Top 10 Movies That Got Away with Being Controversial



Top 10 Movies That Got Away with Being Controversial

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Jack Paisley
Were these moments risque or just plain risky? For this list, we'll be looking at films with scenes that generated controversy, or probably should have, but which were largely successful anyway. Our countdown includes Cannibal Stereotypes, Rewriting History, Kissing Siblings, and more!
Script Written by Jack Paisley

Top 10 Movies That Got Away with Controversial Moments

Risque or just plain risky? Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies That Got Away with Controversial Moments.

For this list, we’ll be looking at films with scenes that generated controversy, or probably should have, but which were largely successful anyway. Spoilers ahead!

#10: Cannibal Stereotypes

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006)
In this second installment of Disney’s flagship Pirates franchise, Jack Sparrow and his crew find themselves captured by indigenous islanders, who are depicted as savage cannibals. Unsurprisingly, the Carib people living in Dominica, where the scenes were shot, were NOT impressed. Feeling that the movie was reinforcing negative stereotypes about their ancestors, Chief Charles Williams called for the movie to be boycotted. Disney responded to the controversy with a brief statement, denying any intentional reference to a specific people or group. Despite the bad press, Disney opted to keep the scenes, and the film went on to score big at the box office, generating $1.066 billion.

#9: Losing Her Head

“Hereditary” (2018)
There’s a time honoured understanding among filmgoers that while any manner of violence is to be expected in horror, dogs and children are for the most part off limits. 2018’s Hereditary subverts this expectation early on in the film when 13 year old Charlie has her head removed from her body by way of a telephone pole. As if the moment of implied decapitation wasn’t shocking enough, with Charlie’s brother’s stunned reaction mirroring our own, the film includes a close-up shot of the head along the side of the road and rests on it for a stomach turning 10 seconds. However, director Ari Aster’s willingness to horrify audiences seemed to pay off, with the film receiving an overwhelmingly positive critical reception.

#8: Rewriting History

“Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
No stranger to controversy, Quentin Tarantino managed to generate quite a bit of it by rewriting history in Inglourious Basterds. Set during the tail end of the second world war, the film details the fictional efforts of Nazi hunters and a Jewish theater owner to kill Hitler during a film screening. Unexpectedly, they succeed, thus ending the war. Some people felt that Tarantino’s alteration of history was insensitive, arguing that the atrocities Hitler perpetrated during the end of the war shouldn’t be unwritten for the sake of a plot twist. However, many responded positively to the catharsis of witnessing the bloody demise of such an evil figure.

#7: The Tent Scene

“Brokeback Mountain” (2005)
Despite being an smash hit upon its release, Brokeback Mountain created quite the uproar among conservative American audiences who were not too keen about the film’s gay love story. Despite it being fairly tame in comparison to many other mainstream movies, the sex scene featuring cowboy lovers Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger was at the centre of the controversy. Certain moviegoers were horrified at the mere idea of the scene and the film was criticized, protested, and even pulled from one theater by Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller. However, the film went on to make $178.1 million in the box office, won numerous Oscars, and became an instant classic, wrangling a victory in the court of public opinion.

#6: Bill’s Dance

“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
This horror classic follows Clarice Starling as she struggles to uncover the identity of serial killer Buffalo Bill, with the help of incarcerated cannibal Hannibal Lector. The film was incredibly successful and featured some of the most iconic performances of all time. Buffalo Bill’s performance however, has elicited pushback from the LGBTQ+ community. In one notorious scene, Bill dances seductively into a mirror, apparently performing drag for himself, while we see the girl he’s kidnapped desperately calling for help. Many feel as though the scene seems to suggest an inherent depravity of non-cis people, The film incited a protest outside of the 1992 Academy Awards, but it went on to win five Oscars, becoming the third film in history to do so.

#5: Girlfriend Loaned Out

“Sixteen Candles” (1984)
While fondly remembered by parents everywhere, several movies from 80s icon John Hughes feature scenes that people have now begun to take issue with. “Sixteen Candles” is definitely guilty in this regard, with the most uncomfortable moment coming when heartthrob Jake Ryan “gives” his passed out girlfriend Caroline to the geeky Farmer Ted. Ted goes on to take photos with the intoxicated Caroline and it’s implied that they spend the night together. Worse still, after waking up with little memory of the previous night, Caroline decides to go out with Ted. While the 80s were a different time for comedy, this still should have struck people as plain creepy, and it’s surprising that the film is only now being seen as deeply problematic.

#4: Stick of Butter

“Last Tango in Paris” (1972)
Last Tango follows the relationship of an older widower and his younger female partner. The film was graphic in its portrayal of sex and sexual violence and the cast and crew gave inflammatory interviews that stoked public outrage. Still, the film was still released to general acclaim, which already would have made Last Tango qualify for this list. Even more shocking though, is the more recent controversy surrounding the making of the film. Lead actress Maria Schneider reported that the filming of one scene, which involved her character being violated with a stick of butter, was deeply humiliating and traumatic for her. Upon hearing this, public opinion of the film has shifted drastically, and the scene has become synonymous with the #MeToo movement.

#3: Train Innuendo

“North by Northwest” (1959)
Alfred Hitchcock’s trans-American epic “North by Northwest” sees Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill travel across America while being pursued by a group of criminals. The film ends with Thornhill and his paramour Eve kissing on a bed in a train cabin, concluding with a shot of the train entering a tunnel. Suspected by many, and later confirmed by Hitchcock, the ending is indeed an innuendo for the birds and the bees. This gag certainly wouldn’t have made it past the infamous “Hays” production code, had censors gotten the joke, but Hitchcock was able to sneak it past them. The reason he did it? Just to stick it to the production code people, who had censored other parts of the script.

#2: The Ear Scene

“Reservoir Dogs” (1992)
We already mentioned that Tarantino is no stranger to controversy? Quentin’s very first film, about the aftermath of a failed heist, featured one scene that was too much for some audience members. The scene involves the psychopathic Mr. Blonde torturing a kidnapped police officer, cutting off his ear, and nearly setting him on fire, all while grooving to Stealer’s Wheels “Stuck in the Middle with You.” The scene was controversial for the macabre delight Tarantino seemed to share with Mr. Blonde in this showcase of senseless violence, and Tarantino’s cavalier attitude towards violence continues to be criticized to this day. The film however, is much beloved, with many defending the scene and Tarantino’s vision.

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

“Spider-Man” (2002)

Sibling Relations
“Crimson Peak” (2015)

Vince Vaughn Assaulted
“Wedding Crashers” (2005)

Bart’s Privates
“The Simpsons Movie” (2007)

Racist Caricatures
“Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” (1999)

#1: Kissing Siblings

“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977) & “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
One of the most successful multimedia franchises ever, “Star Wars” surprisingly got away with multiple incestuous moments. In “New Hope”, Princess Leia plants an innocuous smooch on Luke Skywalker while they’re escaping the Death Star. In the sequel the two share another more intense kiss while Luke is recovering from injuries. George Lucas was making up and changing the story as he went, and in the beginning hadn’t even decided that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, let alone that Luke and Leia were siblings. hHowever, after the big reveal in “Return of the Jedi”, we can’t help but find these scenes… disturbing.