Film censorship in China

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Film censorship in China involves the banning of films deemed unsuitable for release or the editing of such films to remove objected content by the governments in both Republic of China (ROC) and People's Republic of China (PRC). In Mainland China, films are reviewed by the National Film Administration (NFA) under the Publicity Department (Chinese: 国家电影局) which dictates whether, when, and how a movie gets released.[1] The NFA is separate from the NRTA under the State Council (Chinese: 广电总局).

The long history in ROC's film censorship is a prelude to that of the PRC, but the exhaustive list of films on this page is going to focus on PRC which is still a one-party state and took over the ROC in controlling mainland China after the Chinese Civil War. ROC has attempted age-based rating system as early as November 1948, become a democracy since the 1980s, and technically dropped censorship requirement in its film law in 2015[citation needed], despite it still may not issue the Restricted rating occasionally, if the film elicits feelings of shame or disgust in persons over the age of 18[clarification needed].


Republic of China[edit]

1912 to 1949[edit]

In 1911, under the Qing dynasty, the Shanghai Autonomous Bureau issued the first regulation on film content, disallowing "obscene content". Violations of the regulation were punishable by revocation of a theater's license to screen films.[2]

Under the Kuomintang (KMT), the government banned foreign films for promoting Christianity, cited as negativity affecting Chinese society, and for including kidnapping and love stories with "carnal desire". Wuxia and shenguai films were banned for promoting "superstition and unscientific thinking", and wuxia was felt to be spreading anarchy and instilling rebellion.[3]

In November 1930, the Legislative Yuan promulgated a Film Censorship Law (Chinese: 電影檢查法-中華民國19年), requiring four types of motion picture contents be edited, removed or banned:[4]

  • Hurts the pride of the Chinese race
  • Violates Three Principles of the People
  • Impedes good morality or violates public order
  • Advocates superstition and heresy

In January 1931, the Executive Yuan formally established the Film Censorship Committee, putting the control of censorship in the hands of the central government for the first time. The committee was tasked with reviewing locally produced films and international films distributed in China.[5] In March 1934, the government amended The Film Censorship Law, restructuring the Committee to include members from the film industry appointed by the Executive Yuan and renamed it to the Central Film Censorship Committee.[6] The law got amended four more times before the KMT lost the civil war and fled to Taiwan in 1949. In November 1948 (Chinese: 電影檢查法-中華民國37年), the reference to the "Three Principles of the People" was dropped and "the interests of the ROC could not be offended" was added in an amendment. Article 10 of the 1948 law also gave birth to a very early-stage motion picture rating system, using age 12 as the cutoff line for content restriction.[7]

1949 to 1983[edit]

The ROC regained its footing in Taiwan. In 1955 (Chinese: 電影檢查法-中華民國44年),[8] 1956 (Chinese: 電影檢查法-中華民國45年),[9][10] and 1958 (Chinese: 電影檢查法-中華民國47年),[11] four more amendments to the law ensued without revising the main criteria. The law was renamed the Motion Picture Act (Chinese: 電影法-中華民國72年)[12] in November 1983, and expanded the censorship criteria to include the following:

  • Hurts national interests or racial pride
  • Violates national policy or government ordinance
  • Agitates others to commit crimes or disobey laws
  • Jeopardizes teenager or children's health both physically or psychologically
  • Disrupts public order or impedes good morality
  • Advocates ridiculous heresy or misleads public opinion
  • Defames persons of virtue from the past or distorts historical facts

Article 30 of the 1983 law lowered the age cutoff line from 12 to 6 to dictate whether the viewing should be restricted or not.

1983 to the 2010s[edit]

KMT practiced martial law until July 1987. After lifting it, the Executive Yuan, or through its now dissolved Government Information Office (GIO), promulgated regulations to carry out the said revised law starting in 1987 (Chinese: 中華民國七十六年八月三十一日行政院臺七十六聞字第二○二○八號函核定)[13] and 1988 (Chinese: 中華民國七十七年一月一日行政院新聞局(77)銘影二字第○○○○二號令發布).[14] The then regulations revised the motion picture rating system, classifying films into three categories (General Audience/Parental Guidance/Restricted) based on age.[14][15] The categories were expanded into four (General Audience/Protected/Parental Guidance/Restricted) in 1994 (Chinese: 中華民國八十三年四月一日行政院新聞局(83)強影二字第○四一五八號令發布修正第二條、第三條、第五條至第十一條條文).[16]

