Top 10 Movies that Broke the Law



Top 10 Movies that Broke the Law

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
The road to the silver screen isn't always clean. For this list, we'll be looking at the films who broke the law either during production or after it. Our list includes “The Terminator” (1984), “Escape from Tomorrow” (2013), “Easy Rider” (1969), and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Movies that Broke the Law.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Movies+That+Broke+The+Law. Special thanks to our user liam_schell for suggesting this idea!
Script written by Garrett Alden

Top 10 Movies that Broke the Law

The road to the silver screen isn’t always clean. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies That Broke the Law.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the films who broke the law either during production or after it.

#10: Filming Without a Permit & Endangerment

“The Terminator” (1984)

The original “Terminator” film did not have the budget its later entries would have. Because of how limited their funds were, the crew forwent certain expenses... like neglecting to pay for permits to film on Los Angeles streets, which is why so much of it takes place at night. They were so pressed in fact that they didn’t even stop when pesticides were being sprayed over the city, which is what that “fog” actually is in some shots. This bit of penny-pinching most certainly put those on-set in danger of exposure to toxic chemicals.

#9: Misrepresenting Their Message, Possible Snuff Film & Possibly Inciting Suicide

“The Bridge” (2006)

This documentary film chronicles the Golden Gate Bridge, with emphasis on those who commit suicide by jumping off of it every year. When asking for permission to film it, the crew misrepresented their focus, as they feared if word of their intentions got out that it would lead people to kill themselves to be on film. As it turns out, the movie had this effect anyway, since the number of deaths on the bridge increased after the movie began showing. Lastly, given that some of the jumps are shown, it may qualify as a snuff film, which is considered obscenity in many places.

#8: Illegal Use of Autopsy Footage & Animal Cruelty

“Men Behind the Sun” (1988)

A harrowing and graphic depiction of the cruelties of war crimes, “Men Behind the Sun” has drawn criticism for levels of violence that approach exploitative levels. However, its true crimes, while not as severe as those it depicts, are still serious. At one point, real autopsy footage of a young boy is shown, while elsewhere a group of live rats were set on fire and another swarm of the rodents appear to eat a cat alive. In the latter case the director claimed the cat was actually covered in honey, which was licked by the rats; which is still cruel.

#7: Trespassing/Filming Without Permission

“Escape from Tomorrow” (2013)

Disney is notoriously touchy about people using their properties without permission, but they’re willing to bend sometimes if the depiction is positive. That’s not really the case with “Escape From Tomorrow,” a surprisingly violent and surreal movie filmed through without permission at Walt Disney World. The strange film proved a surprise cult hit at festivals and although its cinematography is necessarily pretty poor, it’s still amazing the filmmakers shot as much of it as they did on location. Even more surprising though is the fact that Disney did not pursue any legal action, though they probably didn’t want to draw too much attention to it.

#6: Drug Use, Threats & Defamation

“Easy Rider” (1969)

Made during the height of 1960s counterculture, “Easy Rider” was a film that helped embody the movement, with its emphasis on freedom and its copious drug use. However, the drug use wasn’t simulated, as the drugs used on camera were real, and the drug use happened copiously among the cast and crew off the camera as well; all of which was highly illegal at the time. Director/star Dennis Hopper also allegedly threatened actor Rip Torn with a knife, only to be successfully sued for defamation thirty years later after implying Torn had pulled the knife, while Hopper was reminiscing about the production with Jay Leno.

#5: Smuggling & Breaking a Ban

“This Is Not a Film” (2011)

In this case the film was the crime! Filmmaker Jafar Panahi was banned from making films by the Iranian government after filming the violence which took place after the controversial 2009 election, and was placed under house arrest. In protest to his imprisonment, Panahi broke his ban to document his imprisonment. He then smuggled the documentary, titled “This Is Not A Film,” out of the country on a flash drive to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. While Panahi was not given additional charges, his ban was upheld and he was made unable to leave Iran.

#4: Animal Abuse

“Heaven’s Gate” (1980)

Plenty of movies over the years have abused, killed, and mistreated animals, films like “Cannibal Holocaust” for example. But perhaps more shocking is a film like “Heaven's Gate”, which features dozens of assumed examples of violence against and mistreatment of animals. These include bleeding and disemboweling animals to provide realistic gore for actors, genuine cockfights, decapitated chickens, and even a horse being blown up with dynamite, which can be seen in the movie. Public outcry was so great that “Heaven’s Gate” was essentially the cause for the now common disclaimer that no animals were harmed during the filming of movies.

#3: Kidnapping & False Imprisonment

“Pulgasari” (1985)

We’ve had entries that had crimes take place during them or because the films themselves were crimes, but in this case, crimes were committed in order for it to be made. Sounding itself like the plot to an action thriller, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il abducted South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok and his estranged wife, actress Choi Eun-hee in 1978 and imprisoned them with the goal of having them make films for him, which they eventually, reluctantly did. Before their escape in 1986, the pair made several films, including “Pulgasari” which was influenced by “Godzilla” movies.

#2: Child Labor & Not Paying for Music, Intimidation & Endangerment

“Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song” (1971)

This seminal Blaxploitation movie broke rules all over. Because they were filming outside a union, the crew members were armed, and several of them threatened extras who wanted to leave early. Additionally, one of these real firearms was mixed in with the prop guns, which endangered those on set. Even the soundtrack is sketchy – it was done by Earth, Wind & Fire but the check they were paid with bounced and was never made right. Lastly, the director/star’s son performed in the film against labor laws and appeared in an assault scene, which, despite being mimed, could still constitute abuse.

#1: Child Labor, Endangerment & Deaths

“Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983)

It's infamous for a reason. While making his portion of “Twilight Zone”, director John Landis hired two child actors under the table, breaking child labor laws, and opted not to tell any safety officials of their presence on-set. But that’s nothing compared to what happened to them. A scene involving a helicopter went horribly wrong when an explosive caused the chopper to crash, killing both children and actor Vic Morrow, as well as injuring the helicopter’s passengers. If there’s any consolation to this tragic event, it’s that it led to more stringent safety procedures that likely prevented more such incidents from occurring.