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Banned Films

A short list of films challenged, seized, protested, banned or censored in the United States

All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930
During the last days of World War I, some German soldiers suffer physically and mentally as their idealistic dreams of glory turn into a desperate struggle to stay alive. The Production Code Administration (see Wikipedia) believed that scenes of men bathing in a river, a soldier soiling his pants, and a silhouette of an intimate couple were "dangerous."
 
And God Created Woman, 1957
Juliette is an 18 year-old orphan whose unbridled appetite for pleasure shakes up all of St. Tropez. Her sweet but na´ve husband Michel endures beatings, insults and mambo in his attempts to tame her wild ways. A Philadelphia city district attorney declared the film to be of "lascivious, sacrilegious, obscene, indecent, or immoral nature" and refused to allow theater owners to show the film.
 
Basic Instinct, 1992
A tough but vulnerable detective investigates a murder identical to one described in the latest novel of a cold, calculating and beautiful bisexual novelist with an insatiable sexual appetite. Feminist and gay rights groups protested the film for being homophobic and misogynistic.
 
The Great Dictator, 1940
Stars Charlie Chaplin in two totally opposite roles: a Jewish barber facing the constant threat of storm troopers and religious persecution; the other, the dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. Several governments and many citizens of the U.S. expressed concern that the film might offend Hitler and the Nazi Party.
 
I am Curious, Yellow, 1967
Lena, the film's protagonist is a true woman of the 60's in search of her own selfhood. She becomes a political activist, challenging traditional values on the issues of militarism, social equality and sexual liberation. The film was seized for obscenity by U.S. Customs and released in the U.S. only after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling of a lower court.
 
Monty Python's Life of Brian, 1979
The Pythons satirize religion, capital punishment, revolutionary politics, terrorism, graffiti, science fiction, and a host of other topics through the story of Brian, a first-century Judean. Called "heathens, heretics, godless atheists and worse," the members of Monty Python promoted the film with the tagline, "See the movie that's controversial, sacrilegious, and blasphemous. But if that's not playing, see The Life of Brian."
 
Of Human Bondage, 1934
Philip Carey, a young medical student in Edwardian London, becomes infatuated with a cheap and vulgar cockney waitress, an affair which leads them both into mutual destruction. The Production Code Administration demanded that the main character, a prostitute, be married and suffer from tuberculosis rather than syphilis.
 
The Salt of the Earth, 1953
A fictionalized account of the year-long struggle by Mexican American zinc miners in New Mexico. When an injunction is issued against the workers, their wives take up battle with a fury, leaving the husbands to care for home and children. Produced independently by blacklisted filmmakers, denounced by the U.S House of Representatives for its supposed communist sympathies, and investigated by the FBI.
 
Spartacus, 1960
Epic tale of the bold gladiator slave Spartacus, the woman who believed in his cause, and the power-hungry Roman general who challenged his convictions. The Production Code Administration insisted that any "flavor" of homosexuality be removed from the film and made a point that the "loincloth costumes must prove adequate."
 
A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951
The story of a repressed widow, Blanche, who visits her sister in New Orleans and is raped and driven mad by her brother-in-law. Demands from the Catholic Legion of Decency resulted in the deletion of the words "on the mouth" from Blanche's invitation to a newspaper boy to kiss her.
 
 

Books on Film Censorship

For additional information about how and why each of the following films was challenged check out one of the following:

 
De Grazia, Edward and Roger K. Newman
Banned Films: Movies, Censors & the First Amendment
KF4300 .D43 1982
 
Doherty, Thomas Patrick
Hollywood's Censor: Joseph I. Breen & the Production Code Administration
PN1995.62.D64 2007
Learn more about the man who headed the Production Code Administration from 1934 to 1954 in an attempt to "lessen the flow of filth".
 
 

Videos on Film Censorship

This Film Is Not Yet Rated, 2007
Documentary investigating the secretive and inconsistent process by which the Motion Picture Association of America rates films. The director looks at some of the controversial rating decisions of the past four decades, hires a private eye to find out who these anonymous raters are and puts his own film through the rating process.
 
Forbidden Hollywood
In the early 1930's, before Hollywood began enforcing a self-imposed Production Code, many films allowed for extraordinary frankness including nudity, adultery and prostitution. In this restored and remastered three-movie collection, three daring young actresses are featured in racy, riveting star vehicles.
 
The First Amendment Project
A compilation of three short films about the current state of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in the United States.
 
Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
The story behind the show and its place in television history. There are also interviews with the Smothers Brothers themselves, along with other celebrity writers, network honchos, and performers.
 
Hollywood Censorship Wars
Discusses the attempted censorship of motion pictures in the areas of sex, politics, and violence.