The film law rephrased the censorship requirement in June 2015. To control the rating system requirement from a legislative perspective, article 9 of the new Motion Picture Act (Chinese: 電影法-中華民國104年), promulgated by the Legislative Yuan, maintains that motion pictures and their advertisements shall not be screened if not granted a rating by the central competent authority which shall convene a rating commission to rate films. Members of the commission shall be representatives of government agencies, and scholars and experts having academic or practical experience in related fields. The commission's conclusions shall be made public and clear rationales for ratings given be listed.[17][18] Article 10 maintains if motion pictures and their advertisements violate restrictions or prohibitions laid out in law, the central competent authority shall not grant a rating. The Ministry of Culture established by the Executive Yuan further specifies that not more than one third of the committee members can come from the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development.[19]

The rating system was expanded into five categories on October 16, 2015 per regulations (Chinese: 中華民國104年10月16日文影字第10420350091號令修正發布) drawn up in accordance with the Motion Picture Act.[20]

The revised Taiwan motion picture rating system which took effect from October 16, 2015.
  • 0+: General Audience (Chinese: 普遍級 or ) – Viewing is permitted for audiences of all ages.
  • 6+: Protected (Chinese: 保護級 or ) – Viewing is not permitted for children under 6; children between 6 and 11 shall be accompanied and given guidance by parents, teachers, seniors, or adult relatives or friends.
  • 12+: Parental Guidance 12 (Chinese: 輔導十二歲級 or 輔12) – Viewing is not permitted for children under 12.
  • 15+: Parental Guidance 15 (Chinese: 輔導十五歲級 or 輔15) – Viewing is not permitted for those under 15.
  • 18+: Restricted (Chinese: 限制級 or ) – Viewing is not permitted for those under 18.

Despite the rating system has been put in place, article 9 of the regulations specifically mentions the Restricted rating will not be issued, if the films elicit feelings of shame or disgust in persons over the age of 18. Article 235 of its Criminal Code also penalizes the distribution, broadcasts, sale, publicly displays of obscene video record.[21][22]

People's Republic of China[edit]

1949 to 1988[edit]

The earliest predecessor to SAPPRFT was founded in June 1949.[23] Communist Party of China (CPC) won the civil war and founded the new republic on October 1, 1949.

With the ten-year Cultural Revolution, film industry was singled out as a target for public criticism. Mao's wife Jiang Qing blacklisted 54 films.[24]

From the beginning of the Chinese economic reform (1978 onward), the PRC film industry has undertaken a series of decentralizing and privatizing reforms. In January 1986, SAPPRFT's predecessor is finally known as the Administrative Department of Radio, Film and Television (ADRFT) (Chinese: 广播电影电视部).[23]

1988 to 2010s[edit]

The ADRFT published its departmental-level film censorship regulation one after another in 1988 (Chinese: 电影审查条例(修改稿)),[25] in 1993 (Chinese: 电影审查暂行规定) and in 1997 (Chinese: 电影审查规定).[26]

The basic principles of the 1993 document were reaffirmed in July 1996, when the State Council of the People's Republic of China promulgated Regulations on the Administration of Movies (Chinese: 1996年电影管理条例) at a higher executive level. Its article 23 & 24 gave executive authority in stipulating that the country shall adopt a film examination system: "films that have not (been) examined and approved by the film examination organ of the administrative department of radio, film and television of the State Council may not be distributed, projected, imported or exported."[27][28]

In March 1998, the ADRFT was renamed State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) (Chinese: 国家广播电影电视总局).[23]

In February 2002, the State Council replaced the 1996 regulations with new ones (Chinese: 2002年电影管理条例).[29][30][31] Article 24 & 25 of the new regulations reiterates the censorship system and remains in effect despite what follows next.

In December 2003, SARFT also issued departmental-level regulation titled Interim Provisions on Project Initiation of Film Scripts (Abstracts) and on the Examination of Films (Chinese: 电影剧本(梗概)立项、电影片审查暂行规定).[32] This soon got updated in July 2004.[33][34] Both the 1997 and 2004 regulations were later replaced by Provisions on the Archival Filing of Film Scripts (Abstracts) and the Administration of Films in June 2006 (Chinese: 电影剧本(梗概)备案、电影片管理规定).[35][36]

In March 2013, the State Council merged SARFT with the General Administration of Press and Publication to form the SAPPRFT (Chinese: 国家新闻出版广电总局).

