1. The rape scene from Irreversible.
The brutal and agonisingly long rape scene in this French movie takes place in an alley. Monica Belluci’s character has just left a club when she’s accosted by a ruthless sadist who rapes and then beats her to a pulp. The scene caused many viewers to protest the need for such a lengthy torture scene.
2. Nicole Kidman’s character appears to take a bath with a 10-year-old boy in Birth.
This film is about a young widow who meets a 10 year old boy claiming to be her reincarnated husband. A scene in which the young boy undresses and joins her in the bathtub caused controversy for its pedophilic overtones. The filmmakers clarified that the scene was mostly shot separately, and they used special clothes.
3. The actual gutting of a turtle in Cannibal Holocaust.
This 1980 film has been consistently present in every controversy about movies since its release. It’s about a rescue mission to the Amazon, but the controversy is around a scene where a group of Americans slice off a turtle’s limbs, rip its shell off, and brutalise it in every way. The worst part? It was an actual turtle.
4. The sex performance in Requiem for a Dream.
This entire film is one harrowing moment after another, set in the rotting belly of hyper drug addiction. But the scene where Jennifer Connelly’s character, desperate for heroin, agrees to double-team a sex toy with another woman in front of hordes of men caused quite an uproar. It’s a highly disturbing sequence, highlighting the death throes of withdrawal.
5. The curb stomp scene in American History X.
Who didn’t cringe with vicarious pain and horror at this scene? Edward Norton’s neo-nazi character forces a black man to place his mouth on the curb, then proceeds to bash his head in. It’s an infamous scene that caused quite an uproar for its brutality and sheer viciousness.
6. The rape scene in A Clockwork Orange.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film spoke of ultra-violence from the onset, which the main characters – the Droogs – indulging in all manner of sadistic and brutal practises. However, the scene where Alex and his cohorts break into the home of a wheelchair-bound author and rape his wife while the song Singin’ in the Rain plays, caused a massive controversy. The film faced many protests, and was even banned in the UK.
7. Killing a water buffalo in Apocalypse Now.
This seminal 1979 war film influenced storylines, actors, and generations to come. However, at the end of the film, soldiers perform a ritual sacrifice in which they slaughter a water buffalo. They killed an actual water buffalo for this scene, leading to protests by animal rights groups.
8. Forcing young boys to eat faeces in Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.
It could be argued that pretty much every scene of this film was controversial. But the part where the adult fascists sadistically make the young boys eat a feast of feces, then take them up to their rooms to rape them, was difficult to watch for even the most hardened of viewers. The film was banned in several countries.
9. A real horse’s head was used in The Godfather.
You wouldn’t think a classic like The Godfather would be mired in controversy. However, this mafia movie featured an infamous scene where the Don leaves the head of a horse in the bed of its owner as a pressure tactic. Unbeknownst to most, it was an actual head from a real horse. When this information was made public, it caused quite a furore.
10. When the front person has to defecate in The Human Centipede.
This is another film that defies sense, and yet it’s hugely popular. Basic premise – a mad scientist stitches together 3 unfortunate victims ass-to-mouth. The unveiling of the centipede was disturbing enough, but when the person in front is forced to defecate, and the 2 behind have to eat it – well, that was literally hard to swallow. The scene was edited out in some countries, while the entire film was banned in others.
My eyes! My eyes!