List of films banned in the United States

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This is a list of films that are or have been at one time or another banned in the United States.


Film Reason
1915 1915-1916 The Birth of a Nation Banned in several American cities for its racist content and portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, including Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and the states of Ohio, Kansas, and West Virginia,[1] as well as "dozens" of other jurisdictions.[2] Unbanned in 1916 outside of Kansas.[3]
1917 1917 Birth Control Produced by and starring Margaret Sanger; banned, with the New York Court of Appeals holding that a film on family planning work may be censored "in the interest of morality, decency, and public safety and welfare".[2][4]
1922 1922-1929 Häxan Banned until 1929 due to the use of torture and nudity. Its themes of witchcraft and Satanism may also have had an effect.[5]
1932 1932 Scarface Banned in five states and five other cities due to "glorification of crime"[2]
1933 1933-1937 Ecstasy Banned in the US from 1933 to 1937 due to its erotic content.[6][7]
1933 1934 Convention City Due to its racy content, Convention City was banned after the Motion Picture Production Code was enacted in 1934.
1941 1941 Two-Faced Woman This film's theme (adultery) caused it to be banned in New York City, among other places.[2]
1943 1943-1976 Ossessione Banned for 33 years because the plot was based on James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice to which MGM owned the rights. It took until 1976 before copyright issues were resolved.[2]
1945 1945 Brewster's Millions Banned in Memphis, Tennessee, because Brewster's African-American servant was treated too well.[8][9]
1945 1945 Scarlet Street On January 4, 1946, the New York State Censor Board banned Scarlet Street entirely, relying on the statute that gave it power to censor films that were "obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman, sacrilegious" or whose exhibition "would tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime." As if in a chain reaction, one week later the Motion Picture Commission for the city of Milwaukee also banned the film as part of a new policy encouraged by police for "stricter regulation of undesirable films." On February 3 Christina Smith, the city censor of Atlanta, argued that because of "the sordid life it portrayed, the treatment of illicit love, the failure of the characters to receive orthodox punishment from the police, and because the picture would tend to weaken a respect for the law," Scarlet Street was "licentious, profane, obscure and contrary to the good order of the community." ... Universal was discouraged from challenging the constitutionality of the censors by the protests of the national religious groups that arose as the Atlanta case went to court.[10]
1949 1949 Lost Boundaries Banned in Atlanta and Memphis; liable to "create dissension and strife between members of the white and colored races, and would be likely to cause disorders, disturbances, and clashes between the races"[11]
1950 1950 Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye The film was banned in Ohio as "a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality and an extreme presentation of crime with explicit steps in commission."[12]
1953 1953 The Moon Is Blue Banned in Jersey City, New Jersey as "indecent and obscene."[13]
1954 1956 The Vanishing Prairie The Walt Disney documentary was banned in New York because it showed a buffalo giving birth. The ban was lifted after a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union.[14][15]
1961 1961 Victim Banned in many American cities due to language.[16]
1963 1964 Flaming Creatures Banned in New York City because of sexual content.[17]
1963 1963 Promises! Promises! Banned in Cleveland and several other cities due to explicit nude scenes, though later the Cleveland court decided the nude scenes in the film were not lewd after all.[18][19]
1965 1966 - 1968 Viva Maria! Banned in Dallas for sexual and anti-Catholic content, prior to the United States Supreme Court striking down the ban and limiting the ability of municipalities to ban films for adults in Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. City of Dallas.[20]
1967 1968 - 1991 Titicut Follies Barred from distribution in Massachusetts to the general public by court order because the film was considered a violation of the privacy of the prison inmates it filmed.[2]
1967 1969 I Am Curious (Yellow) Banned as pornography. After three court cases, the ban was lifted when the anti-obscenity laws concerning films was overturned.[2][21]
1972 1972-1997 Pink Flamingos Banned for 25 years because of explicit sexual content, animal cruelty, and Divine eating dog feces in the end.
1974 1974-1999 Female Trouble Banned for 25 years because of explicit sexual content and nudity.
1974, 1984 1974, 1984 The Thorn Closed days after opening in New York City for misleading marketing exploiting the fame of one of its co-stars, Bette Midler. It was blocked from opening on re-release in 1980. The film was briefly distributed on home video under a new title before Midler threatened legal action.[22][23]
1979 1979 Monty Python's Life of Brian Banned in several towns for showing controversial themes about Christianity.[2]
1982 1982 If You Love This Planet Designated as "foreign political propaganda" by the Department of Justice and suppressed in the United States.[24][25] Despite this, it went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.[26]
1988 1988 The Last Temptation of Christ Banned in Savannah, Georgia when city leaders sent a petition to Universal Pictures requesting a ban. However, it opened in Savannah on September 23, 1988, six weeks after national and worldwide debut.[27]
1979 1997 The Tin Drum Briefly banned in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, when a district court judge deemed the film child pornography. The shot in question depicted a child embracing a naked woman. The verdict was overturned on appeal.[28]
2001 2002 - 2007 The Profit A film that borrows elements of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, it was prevented from release when the Church of Scientology claimed the film could taint the jury pool in the wrongful death trial of former member Lisa McPherson. While the injunction has since been lifted a few years after the suit was settled and the film is no longer banned per se, a legal dispute with investor Robert S. Minton continues to hold up the release. The Disinformation Book of Lists and The Times have characterized The Profit as a "banned film" in the United States.[2][29]
2008 2008 Hillary: The Movie A political documentary about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, it was prevented by the Federal Election Commission from being aired on video-on-demand on cable TV shortly before the 2008 Democratic primaries as an "electioneering communication" mentioning a candidate within 30 days of a primary, an apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka "McCain-Feingold"). The ban and much of the BCRA was then overturned by the Supreme Court in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.[30]
2009 2010 The Yes Men Fix the World Briefly blocked from release due to a pending lawsuit by the United States Chamber of Commerce against the Yes Men.[31]

