It cannot be denied that movies are the greatest form of mass entertainment today. The impact cinema has on the audience in today’s world is more than any other medium. Thus, whatever happens In the world of cinema becomes news instantly. Such is also true with the content of films. While books can easily pass off with sensitive and controversial content, a film having the same content will naturally garner a lot of attention because of the popularity of the medium. Throughout the history of films, we have always seen some movies coming under the spotlight because its content has managed to offend a certain section of people. And when was the first controversial film made? In 1896!
A short film called ‘The Kiss’ was released in 1896, which shows two Boardway actors, May Irwin and John Rice, kissing. Critics and audiences chastised the film and its makers for such blatant display of sexuality. Another controversial film of the silent era was D.W. Griffith’s ‘Birth Of A Nation’ (1915). This propagandist and racist film depicted African-Americans as lowlifes, always conspiring to harm white Americans. Early action films which depicted violence were also criticized, with accusations of inciting tendencies of violent acts amongst civilians being levied against them. 1932’s ‘Scarface’ is an example in this regard.
As the techniques and technologies of cinema developed, so did the possibilities of what can be shown using the medium. Some films which tried to attract audiences using their shock values depicted graphic sex and brutal violence to achieve this effect. The 1980 Italian film called ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ is one such film. The violence depicted in this movie is so gruesome and gory that it was thought the director Ruggero Deodato had really killed people to shoot the movie. He was even arrested for this, but when the actors thought to have been killed appeared in court, he was released. Films meet with controversy every year, and the ones which do, naturally garner a keen interest in them. If you are looking for a taste of controversy, then we have some recommendations for you. Here’s the list of the most controversial movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now:
7. The Kissing Booth (2018)
‘The Kissing Booth’ is a simple romantic comedy about three high school students and the troubles in their love lives. Lee and Elle are two friends who have always been close to each other and have also made a promise saying they would never date any relative of the other person. However, Elle fails to keep her word and falls for Lee’s brother Noah. During their school carnival, Elle and Lee decide to create a fun game where strangers will have to kiss each other. They name it ‘The Kissing Booth’. When Elle is made to kiss a nerdy guy inside the booth, Noah interferes and stops the guy from kissing Elle. It is slowly understood that Elle has not been able to keep the promise she had made to Lee, her brother.
Critics have been quick to point out that the character of Noah in the film is extremely problematic. The character is seen as a misogynistic bad boy who sees women as nothing but conquests. And critics believe that this toxic masculinity is what Elle has fallen for. Many of them had issues with Elle being objectified in some scenes where she was needlessly shown in her underwear, tight tops, and other such sexually provocative clothes. Critics have also panned the movie in general, with its approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes being 18%.
6. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
2013’s most controversial and critically successful film was ‘Blue Is The Warmest Color’. The film depicts a romantic relationship between two women, Adele and Emma. Adele is a young school girl who is still trying to discover her sexuality when we first see her. She does have a boyfriend, but never feels romantically or sexually satisfied with him. It is during this phase of her life that she meets Emma. Emma is slightly older than Adele, and the two of them hit it off quickly, enjoying their time with each other and also having fulfilling sex.
As the couple’s lives go along together, the complexities of being in a romantic relationship start surfacing. They soon realize they hardly have anything in common. Meanwhile, Adele graduates from school and joins a kindergarten school as a teacher. Here, due to the frustrations in her relationship, she cheats on Emma with a guy. Emma finds out and is naturally heartbroken.
The film received huge critical acclaim, winning both the Palme d’Or and FIPRESCI Awards at the Cannes Film Festival. But the film and director Abdellatif Kechiche got embroiled in a controversy when one of the lead actresses, Lea Seydoux said this about shooting the film’s graphic sex scene- “Yes. Of course, it was kind of humiliating sometimes, I was feeling like a prostitute. Of course, he uses that sometimes. He was using three cameras, and when you have to fake your orgasm for six hours… I can’t say that it was nothing. But for me, it is more difficult to show my feelings than my body.” The director, Kechiche, got furious with her, claiming that such comments portray a very bad picture of him as a person.
5. Love (2015)
What Gaspar Noe tries to achieve in this film is to make graphic sexual encounters look aesthetic. The film depicts the story of an American film student, Murphy, who’s living in Paris. He meets a French girl named Electra and falls in love with her, but problems arise when he has sex with another girl called Omi and Electra finds out about it. The girl with whom Murphy cheats on Electra is underage, and she gets pregnant after the incident, thus forcing Electra to quit her relationship with Murphy. On the other hand, Murphy has to marry Omi after getting her pregnant.
