Top 10 Banned Action Movies
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: Andy Hammersmith
These flicks were censored for everything from violent content to political subversion, sometimes all rolled into one film. For this list, we'll be looking at any action films that were banned or prevented from releasing in at least one country. Our countdown includes “True Lies”, "Deadpool", "The Raid", and more!
Top 10 Banned Action Movies
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Banned Action Movies.
For this list, we’ll be looking at any action films that were banned or prevented from releasing in at least one country. These flicks were censored for everything from violent content to political subversion, sometimes all rolled into one film.
Which action flicks didn’t make our list? Let us know in the comments below.
#10: “Hunter Killer” (2018)
Russia & Ukraine
This little-known action film contains both high-profile actors and a few controversial plot points. It features Gerard Butler as a submarine commander that helps rescue the Russian president from a coup. Given the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, “Hunter Killer” raised eyebrows in Eastern Europe. Ukraine decided to ban the movie because of its perceived support of certain Russian figures. Considering the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the tension between those nations has only risen in recent years. Russia also refused to exhibit the film without specifically citing any political reasons. Since the story shows a scenario for subversive activity in the nation, it’s not hard to surmise the underlying decision in not showing it.
#9: “True Lies” (1994)
James Cameron’s action film features movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger as a secret agent that thwarts a terrorist plot. While that sounds similar to many blockbusters, this particular release gained poor reviews from some critics for its portrayal of Middle-Eastern villains. Harsh notices didn’t stop there as the release was outright banned in Indonesia for its apparent mishandling of the Islamic religion. The villains’ characterizations were perceived to have misrepresented the faith, which the nation’s Islamic leaders didn’t appreciate. Schwarzenegger’s character fighting and killing a majority of them didn’t appease detractors either.
#8: “Falling Down” (1993)
Michael Douglas stars in this film as the deranged William Foster who slowly unravels over the course of a contentious trek through Los Angeles. Many scenes involve Foster confronting various people, including a Korean shop owner in a particularly tense moment. Protestors cried foul at the movie’s depiction of minorities, particularly the Korean community in LA. This led to a growing outrage that influenced the distributor to stop the film’s release in South Korea altogether. The white anti-hero at the center of the film uses verbal altercations and even violence to lash out against the system, prompting viewers to debate the ultimate point of the story all these years later.
#7: “The Kingdom” (2007)
Kuwait & Bahrain
Peter Berg’s “The Kingdom” takes a look at terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East. Set in Saudi Arabia, the film gathered inspiration from real-life attacks to tell a story about US agents tracking down the perpetrators. It was banned in nearby countries Kuwait and Bahrain, with officials in the latter citing the film’s vilification of Saudi Arabia. Other critics noted that the movie pushes a narrative of demonizing Middle-Eastern people and supporting a patriotic US agenda. The Jamie Foxx film might not be as well remembered for its action scenes, but it certainly struck a nerve with viewers in the region.
#6: “Goldfinger” (1964)
Often regarded as one of the quintessential James Bond films, “Goldfinger” is a classic of the action/spy genre. The film stars Sean Connery as the secret agent and the German actor Gert Fröbe as the titular villain. While Fröbe ranks high among Bond adversaries, the performer’s past prompted Israel to prevent the movie’s release. He was previously known as a Nazi Party member before WWII. While his membership caused considerable outrage, the official ban was rescinded after the whole story came out; it was later reported that the actor apparently sheltered a Jewish family from the Nazis. This didn’t hurt the film’s box office chances however, considering that it became a smash hit.
#5: “Deadpool” (2016)
Ryan Reynolds successfully turned “Deadpool” into a massively popular film series. He also supported the film becoming an R-rated experience, complete with all of the extreme violence and swearing any fan of the character would expect. This didn’t sit too well with Chinese censors, who wished for the finished product to be wildly changed. Considering the endless montages of violence that are integral to the storyline, it wasn’t feasible to alter it without completely undercutting the film. Reynolds and the creators brushed off the initial ban, with the movie going on to become one of the most profitable R-rated releases ever.
#4: “The Raid 2” (2014)
Indonesian action film “The Raid 2” received massive amounts of praise for its visceral and relentless fight scenes. It also earned a ban in Malaysia for its adherence to complete brutality on every level. Sequences such as a violent prison riot are not for the faint of heart and prompted major pushback from Malaysian censors. Without much more clarity on the issue, the ban seemed excessive in the eyes of the film’s supporters in its native country. The entire experience still ranks among the more memorable action brawlers in recent memory despite some opponents thinking otherwise.
#3: “Rambo” (2008)
Sylvester Stallone’s fourth entry in the “Rambo” series might be the bloodiest of them all. His character’s efforts to help missionaries in Myanmar set off a chain of events that pit John Rambo against the local military. Needless to say, this kind of storyline wasn’t welcomed with open arms in Myanmar. The country was dealing with a political revolution in 2007 and 2008, which arguably led the nation to be even more cautious about releasing it. Rambo also spends most of the runtime killing their soldiers with a variety of weaponry. Along with the excessive violence, the final product clearly shows their government in a bad light, which makes the subsequent censorship not all that surprising.
#2: “Mad Max” (1979)
New Zealand & Sweden
While some people remember the sequels better, George Miller’s original “Mad Max” laid the template for a dystopian world of gang violence. Its subject matter didn’t go out without controversy either. New Zealand and Sweden each banned the film for content that was perceived as excessive and gratuitous at the time. For New Zealanders, the burning scene hit especially close to home given recent activity in the nation. Both bans took effect for several years as the film’s influence grew and helped create several sequels. After changing opinions and cultural shifts, both countries eventually withdrew their restrictions.
#1: “Battle Royale” (2000)
Germany, Canada, & the US
This popular adaptation of the Koushun Takami book inspired a sequel and influenced other media. It also attracted condemnation for its plot about students forced to fight to the death. Multiple territories didn’t see the film until years later, partially due to its controversial content. Germany temporarily banned the movie years later, while US and Canadian theaters never saw a wide-scale release. The story continues to garner attention for its frequent scenes of violence between younger characters. Due to the preventative measures of distributors, “Battle Royale” had to become a cult hit through word of mouth and later home video formats. The boundary-pushing storyline remains one of the more thrilling of its kind, later hailed by international critics as a classic.