Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
There are plenty of movies that have been flagged for depictions of sexual depravity, but we think this film, showing fascists abusing their adolescent captives takes the cake.
The Brown Bunny (2003)
This film culminated in an un-simulated bit of onscreen fellatio, and inspired the ire of no less a critic than Roger Ebert himself.
Before we had film ratings, the story of an innocent woman being deceived into believing she was the Virgin Mary was proclaimed nothing less than indecent. Yet it gained First Ammendment protection on its artistic merits.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
This movie was seized by courts within 10 days of its release, and led to the director being charged with murder, because people thought he’d actually killed one of his actors. (He didn’t, but several animals weren’t so lucky)
Farenheit 9/11 (2004)
One of many movies that drew criticism and controversy for its political message, Michael Moore’s Faranheit 9/11 debuted in the age of 24 hour news, meaning it could be debated, ripped apart, and questioned from every angle and side of the debate.
Portraying homosexuality on film was a patently controversial movie for much of film history, bur Cruising drew criticism from the gay community itself, for drawing connection between homosexuality and murder.
Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song (1971)
Race is obviously a loaded topic, but Melvin Van Peebles’ a Black Panther and a male prostitute on the run from “The Man” was lauded and demonized from nearly every corner.
The Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Sometimes the controversy comes not from the content of a film, but from the conditions under which it was made. The fatal on-set helicopter accident led to a serious re-examination of on-set safety standards.
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Held partially to blame for the shootings at Columbine High School, Quentin Tarantino’s story of two lovers on a serial killing spree glorified by the media was held up as an example of how violent behavior is glorified by the media.
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Religion is one of the most hot-button topics film or art can take on. Scorsese didn’t stick strictly to Scripture in this portrayal of the life and death of Jesus, a fact that drove extremists to attack theaters and audience members.