6. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Many prominent Black leaders aimed to ban D.W. Griffith’s horrifically racist blockbuster before its premiere on the grounds that it was an “open call to hatred and violence.” The film presents the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, but that didn’t stop President Woodrow Wilson from screening it at the White House and offering support. The peaceful protests from Black citizens at the time are now considered by historians to have been a model for the civil rights movement to come.
7. Scarface (1932)
Before Al Pacino uttered “say hello to my little friend” in the 1983 version, there was the original Scarface, reportedly based on the life of Al Capone. The ’30s film was just as iconic and so shocking it was banned in five states. Why? Because it glorified violence, crime and gang life long before Tony Soprano and Vito Corleone in The Godfather stole America’s heart. The gangster genre is still one of the most popular in America.
8. The Exorcist (1973)
This possession film was outright banned in the United Kingdom, while the trailer took some heat in the United States. It was pulled from theaters after reports of audience hysteria and even vomiting. Despite its scary subject, the film went on to be a huge hit.
9. Haxan (1922)
This silent Swedish film was banned in the United States for years due to its depiction of demonic deviants and various sacrilegious and sexual shenanigans, many of which are set in churches. It was deemed too deplorable for American audiences, but was eventually screened in 1929 and hit the art circuit with a recut and rerelease in the 1960s. It even has a reputation these days for being avant-garde.
10. The Vanishing Prairie (1954)
Disney’s acclaimed nature documentary won an Academy Award, but it was stilled banned in New York on the grounds that it might corrupt morals. It contains footage of a buffalo giving birth, which struck someone as too problematic for viewers. The ban was lifted shortly after.