While horror films can be fun, many movies over the years have overstepped the mark and become classed as too disturbing to be released.
Filmmakers can have the best intentions for a movie, but sometimes the end results are too horrific, unsettling or shocking for audiences to see. Some were judged harshly at the time they came out and subsequently released, while others remain justifiably banned from the public eye.
Most of the movies on this list were eventually released in the United States, but were banned by film classification boards and governments in other countries. Judge for yourself with these 15 horror movies that were deemed too disturbing to watch.
Hostel: Part II – 2007
Eli Roth’s first Hostel movie didn’t satisfy everyone, especially the tourism boards of Slovakia and the Czech Republic where they were based, but the outrage was even greater for Hostel: Part II.
Telling the story of American tourists who encounter depraved sexualized torture in Europe, due to its graphic content and shocking themes, Hostel: Part II was banned in Germany and New Zealand.
A Clockwork Orange – 1971
Some movies on this list look tame by today’s standard of shock and horror in movies—not A Clockwork Orange. Released in 1971, Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian crime film was banned in several countries, yet still received four Oscar nominations.
Among the countries to ban A Clockwork Orange were Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Brazil, Spain, South Korea and parts of Canada. The British movie was released in America after Kubrick removed 30 seconds of explicit sexual footage which got it an R rating in theaters.
Malcolm McDowell starred in Stanley Kubrick’s dark British horror film that shocked theatre-goers in the 1970s.
A Serbian Film – 2010
Even the premise of this movie is enough to upset stomachs. A Serbian Film tells the story of a semi-retired porn star who needs to work to make money. He agrees to appear in what he thinks is an art film but turns out to be a murderous film with pedophilic and necrophilic themes.
It showed in art film circuits, but was banned in Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Norway as well as briefly in the UK.
The Last House on the Left – 1972
Wes Craven’s 1972 movie had to be censored to play in the likes of the US, the UK and Australia because of its scenes of graphic violence, rape and humiliation.
The story is based on a classic Swedish arthouse film The Virgin Spring by Ingmar Bergman. It tells the story of two girls who are kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered in the woods. The parents of the girls then exact revenge. Craven made a remake of the movie in 2009 that wasn’t banned at all.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – 1974
Another movie to receive multiple sequels and remakes over the years, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shocked audiences and “set a new standard for slasher films,” according to Time Magazine.
Despite receiving positive reviews, it was still banned in several countries because of the complaints of violence it received.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” launched a number of spin-offs and sequels.
The Exorcist – 1973
While it may have been banned on release in 1973, The Exorcist is now considered a cult classic and still widely shown in movie theaters today.
The movie allegedly made cinema-goers faint and vomit while others complained of more serious reactions like heart attacks and a miscarriage. The movie was banned across different cities in the US and the UK. Despite the furor, The Exorcist still won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay.
Grotesque – 2009
Kōji Shiraishi’s Japanese horror movie features a young couple being subjected to unspeakable torture methods. For seemingly no reason, the couple who were snatched on their first date, are stabbed, dismembered then healed, purely for the sexual satisfaction of their captor.
The UK refused to release the film which led to a backlash in Japan and DVD sales of the movie were banned there too.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes – 2007
Referred to as a “shockumentary” movie, The Poughkeepsie Tapes had to wait for seven years before being released. Though not based on a true story, it shares shocking images purported to be real from a serial killer who shot over 800 gory videotapes of himself doing unspeakable things.
Though it was never explicitly stated that it was banned from cinemas because of its psychologically disturbing content, MGM delayed the release in 2007, but it was then officially released to on-demand customers in 2014.
Cannibal Holocaust – 1980
The title may give away the reason why this Italian movie was banned in several countries. The found-footage style film featured intense gore and was investigated after its release to determine whether the scenes were staged or real.
Seven animals were also killed during production of the movie with six of those deaths seen on screen. The animals killed included a large turtle, a squirrel monkey, a pig and a boa constrictor.
Pink Flamingos – 1972
John Waters comedy was banned across many towns in America for 25 years. Its portrayal of homosexuality, explicit sexual content, animal cruelty, and inclusion of the lead character eating dog feces turned many a stomach. His next dark comedy, Female Trouble, was also reportedly banned for similar themes.
The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) – 2011
Referred to as a Dutch body horror film series, it’s a wonder that the first movie was made, let alone three.
The first movie was shocking, but not banned anywhere, whereas The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) was deemed too extreme for British audiences, and it did not receive a classification and was banned in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Funnily enough, the third movie, which features the human centipede concept on an even bigger scale, slipped by the censors without alteration.
2011’s “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)” may be the most shocking of all of the movies in this trilogy.
Six Entertainment Company
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom – 1975
This Italian horror art film was widely censored and banned after it debuted in 1975. The nihilistic movie based on corrupt Italian libertines features intense scenes of extreme violence, sadism and sexual and psychological torture.
While many films on this list have received releases after decades past, Salò remains banned in several countries today.
I Spit on Your Grave – 1978
While I Spit On Your Grave has spawned its own franchise thanks to the 2010 remake and sequels, the original version disturbed audiences in 1978.
Showing the rape and revenge journey of Jennifer Hills, I Spit on Your Grave features a lengthy 30 minutes of gang rape. Famed filmed critic Roger Ebert called it “a vile bag of garbage” upon its release in theaters. The likes of West Germany, Ireland, Norway, Iceland and Ireland banned the movie while heavily censored versions were shown in Australia, Canada and the UK.
Faces of Death – 1978
One of the lesser known film franchises on this list, Faces of Death may be one of the most widely banned. The movie shows documentary-style footage that displays a variety of gruesome deaths from a number of sources—some of them faked, some of them apparently not.
The Guardian suggests the movie is “banned in 46 countries.” The original has seen smaller releases in the years since, but many of the sequels are still banned, deemed too shocking, upsetting and disturbing to witness.
The Evil Dead – 1981
It’s hard to believe that the same director who gave the world the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy and a Wizard of Oz spinoff movie made his debut with a horror film that was banned upon its release.
Sam Raimi made the movie while he was still a student, and The Evil Dead was deemed to be one of the most gruesome and gory movies ever made in 1981. It performed better overseas than it did in the United States, but was and reportedly still is banned in some countries. The 2013 remake was banned by the likes of Finland, Ukraine and Singapore.
Sam Raimi launched his career with 1981’s “The Evil Dead.”
Renaissance Pictures, New Line Cinema