10 Popular Movies That Were Censored for Violence

Psycho

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in Psycho | Shamley Productions

Despite the abundance of violence that makes it to theaters and television, a number of popular titles have fallen prey to censors, who have forced filmmakers to trim particularly graphic moments or sequences either before a film’s initial release or for a certain segment of its audience. In any case, some violent scenes had to be removed or altered before these films could earn their final ratings.

While this might sound like a turn of events that happens rarely, we’re betting you’ll be surprised by just how common a practice this actually is. In fact, it’s likely that you’ve already seen a number of the below releases — many of which are classics in their own right — without ever realizing their sordid pasts. So, let’s take a look at 10 popular movies that were censored for violence.

1. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

This Oscar-winning drama from director Elia Kazan featured a number of notable cuts. Vivien Leigh’s Blanche DuBois saw the details of her past — including her husband’s homosexual lifestyle — largely scrubbed from the film. In addition, the pivotal rape scene between her and Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski had to be dramatically trimmed back to avoid a “Condemned” rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency.

2. Psycho (1960)

Like A Streetcar Named Desire, this Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece underwent some swift cuts before hitting theaters. However, unlike most of the other films on this list, the filmmaker’s vision remained intact. Hitchcock craftily included graphic material in his film to feign a compromise with the censors. Ultimately, the footage he wanted to remain in the finished film included an early scene of Janet Leigh in her underwear.

3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Originally rated X, this Stanley Kubrick film opted for brief alternate footage for an R-rated release the year after its initial run. It even received the dreaded “Condemned” label from the Catholic Legion of Decency.

However, in the years since, its original X-rated version has been classified as a simple R rating, and this is the standard version on home video releases.

4. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

By today’s standards, director Tobe Hooper’s horror film — which has since become considered a landmark cinematic achievement — isn’t exactly shocking, since much of the violence is left off-screen. Yet, it still faced an X rating and was banned in some countries. After some of the more graphic moments were trimmed back, it eventually got its R rating and became the film we know it as today.

5. Scarface (1983)

Much like the original 1932 Scarface, this Brian De Palma remake faced issues with the censors. Originally given an X rating for its graphic violence, rampant drug use, and language, the film ultimately was resubmitted several times to the Motion Picture Association of America before it finally received an R rating. Nowadays, it is believed that the version we finally saw may have been De Palma’s original vision anyway.

6. RoboCop (1987)

Several of the most violent sequences in this Paul Verhoeven sci-fi thriller were censored prior to release, including Murphy’s attack by gang members. In addition, the commercial sequences — which satirize consumer culture — were added to lighten the mood and play up the black comedy of it all. After receiving the X rating as many as 11 times, the film finally landed an R rating.

7. Natural Born Killers (1994)

Four minutes of ultra violent footage was cut from this Oliver Stone film, and while the uncut version is available on home video, it also caused a major uproar both in the United States and internationally, as some nations outright banned it from release altogether. No wonder the film is often cited as one of the most controversial films of all time.

8. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Remember that scene during The Bride’s climactic battle with the Crazy 88 in which the footage turns to black and white? As much as Quentin Tarantino may have made that a stylistic flourish, it was actually done so that the over-the-top carnage of the scene could slip by with an R rating. Overseas, the entire sequence remained in color.

9. Saw (2004)

Considering how pivotal violence is to this horror classic, is it really a surprise that it initially got an NC-17 rating? After a few brief cuts, it did, of course, get its R rating. But don’t worry, gore hounds … the director’s cut is available on home video.

10. The Avengers (2012)

The only film on our list not to be R-rated is also one of the most surprising inclusions. Nope, the Avengers never engaged in an overtly bloody battle onscreen. Rather, just a single frame was changed for international audiences: Agent Coulson’s death at Loki’s hand. Some versions feature the tip of Loki’s spear piercing Coulson’s body, while others digitally removed it.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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