness by unorthodox means.

Generally acclaimed in several international film festivals due to its amoral portrayal of highly uncomfortable contemporary themes, Happiness nevertheless was considerably controversial due to its widely explored sexual themes, and, especially, pedophilia.

As a result, Happiness, a relevant movie about the human condition in a contemporary world, suffered limited distribution.


8. Nekromantik 2 (Jörg Buttgereit, 1991)

Nekromantik 2

Nekromantik 2 focuses on the love triangle of Monika, Mark and the dead body of Rob (Nekromantik’s main character) as she finds herself torn between the boundaries of necrophilia and the dissatisfaction she finds in standard relationships.

Contrary to the original movie, perhaps due to the experience Buttgereit gained, Nekromantik 2 is a considerably more cared product that stands for itself. Some people even regard it as superior to Nekromantik.

Buttgereit wanted to offer something different to his few but faithful supporters so he decided to make Nekromantik 2 a more playful, happy story and yet to entirely carry it in the uncomfortable scenario of necrophilia.

Nekromantik 2 was confiscated and banned by Munich authorities. Apparently without a trial, its “glorification to violence” seemed to be enough to made Buttgereit “the most wanted filmmaker in Germany”, something he didn’t feel proud of.