People sure do like to claim that modern viewers are “too sensitive.” This list was not made for that type of person. While the argument that people get offended too easily can be backed up to some degree, there are legitimate examples of things that truly are offensive. Take the movies in this list for example. Below are ten movies that have caused an uproar to some degree because of the offensive content featured therein.
This list is, for the most part, as objective as possible. The movies are listed primarily because they offended all kinds of people – not just the author of this list. Of course movies with blackface and graphic rape scenes are included. Turns out people aren’t cool with overt racism, sexual exploitation, and excessive gore. Who knew? The most important thing to note is that not all of these movies are going to offend you. They’re simply included because they left a sour taste in the mouths of so many viewers.
Last year, Charlie Sheen, a notorious 9/11 “truther” starred in a steaming pile of garbage about the September 11th terrorist attacks. The decision to cast him in a movie about the harrowing attacks is offensive enough, but there’s so much more to talk about when it comes to this exploitative disaster movie disguised as a tribute to 9/11. There have been movies about the 9/11 terrorist attacks but none of them have felt so manipulative or attention-seeking. Even with the hokey “never forget” message tacked onto the end of the movie, this all seems like a vile attempt to earn a few bucks.
This isn’t a melodrama about the lives lost on that day. No, this is just a Roland Emmerich-inspired disaster movie that happens to be based on real events. These real events, by the way, didn’t need a disaster movie a mere sixteen years later. Hell, 9/11 is an event that really doesn’t need a disaster movie at all. Why don’t we save that subgenre for fictionalized natural disasters? Did we really have to base it on real events? And did we really have to put in the lunatic from Two and a Half Men?
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, United 93, and World Trade Center all approached the topic with some form of subtlety. Subtlety is nowhere to be found here. This just seems like a bunch of money-hungry Hollywood people coming together to create something that’s one step away from being despicable. You can “never forget” without seeing this hunk of junk.
9. The Passion of the Christ
A movie about Jesus’s crucifixion was bound to be controversial in some ways, but it’s a different beast entirely in the hands of Mel Gibson. While the movie was an undeniable commercial success, plenty of people weren’t exactly satisfied with the final outcome. This movie was slammed for a variety of reasons. While most people found it to be objectively pretty decent, the more controversial elements left people feeling sour.
Seriously, this is a well-made movie. Great acting, great direction, and great cinematography are all present. The problem instead lies with potential antisemitism, a lack of biblical accuracy, and excessive violence. Buckets of blood and gore were used in place of an actual story, and that just wasn’t cool with people.
Again, everything is well-made, but a lot of viewers found that The Passion of the Christ entered torture-porn territory. Some people believed that if the movie would have toned down the violence, there may have been more time to tell a story that more thoughtfully (and accurately) told the story of Jesus’s final days.
Of course, anybody who was around during the release of this movie knows that the real controversy comes from the perceived antisemitism. In fact, there’s still some debate about whether or not this movie intentionally paints a negative picture of Jewish people. Given Mel Gibson’s past, some may find that the actor and director had some sort of hidden agenda. That very well may be the case. At the same time, other may argue that the movie was just, as Gibson said “meant to tell the truth.” Regardless, the movie remains controversial because of the perceived antisemitism.
The point is, enough people found this movie to be offensive. It basically has to be included on this list. While it’s not as universally offensive as other movies on the list, it is still polarizing in terms of the material included. Sure, there aren’t straight-up pedophilia scenes, but there are tinges of antisemitism and bucket of (arguably) unnecessary gore. Long story short: watch at your own risk.
In 2015, Harmony Korine said that 1995’s KIDS would be “impossible to make now.” Another day, another person saying today’s generation is “too weak” to stomach something offensive. To be fair, KIDS would be a tough movie to market today. While teen sex and drug abuse isn’t the most controversial topic to address, the problem with KIDS was (and still is) that it all felt a little too real. Nothing before this movie had addressed these topics in a way that was so raw.
Back in 1995, critics felt that it “bordered on child pornography.” While that seems like a stretch, the fairly graphic depictions of teen sex were more hardcore than audiences had seen before. Murmur of the Heart for example, got away with depicting teen sexuality because it felt more subtle.
KIDS focused solely on teen drug use, sex, and overall perversion. The more conservative viewers weren’t happy. Granted, the heavy focus on these three things resulted in an authentic viewing experience that related to a lot of people. It just didn’t appeal to everyone.
Harmony Korine’s career has continued to cause controversy. Gummo, Trash Humpers, and Spring Breakers all caused some sort of controversy. KIDS, however, may have caused the most trouble. The others were disturbing to some degree, but they didn’t offend to the same degree. Let’s be real, Gummo may be harder to watch, but KIDS pissed off more viewers. That’s why it has earned a coveted spot on this list.
Tod Browning, the director of Dracula, had his entire career ruined because of 1932’s Freaks, a movie that still disturbs people to this very day. Following its release, it was deemed controversial for two reasons. Before people were accepting of disabilities, some viewers found that the “freaks” were downright frightening. Certain people found it disgusting that these people could star in a feature-length motion picture.
On the flip-side, some viewers found Freaks to be unnecessarily exploitative and cruel toward the actors and actresses who actually lived with these disabilities. Today, people view it as offensive almost exclusively because of the latter reason. Essentially, Freaks is just a a cinematic version of a real-life freak show. Given how controversial freak shows were, it’s no wonder people are conflicted about the movie’s exploitative nature.
Yes, the movie freaked people out, but lot of people find this movie to be something of a masterpiece. The messages about morality remain powerful to this day. At the same time, rumors of less-than-stellar working conditions make it hard to sympathize with the director.
On top of that, people have found that the typical horror movie ending paints these people as monsters rather than people who deserve sympathy. Without spoiling the ending, let it be known that a minority of those viewers have looked past that. Hell, some believe that certain characters “had it coming.” Still, the violent finale does very little to make the “freaks” feel human. This ultimately makes the movie feel even more exploitative.
While this film may have been the most offensive movies ever made at the time of release, times have changed. While there are still elements that remain controversial, this is hardly the racist monstrosity that is The Birth of a Nation. It’s weird and occasionally hard to sit through, but it has an interesting message and, to be honest, its cult status is entirely warranted. It is, controversy aside, an excellent movie.
6. Cannibal Holocaust
Ruggero Deodato was charged with making a snuff film after he directed Cannibal Holocaust, which was rumored to have several real onscreen deaths. This was later proven to be false, but the decision to keep the actors away from other projects after this movie’s release certainly didn’t help his case.
If the last couple sentences didn’t make things clear yet, let’s break it down. Cannibal Holocaust featured such realistic death scenes, that people actually thought the director killed members of the cast. Sorry Eli Roth, but this is how a real director goes about directing graphic violence.
While the deaths of the human characters were not real, they were pretty brutal. This isn’t typical torture porn violence. This is “turn things up to 11” violence, and people noticed. They also noticed the explicit violence against animals, which unfortunately was real.
The most noteworthy scenes of animal cruelty included a pig being shot at close range and a turtle being dismembered. Apparently the turtle dismemberment even brought a cast member to tears. Out of all the controversial aspects, the animal cruelty remains the thing that still haunts the director’s career. People have (to some degree) gotten past the gore and graphic sex, but pulling apart a turtle is a big no-no.
Surprisingly, Cannibal Holocaust is considered a rather influential horror movie regardless of the more offensive aspects. While few movies seek to reach this level of realism, the movie did help create the found footage genre that has since become so popular. Movies like Blair Witch Project, V/H/S, Rec, and The Last Exorcism owe their success to this harrowing cult classic. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but those who can handle the gore often find something worth praising when everything is said and done.