On November 7, 2016, The 12th Standing Committee of the National People's Congress at its 24th session passed the new PRC Film Industry Promotion Law (Chinese: 中国电影产业促进法) from a legislative point of view. The law became effective on March 1, 2017.[37][38][39] Although the country lacks of a rating system like that of the ROC or the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system, according to an unofficial translation of the new law, article 16 stipulates that films must not contain the following content:[40]

  1. Violations of the basic principles of the Constitution of China, incitement of resistance to or undermining of implementation of the Constitution, laws, or administrative regulations;
  2. Endangerment of the national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity; leaking state secrets; endangering national security; harming national dignity, honor or interests; advocating terrorism or extremism;
  3. Belittling exceptional ethnic cultural traditions, incitement of ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination, violations of ethnic customs, distortion of ethnic history or ethnic historical figures, injuring ethnic sentiments or undermining ethnic unity;
  4. Inciting the undermining of national religious policy, advocating cults or superstitions;
  5. Endangerment of social morality, disturbing social order, undermining social stability; promoting pornography, gambling, drug use, violence, or terror; instigation of crimes or imparting criminal methods;
  6. Violations of the lawful rights and interests of minors (Chinese: 未成年人) or harming the physical and psychological health of minors;
  7. Insults of defamation of others, or spreading others' private information and infringement of others' lawful rights and interests;
  8. Other content prohibited by laws or administrative regulations.

Article 20 of the law stipulates that films for which there is no release license cannot be transmitted over the Internet, telecommunications networks, or radio and television networks, or recorded as audio or video products, except for under other stipulations. If the film could make minors (Chinese: 未成年人) and other audiences feel uncomfortable either physically or psychologically, there should be a reminder.[41] However, in a March 2017 interview with China Central Television (CCTV), SAPPRFT's film chief Mr. Zhang Hongsen (Chinese: 张宏森)[42] said it was inaccurate for the media to label the guideline for minors as manual/euphemistic classification and it was a misinterpretation or over-interpretation of the new law.[43][44]

Article 21 further stipulates that only films with the release license can be submitted for film festival or exhibition consideration. There have been circumstances where a film appears to be trimmed for commercial reasons, but on June 1, 2017, the SAPPRFT issued a notice, forbidding any spread of so-called "complete version", "uncut version", and "deleted scenes", etc. on any platform, including but not limited to online, mobile Internet, broadcast TV.[45][46][47]

On June 30, 2017, the China Netcasting Services Association, an online broadcasting industry body subject to SAPPRFT and Ministry of Civil Affairs,[48] issued a set of guidelines, signaling detailed control on all forms of audiovisual web content, including films.[49][50] They explicitly prohibit the websites of the association's 600+ members, which include CCTV, Phoenix Television, Hunan Television, Dragon Television, Jiangsu Television, Zhejiang Television, Tencent, Youku, IQiyi, Sohu, etc.,[51] from displaying many things, including but not limited to the following:

  1. Defamation of revolutionary leaders, heroes, People's Liberation Army, armed police, national security apparatus, public security apparatus, and the judiciary branch, etc;
  2. Pornography and cheap taste: prostitution, rape, masturbation, incest, homosexuality, hentai, sexual assault, sexual violence, extramarital affairs, one-night stand, sexual freedom, wife swapping, prolonged or provocative scenes of physical intimacy;
  3. Feudalistic ideology which is pseudoscience: spirit possession, reincarnation, witchcraft, etc.
  4. Showcase excessive horror, psychological pain, hysteria, causing strong stimulation to senses and emotions with uncomfortable pictures, lines, music, and sound effects, etc.

The Chinese Film Censorship System[edit]

It is a rather critical administrative way implemented by the Chinese government to manage and control content of films. The establishment and expansion of such a regulatory regime began in 1978 making the country's economy flourish and assisting China develop a wide film market (Bai, 2013). Nevertheless, there are a lot of drawbacks in the Chinese film censorship system. First of all, the system has quite doubtful criteria of a film’s content assessment. It requires a producer to actively participate in self-censorship to ensure that there are no problems with content and ideology. Then the producer needs to apply a censorship application to the film reviewing committee. The committee then decides whether this film is appropriate and can be released. In case the film receives a low grade, the producer should revise its content once more. After the revision, the same procedure takes place. The point is that such a process may continue endlessly and the reasons for a low grade may depend on the viewpoint of committee members.

The committee uses double standards for different film genres. The requirements are rather strict when assessing a film's ideology and content (Bai, 2013). The requirements become even stricter when assessing sexual content, regardless of whether it includes non-obscene or sexually explicit scenes. Though, the requirements are quite tolerant in regard to violent scenes. Even in government-backed Hollywood films, this standard is very evident.

