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Top 10 Movies Banned in Britain


Written by JJ Heaton British film censorship can be a delicate issue. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down the Top 10 Movies Banned in Britain. For this list, we’ll be looking at films from around the world that were either denied classification or pulled from release in the United Kingdom, be it for excessive violence, graphic imagery or any other number of reasons. Just to clarify, these films don't necessarily have to be still banned today, but they must have faced some adversity during their initial release, and that includes censored cuts where the offensive content was removed. Special thanks to our user RichardFB for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Movies Banned in Britain


British film censorship can be a delicate issue. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down the Top 10 Movies Banned in Britain.

For this list, we’ll be looking at films from around the world that were either denied classification or pulled from release in the United Kingdom, be it for excessive violence, graphic imagery or any other number of reasons. Just to clarify, these films don't necessarily have to be still banned today, but they must have faced some adversity during their initial release, and that includes censored cuts where the offensive content was removed.

#10: “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)” (2011)


Though set in the UK, the sequel to the 2009 cult horror film was initially refused classification from the BBFC - British Board of Film Classification, in 2011. They deemed the film as “sexually violent and potentially obscene” even compared to the original, and initially said that even a new censored cut would be refused a certificate. The film’s director Tom Six fought back against the BBFC’s refusal, and a new cut with nearly three minutes removed was approved a few months later, and the film received an 18 certificate for its straight-to-DVD release.

#9: “Straw Dogs” (1971)


Though this psychological thriller starring Dustin Hoffman was released uncut in the UK in 1971, as opposed to the censored American version, “Straw Dogs” was later refused classification by the BBFC in 1984 due to the recently implemented Video Recordings Act. The main issue was the film’s two explicit rape scenes, which had already been trimmed for the American version, and the board deemed neither version suitable for home distribution. Several more attempts were made over the years before the BBFC finally classified the uncut version for release in 2002.

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


The BBFC refused to classify this Wes Craven-directed horror film in 1972, but it did receive a mildly censored release on home video in the early 80s due to a more relaxed attitude to video censorship at the time. Unfortunately, the video nasty scare in the UK saw the film then banned on VHS too, for the rest of the century. However, appeals from British fans, and critics like Mark Kermode, continuously called for a revision due to the film’s historical significance to the horror genre - and eventually its censored version was released in 2002, followed by the full uncut version in 2008.

#7: “Freaks” (1932)


This disturbing film about the lives of a group of circus freak show performers was perhaps too ahead of its time. The film was heavily censored and eventually pulled from release in the United States, whilst it was outright refused classification in the United Kingdom, as the BBFC thought the film exploited its cast of deformed actors for commercial gain. The film was finally approved for release 30 years later in 1963 but still underwent numerous reclassifications afterwards, settling on a 12 rating for its current home video release. The film has since gained a cult following.

#6: “Reservoir Dogs” (1992)


Though the debut film from director Quentin Tarantino received a British theatrical release with little fuss in 1992, “Reservoir Dogs” later encountered problems that drastically delayed its home video release. Due to ongoing revisions to the Video Recordings Act in the wake of the 1993 murder of James Bulger, potentially risqué films such as “Reservoir Dogs” were held from home video classification until the new bill was finalised. Thankfully, once everything was cleared up, the film passed censorship and received the same 18 certificate it gained on theatrical release in 1995.

#5: “Cannibal Holocaust” (1980)


This Italian film revolutionized the genre we know today as ‘found footage’ horror, but at the time it caused controversy around the world due to scenes so graphic, many suspected it was a genuine snuff film and the filmmakers had to go to court to prove otherwise. The film was denied theatrical distribution in the UK, but videos at the time didn’t require classification and it was quietly released straight-to-video instead. However, the video nasty scare made the film resurface and the film was banned on video too in 1984. In 2001 a version with up to six minutes cut was released, followed by an almost complete version in 2011.

#4: “The Exorcist” (1973)


Whilst not officially banned by the BBFC, this Oscar-winning horror film was made unavailable on home video in the UK for over a decade. “The Exorcist” went through its theatrical release and initial video release without any problems, but yes, you guessed it, the video nasty police once again caused some second-guessing. Though the majority of the board was ready to pass the film for video re-release, then-director James Ferman elected to deny classification. All copies of the film were pulled from UK store shelves until 1999, until a censorship relaxation saw it deemed safe for distribution.

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


Though it did initially gain theatrical distribution in the country, the BBFC later decided that this game-changing horror film from Tobe Hooper should be banned in the UK. Achieving horror through suspense and disturbing images rather than gore and violence, the film was still deemed too horrific for British audiences. If that wasn’t enough, the BBFC also barred the word “chainsaw” itself from movie titles. After the third entry in the franchise faced similar treatment upon submission in 1990, the original film was finally deemed worthy for release in 1999.

#2: “The Evil Dead” (1981)


Director Sam Raimi didn’t seem particularly worried about censorship as he set out to make one of the goriest movies of its time, and his debut film “The Evil Dead” ended up capturing the attention of audiences worldwide. This includes the UK, where it became the best-selling video of the year in 1983. However, its popularity combined with its violent and disturbing imagery made it the prime target. The film was then banned from UK home video distribution until 1990, and the dispute surrounding its release only ended up increasing its cult reputation in the horror community.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honourable mentions:

“Battleship Potemkin” (1925)

“Death Wish” (1974)

“Maniac” (1980)

#1: “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)


This is a rare example of a filmmaker censoring himself. Though “A Clockwork Orange” did initially receive a theatrical release in the UK, director Stanley Kubrick himself requested that the film be pulled from cinemas. “Clockwork” was extremely controversial due to its depiction of violence and rape, and it was cited as an influencing factor in two murder cases at the time. Kubrick denied the film was to blame, but pulled the film due to the harassment his family received because of it. It remained banned in the UK until after Kubrick’s death in 1999.
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