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Most controversial movies ever | PINKVILLA

While some might disagree, many filmmakers have been believers in the idea that any press is good press. After all, scandals manage to get movies more than a tad bit of attention. With that in mind, we have curated a list of the most controversial movies ever made. Believe it or not, the world of cinema has a new movie or show released every other day, but if it’s not out of the ordinary, it simply ceases to exist in people’s minds. But, the ones that raised the eyebrows of even a minority managed to gain a lot of traction. However, in a few unfortunate times these notorious ways of filmmaking led to film bans, and in worse cases cost a career or two. 

So, what are you waiting for? Right from cult classics like The Last Temptation of Christ and Freaks to buzz-worthy latest releases like Fifty Shades of Grey and Blonde, dive into our carefully curated list of the top 20 most controversial movies ever made. 

 

Most controversial movies ever made

 

1. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

  • Movie Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 2h 44m
  • Movie Star Cast: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Writer: Nikos Kazantzakis, Paul Schrader
  • Year of release: 1988
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Redbox. Vudu 
  • IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

When it comes to controversial movies, we highly recommend watching The Last Temptation of Christ. The movie is directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Nikos Kazantzakis along with Paul Schrader. Released in the year 1988, the movie is available on Amazon Prime Video. When it comes to the plot, it revolves around sex, violence, and Christ. The book adaptation is based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel that definitely questions people’s beliefs. 

 

2. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

  • Movie Genre: Crime, Science-fiction
  • Running Time: 2h 16m
  • Movie Star Cast: Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Burgess
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Writer: Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Burgess
  • Year of release: 1971
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: HBO Max
  • IMDb Rating: 8.3/10

Starring Stanley Kubrick and Anthony Burgess, this highly-rated science fiction drama is another controversial film, you must watch. The movie is written and directed by Stanley Kubrick along with Anthony Burgess. Released in the year 1971, the movie is available on HBO Max to stream. When it comes to the plot, it is based on Anthony Burgess’ novel and features an ample amount of violence and elements like rape, sex, and Beethoven.

 

3. Freaks (1932)

  • Movie Genre: Drama, Horror
  • Running Time: 1h 4m
  • Movie Star Cast: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova
  • Director: Tod Browning
  • Writer: Clarence Aaron ‘Tod’ Robbins, Willis Goldbeck, Leon Gordon
  • Year of release: 1932
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: REWIND, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV or Vudu
  • IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Another movie that gained a lot of traction for its controversial nature was Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, and Olga Baclanova starrer Freaks. The horror drama is directed by Tod Browning and written by Clarence Aaron ‘Tod’ Robbins, Willis Goldbeck, and Leon Gordon. Released in the year 1932, the movie is available on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV to stream. When it comes to the plot, the movie features a startling tale of carnival people. Browning used real circus performers with deformations for the movie. Although it gained a rating of 7.8 out of 10, the movie was a menace to Browning’s exceptional career. 

 

4. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

  • Movie Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller 
  • Running Time: 2h 5m
  • Movie Star Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle
  • Director: Sam Taylor Johnson
  • Writer: Kelly Marcel, E.L. James
  • Year of release: 2015
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Netflix
  • IMDb Rating: 4.2/10

This R-rated romantic drama gained a lot of controversial attention for its substantial sexual content catering to BDSM aspects. The movie is based on E.L. James’ erotic book trilogy also titled Fifty Shades of Grey. The 2015 movie features the best of Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, and Jennifer Ehle. The movie is directed by Sam Taylor Johnson and written by Kelly Marcel along with E.L. James. Watch the to witness how Anastasia Steele meets an affluent sadomasochistic businessman named Christian Grey. While the movie was controversial because of the ample amount of steamy scenes, this 2015 drama was a huge box office hit that even paved the way for two sequels that were also Hollywood hits. 

 

5. The Exorcist (1973)

  • Movie Genre: Horror, Drama
  • Running Time: 2h 2m
  • Movie Star Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
  • Director: William Friedkin
  • Writer: William Peter Blatty
  • Year of release: 1973
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Another movie that welcomed controversies with open arms was The Exorcist. The movie features the best of Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, and Linda Blair. The horror drama is directed by William Friedkin and written by William Peter Blatt. Watch the highly rated movie on Amazon Prime video. The movie features a controversial plot where a young girl (pre-teen) repeatedly impales herself with a crucifix in the genitals. The film is bound to send chills down your spine. 

 

6. Blonde (2022)

  • Movie Genre: Drama, History, Romance 
  • Running Time: 2h 47m
  • Movie Star Cast: Ana de Armas, Lily Fisher, Julianne Nicholson
  • Director: Andrew Dominik
  • Writer: Andrew Dominik, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Year of release: 2022
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Netflix
  • IMDb Rating: 5.5/10

Another controversial movie that created a lot of buzz was the 2022 Netflix movie titled Blonde. The historical drama features the best of romance while introducing Marilyn Monroe on screen. The movie is an adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates book also titled Blonde. The movie is directed and written by Andrew Dominik along with Joyce Carol Oates. Critics claimed the movie showed Monroe as a victim and had plenty of other controversial content. 

