Six Controversial Films at Their Release
Some controversial films are controversial for a reason. Despite this, many of them persist in cultural memory and have become cult favorites. These are the type of films that mark an era, determine a new aesthetic, or create a moral scandal.
In this article, we’ll be talking about six controversial films. These productions contained the scariest sex scenes, the most gruesome violence, or the most obscene language. Or at least that’s how it seemed at that moment, when activists, religious followers, and cultural guardians were more easily alarmed.
Still, some of these films have won Academy Awards and are among the best, despite (or perhaps because of), their disputed nature. Now we must make something clear. We won’t be talking about crazy films such as A Serbian Film, Cannibal Holocaust, or Irreversible. We actually just want to recommend to you some films that have aged beautifully despite being controversial and somewhat “hated” at their release.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) by Ang Lee
It’s safe to say that political and religious conservatives were shocked by this film, which shaped a mainstream gay/bisexual romance on screen. However, plenty of critics and the public praised it. Almost a quarter of a century after the similarly themed Making Love (1982), this Best-Film-nominated melodrama premiered. It tells the story of two young cowboys who went on an unexpected date while shepherding in 1963 and how their love affected their lives in the next three decades.
Firstly, some conservative Catholic organizations said the film was “morally offensive” for its outspoken depiction of a homosexual relationship. Others criticized the film as sexually propagandistic. Conservative Christian fundamentalist groups cited the film as a glorification of homosexuality that fueled a sexual agenda. In the end, those who criticized the film were labeled “homophobic”.
Although it’s seen as a “revolutionary” film for gay cinema, neither of the film’s two main actors, its director nor its writers were homosexual. When the producers announced the film, they never made any specific references to its homosexual background.
Baise Moi (2000) by Virginie Despentes
A hybrid of Natural Born Killers and Thelma & Louise, this drama about two women who suffered abuse and became vigilantes was banned in France. The controversy was great because of its censorship since the same violence is common in movies starring men.
It refers to a daring and scandalous work of art about female sexual anger. A ruthless and irrational escape of two strong women came to be the first collaboration between French filmmaker Virginie Despentes and former porn actress Coralie Trinh Thi. The script was adapted from Despentes’ own 1995 novel. Many people consider it a cult film.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979, United Kingdom)
Monty Python could make fun of the Queen without attracting enemies without an issue. But the moment they satirized an average Nazarene bum mistaken for the Messiah, they started getting death threats. Christian organizations complained that making fun of Jesus was a mortal sin. In reality, it was pretty ironic. In this work, Python was actually ridiculing religious fanatics.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), one of the most controversial films of all time
This black-and-white work of art surprised those who were a fan of Hitchcock’s polished technicolor thrillers. The film also dared to kill star Janet Leigh in the first half.
This powerful and complex psychological thriller by Alfred Hitchcock was the “mother” of all modern horror and suspense films. It single-handedly ushered an era of inferior screen slashers with gory murders and shocking graphics.
Psycho also broke all movie conventions. In the first scene, it shows its female lead wearing nothing but underwear. It killed its main star, Janet Leigh, long before the movie ended. The murder scene in the shower is now a classic.
Moreover, Psycho is so complex that the viewer needs to use multiple visualizations in order to capture all of its nuances. No critics truly understood this film at its release. The audience felt the horror and suspense deep inside of them, considering that the story included taboo subjects such as cross-dressing, implicit incest, and necrophilia.
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) by Otto Preminger
Frank Sinatra stars in this Otto Preminger film. It’s the first Hollywood film to ever describe heroin addiction. It was for sure a reason to panic for all moralists.
Instead, viewers ran the risk of cultivating different addictions. A longing for Saul Bass’s elegant cinematic montage sequences and for Elmer Bernstein’s movie soundtracks. After making history with Carmen Jones, Otto Preminger directed this audacious film noir.
Lolita (1997) by Adrian Lyne
Lolita could still surprise anyone even 35 years after Kubrick’s mild adaptation. Director Adrian Lyne’s 1997 sensual and erotically charged version of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel about a 14-year-old “nymph” (Dominique Swain) and a teacher obsessed with her named Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons).
From the get-go, the fact that it talked about such a taboo and sensitive topic of juvenile sexuality and incestual pedophilia drew intense criticism. Extremist groups accused the film of promoting pedophilia.
However, when you truly analyze it, the film didn’t tolerate nor promote any sort of antisocial behavior, as it contained practically no female nudity (they used a body double in a short nighttime sex scene in low light), taking special care of this aspect throughout the entire shoot.