Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview may have sparked huge controversy, a cyber-attack, a diplomatic fall-out, and some very funny internet reactions) but it’s certainly not the first comedy to cause offence.
We look back at seven famous films you won’t believe were banned – in some cases indefinitely – for the silliest of reasons.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
Today’s society has become so used to controversial comedy that very little collectively shocks us any more, especially some middle-aged men making mild jokes about Jesus in funny voices. However, the late ’70s was a more innocent and quite apparently much more ludicrous time, and the British public could imagine nothing worse than Monty Python’s Life of Brian hitting big screens around the country.
Religious groups protested the film’s satirical and apparently blasphemous subject matter, and EMI Films got cold feet from all the bad press and withdrew from the project. As a result, Life of Brian was privately funded by Python fan and former Beatle George Harrison, and 39 local authorities in the UK either banned the movie from cinemas or gave it an X rating – making it nearly impossible for anyone who actually possessed a sense of humour to see it.
The film was banned in many places including Ireland, Norway, Singapore and (perhaps unsurprisingly) the Vatican City, all because of its “inappropriate religious content”. Some countries are yet to lift their ban on the comedy classic. Newsflash friends, it’s not even about Jesus but the very naughty Brian – the clue is in the title.
Nations like Singapore and Iran took issue with Ben Stiller’s fabulously flamboyant Zoolander on its release for various reasons that included “supporting gay rights” – how dreadful. Some have since seen the error of their ways and allowed this adorable non-ambi-turner to appear on their national cinema screens.
Unfortunately Malaysia aren’t quite ready to forgive the way in which Zoolander portrays their country as impoverished and full of sweatshops yet, but hopefully the misunderstanding won’t last forever. It’s just not like American filmmakers to make sweeping generalisations about other cultures, is it? Oh, wait…
National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: Freshman Year (2009)
Now let’s be clear, we’re not referring to the Van Wilder movie featuring genuinely famous actors like Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid. No, not even the rubbish sequel (The Rise of Taj) with a few supporting actors from the first film stepping into starring roles. We’re talking about the third Van Wilder movie that you’ve probably never even heard of (it went straight-to-DVD).
After that underwhelming introduction you might find it hard to believe that anyone cared enough to ban Van Wilder: Freshman Year, but apparently Samoa were fiercely opposed to this lame prequel. As far as we can tell, the authorities in question simply considered the film to be too controversial, and it joined the likes of Milk and The Da Vinci Code on Samoa’s ‘What not to watch’ list.
No doubt this ban worked in Van Wilder: Freshman Year‘s favour, and some unwitting Samoan residents may have been tricked into thinking the movie was actually worth watching. Spoiler: the most exciting thing about it is that Jonathan Bennett (AKA Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls) stars as Van Wilder. Now there’s a film worth risking prison for.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Oh Seth, you’ve done it again. The title of this romantic comedy written and directed by Kevin Smith and starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks admittedly raised a few eyebrows in the UK and the US on its release, but at the end of the day it’s just another (slightly twisted) version of boy-meets-girl.
Presumably without even watching, the Ministry of Culture in Thailand banned Zack and Miri Make a Porno in case Thai teens attempted to make their own pornography after watching Smith’s cinematic how-to guide. While internet access is censored in Thailand, we’re assuming anyone wishing to record their own adult entertainment could do so without first witnessing Rogen attempt to undress seductively.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Despite the racially enlightened age we live in, the beloved Simpson family’s first feature film was not invited to cinemas in Burma due to the colour of their skin.
Believe it or not, the Burmese powers that be had reportedly already banned the colours red and yellow from all movies, so Matt Groening and his creations were well and truly scuppered.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
In 2013 it was widely reported that China had banned all time travel-related films, both old and new. This would prohibit everything from Back to the Future (1985) to Looper (2012) and hundreds – if not thousands – more.
However, it was later revealed that poor translation and hasty reporting had garbled the real ruling. Apparently the Chinese authorities actually hoped to discourage the misrepresentation and fictionalisation of historical figures in film and TV.
Sadly this means that late ’80s gem Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure would be high on the banned list for the film’s genius yet totally inaccurate portrayal of Socrates, Abraham Lincoln and Genghis Khan – to name a few. Most non-triumphant, dudes.
Anyone who has seen any of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work will know that whether the controversial comedian is appearing as Ali G, Borat or Brüno on-screen he’s bound to upset somebody somewhere.
You might expect Brüno to have been banned in some more conservative countries for its offensive language, casual racism or plentiful and inappropriate nudity. In the end, though, the movie was cast out of both the Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates for – and we quote – “promoting homosexual themes”. Come on, guys, you could have been more imaginative than that.
Like this? Read this: 23 hilarious foreign names for famous movies
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