 

7. Viridiana (1961)

Viridiana (1961)

  • Movie Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 1h 31m
  • Movie Star Cast: Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey
  • Director: Luis Buñuel
  • Writer: Julio Alejandro, Luis Buñuel, Benito Pérez Galdós
  • Year of release: 1961
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Kanopy, The Criterion Channel, Prime Video or Apple TV
  • IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Another one of the most controversial films we recommend watching is Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey starrer Viridiana. The movie is directed by Luis Buñuel and written by Julio Alejandro, Luis Buñuel, along with Benito Pérez Galdós. When it comes to the plot, it revolves around the tale of a young nun who visits her uncle’s estate. But that’s not all, watch the movie to witness how it takes an endlessly exhilarating turn. 

 

8. Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

  • Movie Genre: Drama, Romance 
  • Running Time: 2h 9m
  • Movie Star Cast: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Maria Michi
  • Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Writer: Bernardo Bertolucci, Franco Arcalli, Agnès Varda
  • Year of release: 1972
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and written by Bernardo Bertolucci, Franco Arcalli, and Agnès Varda. The 1972 movie features the best of Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, and Maria Michi. The romantic drama titled Last Tango in Paris was in controversies because of Bernardo Bertolucci’s depiction of eroticism. In fact, the audience was taken aback due to the candidly frank depiction of sexual content while calling it an art movie. 

 

9. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

  • Movie Genre: Action, Biography, Crime
  • Running Time: 1h 51m
  • Movie Star Cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard
  • Director: Arthur Penn
  • Writer: David Newman, Robert Benton, Robert Towne
  • Year of release: 1967
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Another action crime biography that was notoriously controversial is, Bonnie and Clyde. The movie is directed by Arthur Penn and written by David Newman, Robert Benton, along with Robert Towne. We highly recommend watching this movie to witness the onscreen presence of actors including Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Michael J. Pollard. The movie was in controversies for plenty of bloody aftermaths and extreme violence. The movie actually made violence look sexy and fanciful. Critics called the graphic violence pointless and even lacking in taste. 

 

10. Poison (1991)

Poison (1991)

  • Movie Genre: Drama, Horror, Romance
  • Running Time: 1h 25m
  • Movie Star Cast: Edith Meeks, Larry Maxwell, Susan Norman
  • Director: Todd Haynes
  • Writer: Jean Genet, Todd Haynes
  • Year of release: 1991
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Kanopy, Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

This 1991 movie is a groundbreaking cinematic experience for the viewers. The movie features the best of horror and romance with a blend of controversial sexually explicit content. The movie carried the flagship of Queer cinema which was certainly buzzworthy at its time. Directed by Todd Haynes and written by Jean Genet, along with Todd Haynes, this movie features the bets of Edith Meeks, Larry Maxwell, and Susan Norman. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video to stream. 

 

11. Straw Dogs (1971)

  • Movie Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller 
  • Running Time: 1h 53m
  • Movie Star Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan
  • Director: Sam Peckinpah
  • Writer: David Zelag Goodman, Sam Peckinpah, Gordon Williams
  • Year of release: 1971
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Critics called this crime drama thriller deeply disturbing and ugly which spurred a controversy. The 1971 movie is directed by Sam Peckinpah and written by  David Zelag Goodman, Sam Peckinpah, and Gordon Williams. Watch the movie on Amazon Prime Video to witness actors including Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, and Peter Vaughan. The plot of the movie revolves around an American mathematician named David played by Dustin Hoffman who seeks revenge from folks who violated his wife. The movie had an explosive dialogue that almost asked, “How much does Amy enjoy that rape, though?”

 

12. In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

 In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

  • Movie Genre: Drama, Romance
  • Running Time: 1h 49m
  • Movie Star Cast: Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aoi Nakajima
  • Director: Nagisa Ôshima
  • Writer: Nagisa Ôshima, Kôji Wakamatsu
  • Year of release: 1976 
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 6.6/10

Another movie that managed to raise eyebrows was In the Realm of the Senses. This romance drama is directed and written by Nagisa Ôshima along with Kôji Wakamatsu. Released in the year, this 1976 movie is available on Amazon Prime Video. When it comes to the plot, the movie features a real-life sexual obsession. In fact, the movie was in controversies for actors actually getting it on. 

 

13. Cruising (1980)

  • Movie Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
  • Running Time: 1h 42m
  • Movie Star Cast: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen
  • Director: William Friedkin
  • Writer: William Friedkin, Gerald Walker
  • Year of release: 1980
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 6.5/10

Another movie we recommend is the 1980 crime drama titled Cruising. The movie features the best of Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, and Karen Allen. It is directed and written by William Friedkin along with other writers that include Gerald Walker. When it comes to the plot, the movie revolves around a mysterious murder that sparked controversies because gay activists were seriously offended by the queer depiction. 