Regulation of Behavior and Advertising Deals of Actors[edit]

It is another main element of censorship assessment. Celebrity status and associated richness do not necessarily mean personal liberty in China (Canaves, 2016). Thus, the government calls famous people to maintain self-discipline in public. In order to be more influential in such an industry, celebrities who were seen drunk or showed signs of drug use were immediately blacklisted by the government for moral failures. In addition to controlling actors’ behavior, government officials put a limit on famous actors' money-making activities. Under the advertising law that came into force on September 1, 2015, anyone who take us in an advertisement that promotes a product or service can be held responsible if such an advertisement breaches the law (Canaves, 2016). Lawbreakers face sanctions and, if convicted, can be blacklisted for up to three years from all sponsorship deals.

China's Film Censorship Law Today[edit]

The new law, which is primarily focused on censorship, claims that films should not include content that harms national dignity, honor, and ambitions, exposes government secrets, endangers national unity or supports extremism and terrorism. The law also requires all films to obtain a special license if they are to be shown in cinemas and film festivals or on TV and streaming sites (GBTIMES Beijing, 2017). In addition, in regard to screening time, Chinese films should receive two-thirds of the annual cinema screening time. Although a nationwide cinema evaluation system is still to be introduced, in case the content is inappropriate for children, the law requires films to provide the parental advisory label.

Examples of the Most Famous Films that Were Banned in China[edit]

  • Christopher Robin (the United States, 2018) - The film was banned after the case when the Chinese leader Xi Jinping had been compared to the Pooh, associating the character with political opposition.
  • Deadpool (the United States, 2016) – The film was banned because of violent scenes, nakedness, and graphic language.
  • Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (Multinational coproduction, 2013) – The film was banned due to improper representation of China, as the country was depicted as the one without government and controlled by secret societies.   

List of banned, partially banned, or unreleased films[edit]

