Over the last century dozens of films have been banned in the UK, in some cases for decades, and a few of them are still banned today.
Movies with excessive violence, sexual content and controversial themes have been blocked by UK censors over the last century. The long list of banned films includes many that are now considered classics from directors including Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, and Sam Raimi.
These are the biggest - and most controversial - films that have been banned in the UK:
How many movies have been banned in the UK?
In the more than 100 years of feature film releases in the UK, almost 100 have been banned in the country. The UK isn’t nearly as censor-hungry as China, which allows only 34 foreign film releases each year, and blocked some of the biggest movies of recent years.
The first recorded film ban happened more than a century ago - the 1913 movie £1,000 reward followed a prison escapee - the Home Office banned public screenings in the first year of its release over concerns that it could lead to real escape attempts.
Most of the films that have been banned in the UK were censored due to their sexual or violent content - and therefore many of them are horror movies. An early example of the genre is The Phantom of the Opera which was banned from 1925–1929 because it was ‘too horrifying’, though it pales in comparison to the gruesomeness of later banned films.
Other classic horror flicks which were on the censor’s naughty list include Straw Dogs (banned from 1971-2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974–1999), and The Evil Dead (1983–1990). These movies are recognised as some of the greatest horror films of all time.
Another horror film, Cannibal Holocaust, was banned from (1984–2001) and was originally believed to be a snuff film due to its realistic and graphic violence. Additionally, real scenes of animal cruelty were shot during production. Director Ruggero Deodato was arrested for obscenity and had to prove that none of the cast had been killed during filming.
Films from legendary directors have also been shut out of the UK for years - Quentin Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs was banned from 1992-95, and Natural Born Killers, written by Tarantino and directed by Oliver Stone, was also banned on its release as British censors believed that it incited violence.
Django, an iconic western directed by Sergio Corbucci which inspired the Tarantino film Django Unchained and a 2023 Sky series, also ran up against British censorship. It was banned for 24 years due to excessive violence.
Stanley Kubrick, considered by many to be the greatest director of all time, saw one of films banned at his own request. His dystopian drama film A Clockwork Orange, based on the Anthony Burgess novel, was banned from 1973 until his death in 1999 because Kubrick and his family had received death threats over the sexual violence depicted in the film.
Which films are still banned in the UK?
Since the 1990s most of the prohibited films have seen their bans lifted, but several particularly controversial movies are still censored. The list of films still banned in the UK include Homoeroticus, about a man with three testicles, Mikey, a film about a child killer that was banned following the murder of James Bulger, and Banned from Television, a stream of real-life footage of death and injuries.
Another film which unsurprisingly didn’t make it past UK censors is the 1977 Italian film Gestapo's Last Orgy, which was refused classification in 2021. There’s a whole film subgenre called Nazisploitation which focuses on Nazi sex crimes. Another film from this grim genre which is also still banned in the UK is American B movie Love Camp 7.
Japanese exploitation horror film Grotesque was banned on its release over its depictions of sexual torture. Whereas films like the Hostel Trilogy, and even The Human Centipede are not banned in the UK, Grotesque was considered a step too far because the intense scenes of gore and sexual violence were not contextualised.