10 American Movies That Were Banned in Other Countries

Not as many people are going to the movie theater in America, so studios are starting to pay more attention to their international audiences. They have even gone as far as reshooting and changing things about the plot of their movies to cater to other countries’ sensitivities. But even that level of caution isn’t successful in every case. There have been many movies that haven’t made it past other countries’ censors.

Sometimes it’s because of differences in religion, countries being offended by their representation in the movies, or just plain weird rules. So which American movies have offended other countries to the point of being banned? Here are 10 that were just too much for overseas audiences.

1. The Departed

The Departed
The Departed | Warner Bros.

The movie industry usually tries to stay on China’s good side since it has such a large audience. But this time Martin Scorsese didn’t make the cut. The movie featuring a mole in the police and an undercover cop trying to find each other was banned due to one specific part of the plot.

“There is no chance The Departed will be shown in mainland cinemas, because [filmmakers] declined to change a plot line in describing how Beijing wanted to buy advanced military computer hardware,” a source told Reuters. “The regulators just cannot understand why the movie wanted to involve China. They can talk about Iran or Iraq or whatever, but there’s no reason to get China in.” This is referring to Frank Costello’s gang meeting in a warehouse with Chinese secret agents to buy a computer chip.

2. Schindler’s List

Schindler's List
Schindler’s List | Universal Pictures

Most people would agree that this Spielberg movie is one of the best of all time. It shows the real story of Oskar Schindler and how he saved the many lives of his Jewish workers in Poland during World War II. It won seven Oscars, but not everyone supported it like the academy.

The movie was banned in multiple Arab and Islamic countries citing the reasons from “propaganda with the purpose of asking for sympathy” to nudity. The countries include Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, and more.

“It’s just disgraceful,” Spielberg said, according to The New York Times. “It shocks me because I thought the Islamic countries would feel this film could be an instrument of their own issues in what was happening in Bosnia.”

3. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games | Lionsgate

The franchise was a very popular one that launched Jennifer Lawrence into stardom. But the whole world wasn’t a fan of her work in the movies. Vietnam banned the movie, not wanting to support something showing little kids battling it out to the death. Thailand was at first on board to show the franchise, until protesters began using the salute from the movies. According to The Antimedia, the country banned Mockingjay and Apex Cinemas said, “we feel our theaters are being used for political movements.”

4. Zoolander

Zoolander | Paramount Pictures

The comedy shows Ben Stiller portraying a fashion model who is brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Although the main goal of the movie was for him to stop this evil plot, Malaysia wasn’t laughing or thrilled. The Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry Film Censorship Board deemed it “definitely unsuitable” according to The Guardian.

5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre | Bryanston Pictures

The horror film showing five friends being terrorized by a man and his chainsaw along with cannibals was so intense that it was banned in England. In 1975 the British Board of Film Classification found the movie’s ending had a level of terrorisation and “abnormal psychology.” In 1981 the movie was released on video there, without a BBFC certificate. People’s sensitivity, however, changed with time. The film finally got passed in 1999 and hit British theaters uncut.

6. Back to the Future

Back to the Future
Back to the Future | Universal Pictures

The movie shows Marty McFly going 30 years into the past to make his parents fall in love. Most people agree it’s a fun movie, but China banned it. Did it make fun of the country to offend it? Nope, China simply has a policy to ban TV shows and movies showing time travel! According to TIME, the government believes time travel plots distort historical events, things, and people. “The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore,” said China’s State Administration for Radio, Film & Television.

7. 2012

2012 | Sony

The disaster movie showed what could have happened if the Mayan calendar was correct about the end of the world. However, it got some push back overseas. North Korea kept a look out for pirated copies of the movie because it believed it will be “a grave provocation against the development of the state,” according to The New York Times. Anyone caught with it could be punished with five years in prison.

8. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Sacha Baron Cohen in character as Borat
Sacha Baron Cohen in character as Borat | Vince Bucci/Getty Images

The comedy shows Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) coming to America to shoot a report for a fake country. Many countries were offended by it and banned it, including Kazakhstan, because of Borat doing a spoof of their national anthem. According to Daily Mail, the country accepted the movie six years later in 2012. “I salute ‘Borat’ for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan,” Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov told parliament. “With the release of this film, the number of visas issued by Kazakhstan grew tenfold.”

9. The Exorcist

The Exorcist
The Exorcist | Warner Bros.

The horror film shows a young girl possessed and her mom gets help from two priests to save her. It is known as one of the greatest horror films of all time, and won two Oscars. However, England’s censorship rules had a huge restriction against the movie under the Video Recording Act 1984. This act allowed the BBFC to consider “whether a video was ‘not suitable for viewing by persons who have not attained a particular age’ or whether ‘no video recording containing that work is to be supplied other than in a licensed sex shop,'” according to the BBFC. Now you will be able to find the movie in most places, since the ban has since been lifted.

10. Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain | Focus Features

The film shows two cowboys having a secret romantic relationship over many years. It won three Oscars, but was very controversial not only in America where cinemas in Utah refused to show the movie, but overseas as well. China banned the film due to the subject of homosexuality, according to BBC. Malaysia also banned the film claiming, “We believe there is a market for Munich here,” United International Picture’s publicity manager told Associated Press, “but Brokeback Mountain is definitely not going to make it here because its themes wouldn’t be right for our local audiences.”

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