Title Original release year Country of origin Notes
The Ten Commandments 1923 United States Banned in the 1930s under a category of "superstitious films" due to its religious subject matter involving gods and deities.[52]
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 1925 United States Banned in the 1930s under a category of "superstitious films" due to its religious subject matter involving gods and deities.[52]
Frankenstein 1931 United States Banned under a category of "superstitious films" due to its "strangeness" and unscientific elements.[52]
Alice in Wonderland 1933 United States Banned under a category of "superstitious films" due to its "strangeness" and unscientific elements.[52]
The Life of Wu Xun 1950 China After initial release and despite praise from other Communist Party leaders, Mao Zedong published an editorial criticized the film as "fanatically publicising feudal culture" and for its "tolerance for slandering the peasant revolutionary" and described the lead character as "reactionary feudalist ruler". Mao also denounced praise of the film. The film became known as "the first banned film of New China". It was shown in a private showing in 2005 and was released on DVD in 2012.[53]
The Unfinished Comedy 1957 China Banned for undermining socialist morality and attacking the Party.[54][55]
Ben-Hur 1959 United States Banned under the regime of Mao Zedong for containing "propaganda of superstitious beliefs, namely Christianity."[56]
Chung Kuo, Cina 1972 Italy Banned for 32 years for "anti-Chinese."[57]
Boat People 1982 Hong Kong The film was banned in mainland China due to violence against Vietnamese refugees and its anti-Communist sentiments.[58] It was also banned in Taiwan because it was filmed on Hainan, an island in the People's Republic of China.[59]
Yellow Earth 1984 China Banned then released.[60]
Back to the Future 1985 United States The film was banned because of time travel.[61] The direct-to-video somehow got approval.[62]
The Horse Thief 1986 China The film waited eight months for approval for public release. Ultimately, director Tian Zhuangzhuang told officials that he would re-edit the film to their specifications, and he worked under the close supervision of two censors to cut footage, including portions of a sky burial.[63][64] Tian felt the process was an "insult" and turned temporarily to commercial filmmaking out of frustration with the censors.[63][65] The released film was later withdrawn.[60]
Ju Dou 1990 China Banned upon initial release, but lifted in 1992.[60][66] The Chinese government gave permission for its viewing in July 1992.[67]
Mama 1990 China Released in China after a two-year ban.[68]
Life on a String 1991 China Banned altogether.[60]
Raise the Red Lantern 1991 China Banned upon initial release, released three years later.[60]
The Blue Kite 1993 China The Beijing Film Studio refused to submit the raw footage to the Central Film Bureau for post-production approval outside the country, and the film was smuggled to Japan for editing. The film showed at international film festivals without the Central Film Bureau's approval, causing the Chinese delegation to withdraw from the Tokyo International Film Festival, and was not approved for showing in China.[63] Because the film overtly criticized government policies, director Tian Zhuangzhuang was subsequently banned in 1994 from filmmaking; the ban was lifted in 1996.[69][70]
Beijing Bastards 1993 China Banned due to subjects involving homosexuality and alienated young people.[71]
Farewell My Concubine 1993 China The film was objected to for its portrayal of homosexuality, suicide, and violence perpetrated under Mao Zedong's Communist government during the Cultural Revolution. It premiered in Shanghai in July 1993 but was removed from theatres after two weeks for further censorial review and subsequently banned in August. Because the film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the ban was met with international outcry.[72] Feeling there was "no choice" and fearing it hurt China's bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics, officials allowed the film to resume public showings in September. This release featured a censored version; scenes dealing with the Cultural Revolution and homosexuality were cut, and the final scene was revised to "soften the blow of the suicide".[73]
To Live 1994 China Banned due to its critical portrayal of various policies and campaigns of the Communist government. In addition, its director Zhang Yimou was banned from filmmaking for two years.[60][74][75] The ban on the film was lifted only in September 2008 after Zhang directed the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.[76]
The Square 1994 China The director was banned on all film-making earlier in the year.[77]
Weekend Lover 1995 China Banned for two years and then released.[78]
Father 1996 China Also known as Baba/Babu,[60] it was banned, but took home the top prize Golden Leopard at the Locarno Festival in 2000.[79]
The Emperor's Shadow 1996 China The film, which depicts the relationship between the government and the arts through a fictionalized relationship of China's first emperor and a court musician, was banned without stated reason after initial release. The film was allowed to show again eight months later.[80]
Kundun 1997 United States The film was banned for depicting China negatively in relation to its incorporation of Tibet into China.[81] The Dalai Lama is considered by China a separatist leader and a threat to Chinese control on the Himalayan region,[82][83] and officials objected to a positive portrayal of the Dalai Lama.[84] Disney produced and distributed the film despite objections China voiced during production, causing China to issue a temporary ban on all Disney films.[85] The ban ended in 1999 with the release of Mulan, and the studio issued an apology during the early negotiation process to build Shanghai Disney Resort.[86][82][87]
East Palace, West Palace 1997 China Banned due to subjects involving homosexuality and alienated young people.[71]
Red Corner 1997 United States The film, about an American man in China falsely accused of murder by corrupt police and facing an unjust judicial system, was banned for an anti-China bias.[88] Officials also made an unsuccessful attempt to postpone the film's opening in the United States, which occurred during a visit by President Jiang Zemin.[85] Actress Bai Ling was also barred from visiting her family in China shortly after the film's release,[89] and Chinese officials issued a memo temporarily ending the business operations in China of the film's production studio and distributor Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer.[85]
Seven Years in Tibet 1997 United States The film was banned for depicting China negatively in relation to its incorporation of Tibet into China.[81] Officials objected to a positive portrayal of the Dalai Lama.[84] A memo was issued by Chinese officials temporarily ending the business operations in China of the film's distributor Columbia TriStar.[85]
Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl 1998 China Banned.[60] It is the most devastatingly implacable indictment of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.[90]
Babe: Pig in the City 1998 United States Censor had a policy that live-action animals with the speech ability was not allowed to be depicted.[91]
Devils on the Doorstep 2000 China Banned[60] partly due to an unpatriotic portrayal of the Chinese in the Second Sino-Japanese War.[76] SAPPRFT was also upset that the director Jiang Wen had submitted it to Cannes Film Festival without its approval.[92] The film is now available on[93]
Suzhou River 2000 China Director Lou Ye let his 2000 film screen in International Film Festival Rotterdam without official approval and received a two-year ban.[94]
Kiss of the Dragon 2001 France The main character killed people abroad.[95]
Lan Yu 2001 China The film was banned for homosexuality, references to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and depiction of corruption in Beijing entrepreneurs.[96][97]
Shaolin Soccer 2001 Hong Kong


