Controversial movies were created from the beginning of cinematography. Depending on the decade, the shock factor varied from violence to sex , religion and politics. The question of whether art should be allowed to express itself freely or a limit should exist applies to the movie industry as well.  Here are 10 of the most controversial movies of all time, ones which caused riots, public scandals, threatening and death.

1. The Kiss (1896)

kiss 1915

This is a short film about a… kiss. The film was scandalizing at its time, as it was the first time a couple would kiss on the screen. It was not only that, but the kiss was an extended one, even repeated three times, and the characters were not even physically attractive. Hence, many were simply shocked by this scene.

2. The birth of a nation (1915)


This movie, telling the story of two families during the Civil War, and immediately after, was accused of being extremely racist and dangerous. At the time of its release, riots started in some cities in the USA and in many others, the film was banned right from its release. Apparently, it is still used as advertising by  Ku-Klux-Klan, which recorded an increased membership immediately after the making of “The birth of a nation”. Amazingly, this movie was voted in 1988, one of the “top 100 American Films”.

3. Citizen Kane (1941)


Apparently, this should be the greatest movie ever made. While I have no means of verifying if this is true, I know for sure that it was at least one of the most controversial movies of all time. This is because it ridicules a very rich person, the publisher William Randolph Hears, and his close friends and family. The powerful man tried to discredit the movie and did everything he could in order to stop its distribution.

4. The message (1977)


This movie tells the story of the Prophet Mohammad. Directed by Moustapha Akkad (himself of Islamic belief) and featuring Antony Queen in the role of the prophet’s uncle, the movie required 2 years of research and careful writing. According to the Islamic rules, the movie does not show Mohammad at all, as any representation of him or his close family members is strictly forbidden.  However, Muslims were outraged by the movie and “The message” was banned in many Islamic countries. Moreover, a group of extremists caused panic when they took over a Jewish chapter and demanded the cancelation of the movie opening in the US, threatening to blow up the building and thus, kill everybody inside.

5. The last temptation of Christ (1988)

5. the last temptation

Another religion themed movie, “The last temptation of Christ” was also highly controversial and caused  great criticism for its shocking view on the story of Jesus. In this movie, Christ is seen as an ordinary man, troubled, afraid and weak. The temptation is represented by the scene in which Christ is already crucified and the devil tries to tempt him  to turn his face from God. Moreover, the movie suggests that Jesus had sexual thoughts and even shows a love scene between Mary Magdalene and Christ.  Fundamentalists were outraged and called this movie an attack on Christianity. They asked for the movie to be banned and a group even tried to buy the movie, in order to destroy it.

6. Cannibal Hollocaust (1980)


The movie follows the story of a group of documentarians who tried to make a film about the last surviving cannibal tribes in the Amazonian Jungle. The team disappeared and its fate was only revealed when the men sent to rescue the documentarians only found an undeveloped film , showing that the poor guys were eaten by the cannibals.  Subsequently to the release of the movie, the director was arrested and accused of murder, because the authorities believed that the story was actually true, and that the actors had really died.  This tells everything you need to know about the realism of this movie. Of course, the actors showed up, proving that they were still alive, but the movie was banned in several countries for many years.

7. Basic instinct (1992)

basic instinct

This worldwide known “Basic Instinct” is also one of the most controversial movies ever made. Starring Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas, the film presents the story of a bisexual female writer suspected of having murdered her husband and of the detective in charge with the case. The shock factors of this movie were the brutal sex scene, as well as the criticism from behalf of the gay community and the most famous scene of the movie, “the leg-crossing scene” , when Sharon Stone reveals more than the public would have expected…

8. Natural Born Killers (1994)

natural born

This movie tells the story of Mickey and Mallory, a couple who travels along the route 666 killing groups of people they encounter on their way just for the fun of it.  Each time, they leave a person alive, so that he may tell the story of the murder. The film “inspired” some killers to imitate the two characters, and consequently, several murders in the world were linked to this movie.

9. The passion of the Christ (2004)


Mel Gibson’s film follows the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ. Mel Gibson himself admitted that the film was “deliberately shocking” and different religious groups started to react to the movie even before it was released. However, it was a great success and “The passion of the Christ” became the most successful independent movie ever.

10. Antichrist (2009)


Presented at Cannes, this movie is very disturbing and was highly criticized by some of the viewers. The psychological-horror movie with porn accents was also acclaimed by some of the critics and even received a price, for the performance of the actress (there are only two characters in the movie).  The most disturbing scenes include self- mutilation, genital abuse and torture.


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