Just like books, music and visual art, film can divide people as well as unite them. Audiences, critics, public figures and many other groups frequently clash over movies' content and style.
What is graphic or offensive to one moviegoer may be interpreted as insightful or thought-provoking by another. It's worth remembering that, like all other forms of art, film should be approached with an open mind. Read on for some examples of films that have stirred controversy throughout the decades.
Oliver Stone is perhaps the cinematic king of controversy. According to one biography, his films have "embellished the truth with fanciful fiction." Stone became known as a conspiracy theorist with the 1991 release of JFK. This site takes Stone to task for "turning history upside down" with the inaccuracies in the film.
Stone again invited the controversy with Natural Born Killers, which remains extremely violent despite cuts to receive an R-rating from the MPAA. Read the Quentin Tarantino's original script. Some claim that the film's message is anti-violent.
Birth of a Nation
Movie controversies are nothing new. According to Filmsite.org's summary, Birth of a Nation's controversy has lasted since its 1915 release for portraying the Ku Klux Klan in a heroic role. Most agree that the film, which depicts two families during the Civil War, is extremely important in a historical and cinematic sense. Attempts to ban the film were unsuccessful. This review gives more details about the fight.
When the 25-year-old Orson Welles made the film Citizen Kane, he incensed the powerful William Randolph Hearst with his brutal portrayal of the magnate's life. According to the PBS special "The Battle Over Citizen Kane," Hearst's defenders used intimidation, blackmail, newspaper smears and FBI investigations to shut the movie down. Citizen Kane went on to be considered one of the greatest movies of all time, topping the American Film Institute's Greatest Films list.
The Last Temptation of Christ
Released in 1988, this film was protested by most Christian denominations for portraying Jesus as a flawed man plagued by self-doubt. The film is adapted from a book by Nikos Kazantzakis, who was almost excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church as a result. The controversy even led Blockbuster Video to refuse to carry the title. This essay from DecentFilms.com explores the issue in more detail.
Kevin Smith's 1999 film Dogma is another that drew criticism from religious groups. Aside from the foul language common to Smith's films, Dogma features fallen angels who kill and rocker Alanis Morissette as God. Despite Smith's claim that the movie is "pro-faith," the film's premiere drew hundreds of protesters. The official site offers links to many reviews and related articles.
When this film, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, premiered in 1999, most people either loved it or hated it. Some critics claimed that it was made up of disturbing, gratuitous violence. Others viewed it as a story of contemporary manhood, with Norton's character seeking meaning for his life in an alternative community that questions the values of society at large. Check out the diverse reviews at the Movie Review Query Engine. Go to the official site for sounds and more.