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Top 10 Movies That Were Criticized For Being Violent

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp

Script written by Nathan Sharp

From the stylized violence in 'Natural Born Killers' to the disturbing premise of 'Battle Royale' check out these 10 movies that were criticized for being too violent.


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Top 10 Movies That Were Criticized For Being Violent

What is this, a snuff film? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies That Were Criticized for Being Violent.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various movies that were criticized by professional critics, audiences, and/or government officials for being particularly violent.

#10: “Reservoir Dogs” (1992)

The gangster genre was in full force in the early 90s thanks to the powerhouse that was “GoodFellas,” but none were as controversial as Quentin Tarantino’s first studio movie. There were numerous reports of people walking out of screenings, including Wes Craven and makeup artist Rick Baker. To them, the movie’s realistic violence was simply too much to handle, particularly the famous scene where Mr. Blonde tortures and maims Marvin Nash. According to Hollywood legend, even actor Michael Madsen had difficulty filming the scene, particularly once fellow actor Kirk Baltz improvised the line, “I’ve got a little kid at home.”

#9: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974)

This movie is still disturbing today, so just imagine what it was like in 1974. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” helped revolutionize the slasher and horror genres, but it also caused a lot of controversy. Many critics despised its violence and gore, despite there being little-to-no actual gore in the movie. It initially received an X rating from the MPAA, and it was outright banned in Britain for over twenty years. There were numerous reports of people walking out of theaters in disgust, and two movie theaters in Ottawa were even forced to pull the movie after police threatened them with morality charges.

#8: “I Spit on Your Grave” (1978)

The 70s are well-known for their brutal exploitation films, and “I Spit on Your Grave” is one of the most notable examples. The movie follows a writer who seeks violent revenge against the four men who gang raped her. Yep, you can see where this is going. The movie is basically nothing but horrific violence and gang rape, which takes up roughly one-third of the entire movie. Roger Ebert called it one of the worst movies ever made and a “vile bag of garbage,” and notable critic Mark Kermode has called it “deeply, deeply problematic.” Many countries outright banned the movie, and to this day it remains either banned or heavily censored.

#7: “Hostel” (2005)

“Hostel” is basically a modern-day exploitation film, and it received a fittingly similar reception. “Hostel” has little story, as it is basically nonstop torture scenes for an hour and a half. While the movie received mediocre reviews, many critics noted its horrendous violence and gore, with David Edelstein of New York Magazine attributing the creation of the torture porn genre to the movie’s director, Eli Roth. The governments of both Slovakia and the Czech Republic were similarly disgusted with the movie, as they argued that it made their countries look underdeveloped, uncultured, and sadistically violent.

#6: “The Last House on the Left” (1972)

Another notable, earlier, and more famous example of the 70s exploitation genre is Wes Craven’s now cult classic “The Last House on the Left.” And remember, this is the guy that walked out of “Reservoir Dogs” because it was too violent! The story follows two teenagers who are abducted, raped, and murdered and the subsequent revenge that one girl’s parents take on the killers. While the movie received good reviews, it was either banned or heavily censored in numerous countries due to its particularly graphic rape scene and bloody violence. According to Wes Craven, many copies of the original, uncut version were destroyed in acts of protest.

#5: “Natural Born Killers” (1994)

While Quentin Tarantino is only credited with the story, this movie is often attributed to him due to its brutal violence and subsequent controversy. “Natural Born Killers” follows the murderous spree of two psychotic criminals, Mickey and Mallory Knox. As you can imagine, this concept attained negative attention, and the film initially received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. The film’s release in the United Kingdom was also initially delayed due to numerous crimes being attributed to the movie. And that wouldn’t be the last time. The film has since been blamed for a number of atrocities, including various school shootings and the murders of the Richardson family in 2006.

#4: “Battle Royale” (2000)

“Battle Royale” is centered around a group of high school students who are forced to murder each other. It’s basically a much darker and more violent version of “The Hunger Games.” Unsurprisingly, a movie about a group of kids killing each other garnered a lot of controversy. It was initially met with fierce resistance from the Japanese government and media, and the movie was soon blamed for teenage violence across the country. It was also not given an American release, as test audiences found the subject matter too personal and difficult immediately after the Columbine shooting. It was even banned in Germany in 2013 as it broke the country’s criminal code regarding gratuitous violence.

#3: “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)

While it may not be violent by today’s standards, “A Clockwork Orange” was considered downright repellant back in 1971. The movie follows Alex, a delinquent who rapes women and partakes in what he calls “ultra-violence.” While the movie was acclaimed by American critics, it received immense backlash by British audiences. It was blamed on numerous acts of violence and rape, and large groups gathered outside of Stanley Kubrick’s house to protest the film. It was eventually pulled from British cinemas in 1973 at the request of Kubrick, and it wouldn’t be seen by British eyes for nearly thirty years.

#2: “Cannibal Holocaust” (1980)

While “Cannibal Holocaust” was heavily criticized for both its content matter and its value as a film, it revolutionized the found-footage genre, a genre that was eventually popularized by “The Blair Witch Project” nearly twenty years later. Although the movie was initially a huge financial success, it faced a novel-sized list of controversies. The movie’s director, Ruggero Deodato, was initially brought up on murder charges, as the Italian government believed the footage to be real. While those charges were eventually dropped, he was eventually convicted on obscenity charges for the movie’s genuine killing of seven animals, and the movie was banned in over 50 countries.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Evil Dead” (1981)

“Django Unchained” (2012)

“Saw” (2004)

#1: “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)

While “The Passion of the Christ” was a monumental release (it is still one of the biggest R-rated movie of all time), many people felt as if the movie focused far too much on its excessive violence. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that the movie’s grotesque violence and scenes of torture overshadow any religious statement that the movie was trying to make, and Roger Ebert called it the most violent film he had ever seen. One film historian called the movie a “mainstream snuff film,” and David Edelstein of Slate called it “The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre.” It seems as if Jesus’ final days do not translate well to screen.


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