In 1990 numerous films, including Pink Flamingos fell victim to a broad obscenity sting in Central Florida resulting in de facto bans within Orange County for most, if not all, of the films involved.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Birth of a Nation (1915)". Retrieved 2011-09-12.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kick, Russ (2004). The Disinformation Book Of Lists. The Disinformation Company. List 68: "16 Movies Banned in the U.S.", Pages 236–238. ISBN 0-9729529-4-2.
  3. ^ "Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media » The Birth of a Nation and Black Protest". Archived from the original on 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2011-09-12.
  4. ^ Message Photo-Play v. George H. Bell, 179 A.D. 13 (1917).
  5. ^ "Haxan (1922) - Articles". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  6. ^ Dane S. Claussen (2002). Sex, Religion, Media. p. 26. ISBN 9780742515581. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  7. ^ Gerald R. Butters (2007). Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966. p. 240. ISBN 9780826266033. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  8. ^ "Notes for Brewster's Millions (1945)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 02-04-2009. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  9. ^ On-air comment by Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies
  10. ^ Bernstein, Matthew (Autumn 1995). "A Tale of Three Cities: The Banning of Scarlet Street". Cinema Journal., pp. 27-52.
  11. ^ Hobbs, Allyson (2014). A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. Harvard University Press. pp. 254–8.
  12. ^ Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye at the American Film Institute Catalog
  13. ^ "JERSEY JUDGE SEES 'THE MOON IS BLUE'; Superior Court Jurist Says He Will Give Decision Today on Film Seized as 'Indecent'". The New York Times. October 16, 1953. p. 33.
  14. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "The-Vanishing-Prairie - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  15. ^ Retrieved January 9, 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  16. ^ "European Film". glbtq. Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2011-09-12.
  17. ^ Hoberman, J. (2008). On Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures. Granary Books. ISBN 978-1-887123-52-5.
  18. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Sex in Cinema: The Greatest and Most Influential Erotic / Sexual Films and Scenes". Film Site. Retrieved 2006-11-23.
  19. ^ Strait, Raymond (1992). Here They Are Jayne Mansfield. SP Books. p. 209. ISBN 1-56171-146-2.
  20. ^ Jonathon Green; Nicholas J. Karolides (2014-05-14). Encyclopedia of Censorship. p. 697. ISBN 9781438110011. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  21. ^ Wheeler Winston Dixon & Gwendolyn Audrey Foster (March 1, 2008). A Short History of Film. Rutgers University Press. p. 492. ISBN 978-0-813-54475-5.
  22. ^ Mair, George (1995). Bette: An Intimate Biography of Bette Midler. Secaucus, NJ: Birch Lane Press/Carol Publishing Group. pp. 96–98.
  23. ^ "Movie Review - The Divine Mr. J at Festival Theater". 1974-05-25. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  24. ^ "CENSORED: Wielding the Red Pen (Online Exhibit)". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  25. ^ Verbinski, Jane (April 1983). "If You Love This Planet Gov't censors pick best short". Jump Cut (28): 64. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  26. ^ "If You Love This Planet". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
  27. ^ Francis G. Couvares (2006). Movie Censorship and American Culture. p. 308. ISBN 1558495754. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  28. ^ Zimmerman, Janet (June 30, 1997). "Video sparks free-speech debate in Oklahoma". USA Today.
  29. ^ Purves, Libby (2007-10-26). "The Blasphemy Collection". The Times. Archived from the original on 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
  30. ^ Liptak, Adam (2010-01-21). "Justices, 5–4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit". New York Times.
  31. ^ The Yes Men Fix the World (DVD). 2009-10-23. Event occurs at 1 min.
  32. ^ Archived from the original on April 24, 2012. Retrieved February 23, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)