Many films have been deemed controversial throughout cinema's history. Nonetheless, some of them would go on to be regarded as among the best films ever made, even reaching the top of viewer-rated lists such as IMDb's Top 250.
Some of the films on that list have been accused of problems such as misrepresenting racism (such as The Help and Green Book), but others have been accused of far worse things. Some viewers would rather ignore the debates, while others are just unaware of them.
1. A Clockwork Orange (1971).
Perhaps the charges levelled against this film aren't as serious as those levelled against other films, yet A Clockwork Orange is the most well-known example of a contentious film.
It is set in a dystopian Britain and tells the story of Alex, a young delinquent, and his gang who commit various violent acts. Predicated on the book of the same name; the film was met with mixed reviews upon its initial release, with many decrying the violent violence featured in it. In certain places, the film was similarly prohibited, but reviewers later re-evaluated it and it became a cult classic.
2. Citizen Kane (1941).
The iconic Citizen Kane is included in this list. Almost every aspect of the film is divisive. Because of his controversial radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles (who acted in, co-wrote, produced, and directed the film) gained Hollywood attention. Then he inked an equally contentious deal with RKO, giving him complete artistic control over the two films he planned to make.
Another debate still rages over the film's screenplay, which was co-written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz and also has an essay by noted critic Pauline Kael titled Raising Kane. Then there was the pre-release controversy surrounding the main character, who was modelled in part on different media barons of the day, including William Randolph Hearst, who later banned any reference of the picture in his newspapers.
Then there was the debate over colourization.
3. Life Of Brian (1979)
Even though Monty Python is known for making jokes about anything and everything, this film received far more unfavourable press than the comedy troupe had anticipated at the time.
The plot revolves around a man who was born on the same day as Jesus Christ and is now regarded as the Messiah. The film was charged with blasphemy, prompting demonstrations. The film was thereafter prohibited in 39 local authorities across England, as well as Ireland, Norway, and other nations, with some of the prohibitions lasting decades.
4. The Deer Hunter (1978)
This epic war drama takes place during the Vietnam War and follows three buddies whose lives are drastically changed after they join the army. It is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made, as well as the first picture on Vietnam to be released after the Vietnam War and to be highly acclaimed.
The film's most well-known moment is also the most divisive and critiqued. The Viet Cong kidnap the three major protagonists and force them to play Russian roulette with them. The majority of the criticism focused on how implausible the situation was, given that no verified evidence of the game being used during the Vietnam War. Another complaint was that the Vietnamese were portrayed as harsh and sadistic, even though the assumption was that the American soldiers were not.
5. The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs, which features one of, if not the most, famous villains in cinema history. The plot concerns a young FBI trainee who decides to enlist the services of Dr Hannibal Lecter, an imprisoned serial murderer, to find "Buffalo Bill," a serial killer who skins his female victims.
The LGBT community chastised the film at its premiere and continues to do so now, for allegedly presenting "Buffalo Bill" as bisexual and transgender. The filmmaker and Lecter himself have addressed the allegations, stating in the film that Bill is "not transgender."
6. Oldboy (2003)
Oldboy, directed by Park Chan-wook, is among the films on the list. This Korean neo-noir action thriller follows a man who has been imprisoned for fifteen years in a hotel room-like cell with no knowledge of who his captor is. He goes on a quest for vengeance after he gets liberated.
Naturally, the film contains a great deal of violence, which some viewers found objectionable. In addition, in one of the sequences, the protagonist eats a live octopus on camera. The film's conclusion is likewise contentious, but it's best not to give anything away to anyone who hasn't seen it yet.
7. Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Another movie on drug addiction is Requiem for a Dream. It follows four people who are affected by various types of addiction, which has a mental and physical impact on them.
The complaints were primarily related to the portrayal of drug usage, similar to those levelled about Trainspotting. There was, however, one sequence in particular that received a lot of attention. One of the individuals in the scene attends a very graphically depicted sex display.
Although some questioned if the sequence was truly necessary, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky stayed firm in his decision.
8. Trainspotting (1996)
The film is based on the same-named novel and follows a gang of heroin users who live in a low-income neighbourhood of Edinburgh.
It stirred debate in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States when it was first released. Some critics argued the film idealized drug usage, while the film's producer and director explained that it was vital to highlight why people use drugs and how it might appear to be fun when it isn't.
9. American History X (1998)
Although it is now regarded as a masterpiece, the film was notorious at the time for its director, Tony Kaye, openly disowning it, a move that would later harm his career.
However, this isn't the film's sole source of controversy. Two brothers from Los Angeles become involved in white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements in the film. Even though the protagonists grow up and become better people, certain neo-Nazi groups are said to still watch and praise the scenes in which Norton's character is involved in the movement.
10. Joker (2019)
The Joker is the 2019 film that has generated the most buzz before it ever hits theatres. It received praise and criticism from reviewers after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival.
The film chronicles the origins of the Joker, DC's most iconic villain. As a result, there were numerous violent moments in the film, which agitated the critics. Furthermore, several people were concerned about the portrayal of mental illness in the media.
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