Banned after the Hong Kong partners in the joint production reportedly opened it in HK without permission from mainland officials.[98]
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life 2003 Multinational coproduction The film was banned for its unflattering depiction of China, which was felt to suggest the country had an absent government and was controlled by secret societies.[99]
Brokeback Mountain 2005 United States The film was banned for homosexuality, a "sensitive topic". Despite this, China praised director Ang Lee upon his winning the Academy Award for Best Director but censored his acceptance speech for references for homosexuality.[100]
Memoirs of a Geisha 2005 United States Though it was originally approved for distribution in China,[101] senior government officials reversed the decision because ethnic Chinese actors played Japanese characters was feared to provoke anti-Japanese sentiments and, because geisha are viewed as prostitutes in China, evoke the Rape of Nanking.[100]
King and the Clown 2005 South Korea The film was not shown in theaters due to "subtle gay themes" and sexually explicit language. It was given permission for distribution on DVD.[102]
Summer Palace 2006 China The film was banned for sexually explicit scenes and for depicting the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Director Lou Ye and producer Nai An received five-year bans.[103][104]
The Da Vinci Code 2006 United States It was withdrawn from cinemas even though it had been on release for three weeks. Some said it was because of political reasons, for example, upsetting Catholics in China.[105] The direct-to-video somehow got approval.[106]
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 2006 United States Banned in China because it had spirits swarming around.[107]
Lost in Beijing 2007 China A heavily edited version of the film began showing in China. Fifteen minutes of content was removed because censors felt that dirty streets, prostitutes, and gambling portrayed China as plagued by greed and sexual temptation. Cuts were made shortly before the Berlin Film Festival, too late for the version to be subtitled in German and English, and an unauthorized version screen instead. As a result, the film was banned in China and the writer-producer Fang Li and the production company Beijing Laurel Films were banned from filmmaking for two years. The censors also stated that the film's marketing included "unhealthy and inappropriate promotional materials" and that Fang illegally distributed "unapproved and pornographic clips" through the internet.[108]
The Dark Knight 2008 United States Warner Bros. did not submit the film to censors for approval, citing "pre-release conditions" and "cultural sensitivities".[109]
Petition 2009 China The documentary depicts brutalization, harassment, and arrest of people who travel to Beijing to ask that wrongdoing by local officials be amended. The film was banned in China immediately following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.[110][111]
Shinjuku Incident 2009 Hong Kong Banned for being "too violent" when director Derek Yee refused to edit this content down.[112]
Spring Fever 2009 Hong Kong


The film was created during a five-year ban instituted on director Lou Ye and producer Nai An, and it showed at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and in international theaters without permission. It portrays a gay romance, explicit sexual scenes and full-frontal nudity.[113]
The Lady 2011 France Uncertain if it would be shown in mainland China which was an ally of Myanmar's military junta which banned the film as of Feb 2012.[114]
Red Dawn 2012 United States The film was not released in China, despite efforts were made to change the invading antagonist from China to North Korea.[115]
A Touch of Sin 2013 China The film depicts "shocking" violence in China caused by economic inequality and political corruption, including the shooting of local officials. During development of the film, censors asked director Jia Zhangke to revise dialogue and seemed generally unconcerned by violence. Censors did recommend Jia decrease the number of killings but allowed it when Jia refused. The film was cleared for foreign distribution and showed at international festivals. Although the film was initially cleared for local distribution, the film did not open in China on its release date and a directive was given telling journalists not to write about the film. The distributor Xstream Pictures released a statement saying it did not receive a notice the film was banned and that it was continuing to work on local distribution.[116]
World War Z 2013 United Kingdom, United States The movie contains zombies and has a lead role featuring Brad Pitt, whose films and entry to the country were disallowed after he starred in Seven Years in Tibet.[117]
Top Gun 3D 2013 United States The re-release got silent treatment by the censor.[118] The congressional United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission concluded it portrayed U.S. military dominance.[115]
Captain Phillips 2013 United States In hacked emails, Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony Pictures, wrote that the plot of American military saving Chinese citizen would make Chinese censor uncomfortable.[119] The direct-to-video somehow got approval.[120]
Noah 2014 United States Banned for the depiction of prophets.[121]
Under the Dome 2015 China First allowed but then removed per order from Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China.[122] An employee of China Business News may have been fired for leaking the order.[123]
Behemoth 2015 China The documentary portrays the health and environmental effects of coal mining and iron smelting in China. After the film opened in a small venue in China, it was banned from commercial theaters due to early miscommunications about its content.[111] Mentions of the film were removed from the internet, and journalists were directed not to report on the film.[124]
Crimson Peak 2015 United States It was reported that the film may be banned because it contained ghosts and supernatural elements.[125][126] However, Chinese artist and social commentator Aowen Jin believed it more likely that the film was banned due to sexual content and incest.[127]
Mad Max: Fury Road 2015 Australia,