The film is shot beautifully, with a lot of graphic sex scenes. The makers later revealed that none of the sex scenes were simulated, meaning that the actors indeed had sex on camera for the film. Shot in 3D, the movie gives a whole new dimension to erotic content. However, the film was met with some controversy when certain critics claimed that the extremely graphic sex scenes were meant to be the highlights, but otherwise the movie lacked depth and also suffered from poor writing. ‘Love’ made its debut at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
4. White Girl (2016)
Debutant director Elizabeth Wood managed to turn all eyes towards her with her very first feature film, ‘White Girl’ in 2016. The movie tells the story of a girl called Leah, and her relationship with a drug dealer she at first befriends and then falls in love with. This dealer’s name is Blue, and Leah advises him that if he manages to get hold of richer customers to sell his products, he will make more money. She even takes him to one of her office parties where Blue sells his drugs for prices way higher than what he usually charges. Encouraged by this, Blue buys a kilo of cocaine from his supplier.
However, it is not long before Blue is caught and sentenced to 20 years in jail. Leah tries to collect money to be able to afford a lawyer for Blue, and the only way she thinks this will be possible is by selling the cocaine which Blue had bought. However, an inexperienced girl like her soon falls into trouble when she tries to sell the dope. The movie received mostly positive reviews. One scene, in particular, has left some critics questioning. In an intimate moment between the two lead characters, we see Leah going down on Blue when he gives her a push after her initial hesitation. Some have taken it to be a direct sexual assault while others have said this only makes Leah’s character more nuanced and layered.
3. Desire (2017)
‘Desire’ is a 2016 Argentine film directed by Diego Kaplan. It tells a story of the relationship between two sisters and how their romantic lives intermingle. Lucia and Ophelia are the sisters in question, and they have never met eye to eye for seven years. It is their mother who invites Ophelia to the wedding. But when Ophelia arrives, there is an immediate attraction between her and Lucia’s husband-to-be, Juan. Naturally, this creates a tense situation between the sisters as it slowly dawns upon Lucia that the attraction between Ophelia and Juan is mutual. We also see Juan masturbating to an audio tape where Ophelia vividly details her sexual experiences.
The movie was panned by critics and was also subject to major controversy regarding one of the scenes which shows a young girl experiencing an orgasm for the first time. Netflix was criticized heavily for releasing such content, which some claimed was nothing more than child pornography. However, director Diego Kaplan came to the aid, saying, “The girls never understood what they were doing, they were just copying what they were seeing on the screen. No adult interacted with the girls, other than the child acting coach. Everything was done under the careful surveillance of the girls’ mothers.”
2. Christine (2016)
This film is based on the true story of a journalist and the incident surrounding her death. The leading role of Christine Chubbuck in the movie is played by Rebecca Hall. We see Christine as a news journalist whose boss is never happy with the work she does. Her boss, Michael, wants Christine to move away from social issues and work on more crime stories because those are the news which attracts more viewers. Christine does try to mend her ways according to her boss’ wishes, but nothing seems to please Michael.
In the meantime, we are made aware of the fact that Christine needs to have an ovary removed due to certain complications, which means that she might have problems conceiving a child later on. On top of this, the co-worker she has a crush on hints that he might be interested in her, but she later finds out he has eyes for someone else. All these pressures start building on Christine, and she slowly begins to succumb under the pressure. Later, Christine asks Michael to read a piece of news on the television, and during the live broadcast, takes out a gun and shoots herself in the head. Christine Chubbuck, thus became the first person ever to commit suicide on live television. Critics praised Hall for her tremendous performance in the role of Chubbuck, and the film also met with mostly positive responses.
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1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick‘s 1971 masterpiece brings to us the most sadistic figure in cinema history. This dystopic crime film is centered around a character called Alex DeLarge and is set in a futuristic London. Despite being a high schooler, Alex is a depraved individual with not an ounce of remorse in his body. He can kill, rape, and fight with a smile on his face. Besides violence, the only two things Alex finds interest in are sex and Beethoven. The first part of the film follows Alex and his group of friends as they unleash terror on their unsuspecting victims. But the fun ends when Alex is finally arrested for murder.
In prison, Alex signs up for a program to condition him in such a way that his desire to commit crimes will fade away. Alex participates in that process and we see that he now feels extreme pain whenever he even thinks of violence, sex, or music. The movie raises a lot of important questions regarding free will, desire, and the likes. But when the movie was first released, it met with a huge controversy. The graphic violence and sex shown in the film were hardly suitable for the audiences of 1971, and it was withdrawn from all British halls. The film was re-released in Britain after Kubrick’s death in 1999.
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