Jar Jar Binks and 15 more "Kick-Ass" sci-fi movie controversies

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Jul 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

Kick-Ass has already been condemned in some quarters due to its violence and the character of Hit Girl, a 10-year-old girl who curses like a sailor and leaves a trail of dead bodies.

But it's far from the only sci-fi or fantasy film to have created controversy. Check out 15 more examples of sci-fi flak below.


F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) came close to disappearing forever; the unauthorized version of the Dracula story aroused the ire of Bram Stoker's widow, who won her lawsuit against the makers and demanded the destruction of all available copies. The film not only survived but ironically had as lasting an influence on vampire lore as Stoker's novel, for it's here, and not in Stoker's pages, that we get the stuff about fanged ones being destroyed by the rays of the sun.


Frankenstein (1931), tame by today's standards, was considered so horrifically blasphemous at its release that it was censored in several states, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York. The actual moment where the monster accidentally drowns a little girl was removed from the film for years; for a long time the scene ended with the monster reaching for the little girl, an edit that ironically implied a far more unspeakable end for her. The various cuts made to accommodate sensitive, sometimes fainting audiences were not all restored until 1999.


Freaks (1932), cast with real-life sideshow performers—who, for the most part, sad to say, could not act very well—was also considered so shocking and indecent at the time that it was ultimately subjected to multiple cuts and a studio-mandated happy ending. Director Tod Browning's career was never the same.

Peeping Tom

Here's another great film that practically ruined the career of its director. Released three months before Alfred Hitchcock's now much-better-known Psycho, Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) was about a serial killer who liked to film the terrified expressions on the faces of his female victims. The film was considered so shocking that, though Powell had been a major director for more than 30 years and had already been responsible for classics that included The Thief of Baghdad, Black Narcissus and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, his career went into an immediate serious decline. In later years Peeping Tom was recognized as a masterpiece, prompting Powell to write, "I make a film that nobody wants to see and then, thirty years later, everybody has either seen it or wants to see it."

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange (1971) was widely condemned in both Great Britain and the United States for "glorifying" the violent crimes of its street thug, Alex. Among the alleged copycat crimes was a rape involving attackers who sang "Singin' In the Rain," just like Alex in the film. After receiving threats on the life of his family, director Stanley Kubrick withdrew the film from distribution within Great Britain for 27 years.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist (1973) was attacked for its religious themes and for its use of "subliminal" imagery, flash-frames that are perfectly noticeable and thus (as author William Peter Blatty pointed out) not subliminal by any definition of the word. Star Linda Blair needed bodyguards for several months due to death threats. (Yeah. That makes sense. Accuse the film of indecency and threaten the kid who starred in it.)

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead (1978) fought the X rating and was ultimately released unrated, only after director George Romero agreed to require theaters to post a carefully worded warning about the film's extreme violence. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting declared the film "morally offensive," and New York Times critic Janet Maslin claimed to leave a screening after only 15 minutes.

Life of Brian

Before you get mad at us for calling religion fantasy, Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) makes this fantastic-films list because of a scene involving bug-eyed aliens and a flying-saucer battle that ranges from occupied Jerusalem to outer space and back. Like it or not, that scene makes the film science fiction. It was wholly misunderstood at the time of its release: Though it quite clearly takes pains to establish that its oafish Brian is not Jesus Christ and that the biblical figure Jesus Christ does exist in the world of the film—where he's not really mocked at all—many showings were met with angry protests. Norway and Ireland banned it entirely.

The Tin Drum

The Tin Drum (1979), about a boy who makes the conscious decision to stop aging at 11, was seen by some as child pornography because of a subsequent sex scene between its protagonist and a 16-year-old girl. It was banned in Canada, and an Oklahoma City man who rented the film was threatened with prosecution for having it in his home when the local police confiscated video-store copies.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

The extreme if cartoonish violence in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) contributed to the creation of the PG-13 rating. The film was also criticized for misrepresentations of India and of the Hindu religion in particular. The film's villains, the Cult of Kali, were also the antagonists of 1939's Gunga Din, a genuinely great film that is not notably more racially sensitive.


Dogma (1999) received more than 300,000 pieces of hate mail from viewers who objected to its treatment of the Catholic Church. Writer-director Kevin Smith gleefully fed the controversy by picketing a number of the showings himself.

The Phantom Menace

The worldwide sinking feeling shared by many first-time watchers of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) was not just a reaction to a gamey storyline, but also to characterizations that many saw as racist ... among them the big-nosed, venal slave owner Watto and the bumbling, mock-Jamaican Jar Jar.

Battle Royale

Battle Royale (2000), the horrifying Japanese film about a class of schoolchildren forced to fight to the death, was denounced on the floor of the nation's parliament and implicated as a factor in a real-life slashing committed by a fan of the film. The movie was never released theatrically in the United States, in part because of its resonances to real-life school massacres like the killings at Columbine.

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass (2007) was the first film in a series based on Philip Pullman's novels set in a world ruled by an evil parody of Christianity. Softening the themes to avoid angering church groups didn't do much to endear the finished film to secular organizations or to fans of the novels. The compromises with the material pleased nobody outside the board room.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) contained two robots, Mudflap and Skids, who talked in painful hip-hop slang and were widely attacked as racist caricatures. Some critics accused director Michael Bay of peddling prejudice to children, a charge that was just icing on the cake given that many viewers had little trouble finding other reasons to hate the frenetic bombast on-screen.

District 9

Ironically enough for a film intended as a blistering metaphor for the cruelties of apartheid, the South African alien-visitation film District 9 (2009) was widely blasted for its portrayal of ethnic Nigerians as gangsters, thugs and cannibals. Apparently, alien prawn creatures deserve better treatment, but you can attack another real-life nationality to make that point.

Among the violent SF/fantasy films that famously flirted with the X rating before being released as R-rated films after critical edits: Angel Heart, Total Recall and Robocop.

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