United States

Submitted and rejected by censors, possibly due to its dystopian themes.[128] The direct-to-video somehow got approval.[129]
Ten Years 2015 Hong Kong Depicting a bleak future for Hong Kong under Beijing's control, the film's makers have never sought distribution in Mainland China.[130] The broadcast of the 35th Hong Kong Film Award, in which this film was honored for best film,[131] was banned.[132]
Trivisa 2016 Hong Kong The film is believed to be banned in part because Jevons Au, blacklisted after directing a short in Ten Years, is one of its three directors. Mentions of the film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, at which it won five awards including Best Picture, were removed.[133]
Suicide Squad 2016 United States Aynne Kokas, author of the book Hollywood in China, explained that removing violence from the film would make it difficult to be released.[134]
Deadpool 2016 United States The film was banned due to violence, nudity, and graphic language. Officials determined that it was not possible to remove the content without affecting the plot.[135] It was finally shown uncensored with the full 108-min runtime in seven screenings in June 2017 during the 20th Shanghai International Film Festival.[136][137]
Call Me by Your Name 2017 United States Due to homosexuality,[138][139] the film was pulled from the Beijing International Film Festival.[140]
Christopher Robin 2018 United States While no official reason was given for denying the film's release, images of Winnie-the-Pooh were previously censored and banned since 2017 after social media users compared Pooh to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, causing the character to become associated with political resistance. However, an alternative theory suggested the film was denied because a number of Hollywood tentpole films were competing for space in the limited foreign film quota.[141]
Berlin, I Love You 2019 Germany Ai Weiwei claimed that the producers were politically pressured to cut the segment he directed because distributors fears his involvement would hurt the film in China. He directed the segment remotely while under house arrest in China for his political activism.[142][143]

List of edited films[edit]

Title Release year in Mainland China Country of origin Notes
Titanic 1998 United States The scene in which Rose (Kate Winslet) poses nude for a painting is altered to show her from the neck up, removing her breasts from the shot.[144]
Infernal Affairs 2002 Hong Kong The ending sees a triad member who has infiltrated the police shoot a member of his gang to prevent becoming exposed. It was unacceptable in China for a criminal to avoid justice, and three endings were shot for censors to approve. In the chosen ending, the mole is confronted by police and he voluntarily gives up his police badge.[145][146]
Running on Karma 2003 Hong Kong It ran afoul of Beijing censors for depicting a Chinese protagonist (Cecilia Cheung) reincarnated from a Japanese soldier. Such a premise, though overtly comedic, offends a Chinese government to whom Sino-Japanese relations remain fractious. According to the film's co-writer Au Kin-yee, SAPPRFT – ever vigilant against superstition – also objected to the male hero's preternatural ability to perceive the past lives of others. Consequently, the Milkyway Image creative team excised the male hero's extrasensory 'visions' from the mainland release, resulting in nonsensical stretches of action.[147]
Mission: Impossible III 2006 United States Censors felt that the film's establishing shot of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) walking past underwear hung from a clothesline was a negative portrayal of Shanghai.[148] 
Babel 2006 Multinational coproduction Censors cut five minutes of nudity scenes.[149]
Casino Royale 2006 Multinational coproduction Judi Dench as M said she had to substitute the line "'God, I miss the old times" for "[Expletive], I miss the Cold War" for release to be allowed in China.[150]
The Departed 2006 United States Banned from movie theaters for suggesting that the Chinese government might use nuclear weapons against Taiwan,[61] but the direct-to-video got approval (after cutting a few minutes).[151]
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 2007 United States Captain Sao Feng, played by Chow Yun-fat, demonizes the Chinese and Singapore.[152][153]
Lust, Caution 2007 Multinational coproduction Censors objected to the film's "political and sexually provocative content" and criticized the film as a "glorification of traitors and insulting to patriots". Seven minutes of sexually graphic scenes were cut by director Ang Lee. Actress Tang Wei was subsequently banned from Chinese media, and award shows were advised to remove her and the film's producers from guest lists. Online mentions of the film and Tang were removed.[154]
Iron Man 2 2010 United States Words for "Russia" and "Russian" were left untranslated in the subtitles, and the spoken words were muffled.[155]
Titanic 3D 2012 United States The film is again altered to remove Rose's breasts from the scene in which she poses nude for a painting.[144] Satirical jokes attributed the following explanation for the cuts to an SAPPRFT official: 3D effects would cause audiences to "reach out their hands for a touch and thus interrupt other people’s viewing".[156]
Mystery 2012 China The film was edited for release in China. In response, director Lou Ye removed his name from the film and published his negotiations with the censorship bureau onto Weibo.[104]
Men in Black 3 2012 United States An alien disguised as a Chinese restaurant worker was offensive for the screen. 13 minutes were claimed to be cut.[157]
Looper 2012 United States Despite the added Chinese element, the deputy head from SAPPRFT criticized a string of films for not obeying the co-production rules.[158]
Skyfall 2013 United Kingdom A scene in which James Bond (Daniel Craig) kills a security guard in Shanghai was cut for referencing prostitution in Macau, which was felt to be "morally or politically damaging" and because it was felt to suggest China cannot defend itself.[148][159]
Cloud Atlas 2013 Germany, United States Scenes with sexual content involving straight and gay couples were cut. Thirty-eight minutes, roughly twenty percent of the film's original runtime, was removed.[160][161]
Iron Man 3 2013 United States Four minutes of Chinese scenes were added to the local version for "an easier ride with Chinese film censors".[162] They include a product placement from Mengniu Dairy, claiming the milk is good for Iron Man, and additions of Chinese doctors into a surgery scene in order to "court Chinese censors".[148][163]
Django Unchained 2013 United States Violent scenes were altered.[164][165]
No Man's Land 2013 China The film, completed in 2010, underwent a three and a half-year approval process.[166] It experienced two major revisions to reduce violent content and clarify thematic intention, and it was reported that the film was removed from release schedules six times.[167]
Parasyte: Part 1 and Parasyte: Part 2 2014 & 2015 Japan The 2-part film from 2014 and 2015 was merged into one single release in China in 2016, cutting more than 100 minutes of bloody and violent scenes.[168]
Kingsman: The Secret Service 2015 United Kingdom Scenes were cut due to violent and sexual content.[169]
Love 2015 France, Belgium Taiwan's Ministry of Culture refused to issue the Restricted rating in December 2015, citing article 9 of the 2015 regulations and article 235 of the Criminal Code.[21] After the distributor cut 170 seconds of close-ups on physical intimacy, including sexual intercourse, fingering, ejaculation, fellatio, and similar, the film was released in April 2016.[170]
The Revenant 2016 United States Thirty seconds are rumored to have been cut.[171]
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 2016 United States A scene in which the characters enjoy an "eyeball feast" was cut.[172]
Hacksaw Ridge 2016 Australia, United States Fewer than thirty seconds of graphic violence were cut.[173]
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter 2017 Multinational coproduction Seven,[117] if not eight, minutes were cut due to graphic violence and blood.[174]
Logan 2017 United States Scenes were removed for violence and "brief nudity". The film was also the first affected by the PRC Film Industry Promotion Law effective on March 1, 2017, which requires the film to include a warning for minors in marketing materials.[175]
Love Off the Cuff 2017 China Crude jokes were removed from the film.[176]
Alien: Covenant 2017 United States Six minutes is scenes which titular aliens covered in blood were cut, leaving "one to two minutes" of the creatures in the film. Other scenes involving violence were also altered.[177] The gay kiss scene between two androids David and Walter was also cut.[174]
Bohemian Rhapsody 2019 United Kingdom, United States The film was approved for a limited release after one minute of content was cut. This content involved drug use and the male lead character Freddie Mercury kissing other men. The approval follows public outcry over a local streaming company censoring the phrase "gay man" from Rami Malek's acceptance speech for Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Mercury in the film.[178]