 

14. Life of Brian (1979)

Life of Brian (1979)

  • Movie Genre: Comedy, Drama
  • Running Time: 1h 34m
  • Movie Star Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin
  • Director: Terry Jones
  • Writer: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam
  • Year of release: 1979
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Netflix
  • IMDb Rating: 8/10

Controversies swarmed with the release of Terry Jones’ comedy-drama titled Life of Brian. The movie features the best of the stars including Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Michael Palin. Written by Graham Chapman John Cleese, and Terry Gilliam the plot of the movie revolves around a Flying Circus. However, the controversies began when certain groups believed that the movie featured elements where Jesus was mocked. 

 

15. Pink Flamingos (1972)

Pink Flamingos (1972)

  • Movie Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
  • Running Time: 1h 33m
  • Movie Star Cast: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce
  • Director: John Waters
  • Writer: John Waters
  • Year of release: 1972
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 6/10

Call it a cult classic that spurred controversies, because this 1972 comedy-drama titled Pink Flamingos is sprinkled with stuff catering to an audience with strong taste, these include, depictions like incest, sex with a chicken, nudity, and so much more. The movie is written and directed by John Waters, and it features the best of Divine, David Lochary, and Mary Vivian Pearce. The movie is one of the most controversial movies of all time and is available on Amazon Prime Video to stream. 

 

16. Triumph of the Will (1935)

Triumph of the Will (1935)

  • Movie Genre: Documentary, History 
  • Running Time: 1h 50m
  • Movie Star Cast: Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Max Amann
  • Director: Leni Riefenstahl
  • Writer: Leni Riefenstahl, Walter Ruttmann, Eberhard Taubert
  • Year of release: 1935
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Apple TV
  • IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

One of the most controversial movies ever made is Triumph of the Will. The 1935 historical documentary is directed and written by Leni Riefenstahl along with Walter Ruttmann, and Eberhard Taubert. It features the best of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Max Amann. When it comes to the plot, it features a tale that still bans screenings in Germany. The highly rated critically acclaimed movie is available on Apple TV to stream. 

 

17. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

  • Movie Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery 
  • Running Time: 2h 38m
  • Movie Star Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer
  • Director: David Fincher
  • Writer: Steven Zaillian, Stieg Larsson
  • Year of release: 2011
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

If you like watching controversial content released in recent decades, we highly recommend watching The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The 2011 crime drama is directed by David Fincher and written by Steven Zaillian along with Stieg Larsson. The movie features Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, and Christopher Plummer. When it comes to the plot, it is based on Stieg Larsson’s celebrated novel titled Millennium trilogy. The movie features elements of sexual abuse, showcases violence against women, and also features the best of racism, sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. 

 

18. Ghost In The Shell (2017)

  • Movie Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
  • Running Time: 1h 47m
  • Movie Star Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano
  • Director: Rupert Sanders
  • Writer: Shirow Masamune, Jamie Moss, William Wheeler
  • Year of release: 2017
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: SonyLiv
  • IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, and Takeshi Kitano, this controversial drama is directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Shirow Masamune, Jamie Moss, and William Wheeler. Released in the year 2017, the movie features the best of action and crime. The movie attracted major controversies for casting Scarlett Johansson, as a Japanese protagonist named Motoko Kusanagi. Critics even said the movie was a watered-down version of something exceptionally brilliant. 

 

19. Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Un Chien Andalou (1929)

  • Also Known as: An Andalusian Dog
  • Movie Genre: Short, Fantasy, Horror
  • Running Time: 16m
  • Movie Star Cast: Pierre Batcheff, Simone Mareuil, Luis Buñuel
  • Director: Luis Buñuel
  • Writer: Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel
  • Year of release: 1929
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Un Chien Andalou also known as An Andalusian Dog is another movie that garnered plenty of attention. Although Luis Bunuel’s first two shorts weren’t controversial this 16-minute fantasy horror titled Un Chien Andalou released in the year 1929 was a scurrilous attack on the bourgeois society. It is available on Amazon Prime Video to stream. 

 

20. Suicide Squad (2016)

  • Movie Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
  • Running Time: 2h 3m
  • Movie Star Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie
  • Director: David Ayer
  • Writer: David Ayer, John Ostrander
  • Year of release: 2016
  • Where to Watch / OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video
  • IMDb Rating: 5.9/10

When it comes to modern controversial movies, David Ayer’s The Suicide Squad certainly deserves a spot. The movie features the best of Will Smith, alongside Margot Robbie and  Jared Leto. Available on Amazon Prime Video to stream this is another movie that sparked plenty of attention for its plot and storyline. 

 

If you ponder upon the question, what actually makes a film controversial? Oftentimes, the major reason that the movie or a part of a movie challenges popular public opinion, lacks taste, or attacks a section of society is to prove a point. That said, not all controversial movies are of poor taste, some are simply meant to shift public opinion for the better, and some are merely sources of entertainment. That’s precisely why we highly recommend you bookmark this page for an exceptional list of the most controversial movies ever made. 

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