The 25 Most Controversial Movies Ever

United 93 | UNITED 93
Image credit: United 93: Jonathan Olley
UNITED 93

20 CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST
DIRECTED BY RUGGERO DEODATO (1985)
THE PLOT This nauseatingly graphic Italian prototype for The Blair Witch Project follows four documentarians filming cannibal tribes in the Amazon. They become lunch.
THE CONTROVERSY After its 1980 Milan premiere, the film's print was confiscated by the city's magistrate. Later, Deodato faced life in prison when Italian authorities believed the stars of his film were really killed. The actors finally appeared on TV to prove otherwise.

19 BASIC INSTINCT
DIRECTED BY PAUL VERHOEVEN (1992)
THE PLOT A trigger-happy detective (Michael Douglas) falls for a bisexual author (Sharon Stone) who's suspected of murdering her male lover with an ice pick.
THE CONTROVERSY Gay-rights activists objected to the portrayal of man-hating lesbians before a frame of film was shot and protested through the film's opening. Then there was the film's eye-popping sex, including Sharon Stone's notorious leg-crossing, which contributed to Basic's initial NC-17 rating.

18 I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW)
DIRECTED BY VILGOT SJÖMAN (1969)
THE PLOT Freewheeling Lena experiences the swinging '60s: protesting Vietnam, questioning the class system, and exploring carnal desires.
THE CONTROVERSY Before the 1967 Swedish film could open in the U.S., it was seized by customs officials concerned that scenes containing full frontal nudity and simulated sex acts were pornographic. The courts initially deemed the movie obscene, but the verdict was overturned.

17 FREAKS
DIRECTED BY TOD BROWNING (1932)
THE PLOT For his still-creepy circus noir about a midget who's conned by a greedy temptress, Browning used real sideshow performers.
THE CONTROVERSY Audiences fled preview screenings in droves. (One patron claimed the film caused her to miscarry.) Even with a castration scene cut, the National Association of Women found the film ''offensive'' and urged boycotts. It was banned in Atlanta and pulled from distribution; it was forbidden in the U.K. until the early '60s.

16 UNITED 93
DIRECTED BY PAUL GREENGRASS (2006)
THE PLOT An ultra-vérité re-creation of the tragic heroism surrounding — and inside — the only hijacked 9/11 flight not to reach its intended target.
THE CONTROVERSY Greengrass' virtually-there experience may have been a little too close for comfort for some moviegoers. Even the trailer's suggestion of the movie's content prompted audiences to shout Too soon! One New York City theater pulled the footage from its preview reel after many viewers (one left sobbing) complained.

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