Top 10 Movies Banned ONLY in America

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Top 10 Movies Banned ONLY in America

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These banned movies struggled in America. For this list, we'll be looking at various movies that have faced bans in the United States. Our countdown includes “If You Love This Planet”, “Promises! Promises!”, “The Birth of a Nation”, and more!
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Top 10 Movies Banned in America But Not Anywhere Else


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 movies banned in America but not anywhere else.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various movies that have faced bans in the United States.

Have you seen any of these films? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

#10: “If You Love This Planet” (1982)

This isn’t really a traditional movie. Rather, it’s a filmed lecture given by prominent Australian anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. Caldicott’s thirty-minute lecture at SUNY Plattsburgh was filmed and distributed by the National Film Board of Canada. Released at the height of Cold War tensions in 1982, it was meant to educate the general population on nuclear weapons. The United States Department of Justice was not happy with its content and banned the film, calling it “foreign political propaganda.” This was met with derision, and the ban was eventually lifted. Not only that, but the film went on to win Best Documentary (Short Subject) at that year’s Oscars.


#9: “Two-Faced Woman” (1941)

This romantic comedy was made as a desperate attempt to save Greta Garbo’s waning career. Instead, it caused significant controversy and was a box office flop. Garbo plays a married woman who pretends to be her fake twin sister in order to woo her estranged husband. The general plot and many suggestive scenes were considered immoral in 1940s America, and the archbishop of New York condemned it. It was subsequently banned in numerous American cities, including Boston. The movie underwent reshoots to alter objectionable material, and the censored version was released without incident. The original cut still exists but is exceedingly rare.

#8: “The Thorn” (1971)

Originally released as “The Greatest Story Overtold,” “The Thorn” is a religious satire starring Bette Midler as the Virgin Mary. Following its premiere at the Detroit Institute of Art, the movie was retitled “The Divine Mr. J” and released in New York City. The title was a reference to Midler’s debut album The Divine Miss M, and Midler wasn’t happy. She sued the studio for using her intellectual property in its title and marketing. Midler won the case and the movie was banned. It was then re-released on VHS in 1984, now under the title “The Thorn.” However, the title change wasn’t enough for the courts, and the movie was again banned. It has remained so, but a VHS rip can easily be found online.


#7: “Flaming Creatures” (1963)

Released in 1963, “Flaming Creatures” is a short, experimental movie with a runtime of just over 40 minutes and it drew immediate criticism for its sexual content. Some cinemas refused to show it, and police raided one venue, arresting four people and confiscating the film reel! Three of them were convicted of obscenity charges, although this was overturned by the New York Supreme Court. That didn’t stop the police raids however, which continued throughout the 1960s. It would be decades until the controversial movie reemerged for public showings.

#6: “Portland Exposé” (1957)

A film noir from the late ‘50s, “Portland Exposé” stars Edward Binns as a tavern owner who gets mixed up with union gangs. The story was loosely inspired by the criminal career of Jim Elkins, a crime boss who operated in the Portland area around the time of the movie’s release. The movie was scheduled to open in Portland on August 14, 1957, but dozens of people allegedly involved in Elkins’s criminal empire threatened to sue. According to the booking agent who canceled the premiere, up to 40 individuals came forward to make threats. The agent capitulated to their demands, and the movie was banned within a 30 mile radius of Portland.

#5: “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (1950)

This film really should have worked. It was released at the height of the film noir craze, and it starred James Cagney, who was fresh off the Oscar-nominated “White Heat.” Unfortunately, it received poor reviews and faded into obscurity. This was quite a dour film for its time, filled with killings, an amoral and unlikable protagonist, police corruption, and even hints of sadomasochism. It was all too much for the Ohio film board, and the movie was banned in the state. In their own words, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” was “a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality and an extreme presentation of crime with explicit steps in commission.”


#4: “Promises! Promises!” (1963)

This film has a notable place in Hollywood history. Starring Playboy Playmate Jayne Mansfield, it’s the first sound movie to feature a major star in the nude. Nudity in film was explicitly banned under the Hays Code, a form of self-censorship that all the major studios adhered to. However, the Code’s power had largely dwindled by the early ‘60s, resulting in more risque productions. Mansfield’s disrobing was the primary draw for the film, and she marketed her movie by posing in Playboy. This in turn resulted in obscenity charges against Hugh Hefner, although he was acquitted. The movie was similarly met with controversy and banned in many US cities.

#3: “Bicycle Thieves” (1948)

Often regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made, “Bicycle Thieves” is considered a masterpiece of the Italian neorealist movement. In 1950, it was honored with an Oscar nom for Best Screenplay and received an Honorary Award for being “the most outstanding foreign language film.” Despite its recognition, “Bicycle Thieves” also caused considerable controversy in the US. In March of 1950, the Motion Picture Association banned the movie throughout the United States for containing lurid sequences. These included scenes inside a bordello and a sequence in which a little boy urinates.

#2: “Birth Control” (1917)

It’s amazing what 100 years can do. The United States of 1917 is a pretty alien place to us now. Not just technologically, but morally and legally as well. In that year, sex educator Margaret Sanger released “Birth Control,” a short documentary about family planning. Sanger was a prominent birth control activist who opened the first clinic of its kind in the United States, educating women about the use of diaphragms in particular. This documentary helped spread her message, but was met with fierce condemnation. Two years earlier, the US Supreme Court had ruled that movies were not protected under free speech. As such, Sanger’s documentary was banned “in the interest of morality, decency, and public safety and welfare.” Sadly, it’s since been lost.


#1: “The Birth of a Nation” (1915)

This silent epic drama film remains one of the most controversial movies ever made. While praised for its technical achievements, the movie received widespread criticism for its revisionist history and racist tone. It seemingly champions white supremacy by depicting the Ku Klux Klan as heroic and portraying African Americans as unintelligent and violent. The movie helped contribute to racial segregation in the US and even resulted in the re-emergence of the KKK, which had disbanded over 40 years earlier. In response to protests and racial violence, a few US states and cities ended up banning the movie.
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