Run time shortened by the producer and/or the distributor commercially in the first place to ensure the profit of movie theaters[edit]

Title Release year in Mainland China Country of origin Notes
The Matrix Reloaded[179] 2003 Australia, United States
Resident Evil: Afterlife[179] 2010 Multinational coproduction
Prometheus[179] 2012 United Kingdom, United States
The Company You Keep 2012 United States Mr. Jiao, a publicity person for the Chinese distributor, told Xiaoxiang Morning Newspaper that 23 minutes were cut for commercial reason. Despite that, the scheduling for the film in Changsha was not satisfactory.[180] Same as Dangal, subsequently, the June 2017 notice from SAPPRFT bans the spread of so-called complete or uncut version.[181]
Dhoom 3 2013 India Mr. Peng, a manager of a local cinema in Changsha, to Xiaoxiang Morning News that the three-hour film was too long for Chinese audience.[180] Same as Dangal, subsequently, the June 2017 notice from SAPPRFT bans the spread of so-called complete or uncut version.
Resident Evil: Retribution[179] 2013 Multinational coproduction
American Hustle 2014 United States It was reported that local distributors, not SAPPRFT, were behind the trimming of 30 minutes,[179] but same as Dangal, subsequently, the June 2017 notice from SAPPRFT bans the spread of so-called complete or uncut version.
Fury[179] 2014 United States
Rush[179] 2015 Multinational coproduction
Allied[179] 2016 United Kingdom, United States
Dangal 2017 India Although China Film Insider reported that the 20+ minute cut was not forced by the censor,[182] the June 2017 notice from SAPPRFT banned the spread of so-called complete or uncut version.
The Lost City of Z 2017 United States It was reported that unnamed sources claimed the 37-minute trimmings were made by the film's producers, not by SAPPRFT,[182] but same as Dangal, subsequently, the June 2017 notice from SAPPRFT bans the spread of so-called complete or uncut version.


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  • Teo, Stephen (2009). "Reactions Against the Wuxia Genre". Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The Wuxia Tradition. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 38–53. ISBN 978-0748632862.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]