Once delegated to film pundits, film criticism has come a long way over the past few decades. The rise of social media allows moviegoers and fans to share their opinions from afar, blurring the line between professional critic and casual fan. The internet and social media have made it possible for everyone, regardless of their expertise, to share their opinions on pop culture in a public forum in the most brash way they see fit. This generation of pseudo-film critics has more than once confronted truly qualified critics. After all, it’s the fans putting their hard-earned cash to support the movies and franchises that pique their interest.
Every once in a while, there’s a film that divides critics and audiences with such fervor that it catalyzes thought-provoking but heated debates. These divisive films span a wide range of genres, from your standard blockbuster to an original indie, whether it’s debating casting choices, honoring source material, or just plain disagreeing. Here are the 10 most controversial films in cinema history.
10/10 The Tree of Life
Fun on the River Road
The Tree of Life has earned accolades for its cinematography, and rightly so since it’s helmed by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Emmanuel Lubezki, known for his ability to capture nature in all its glory. . Although the film is beautifully captured, critics and audiences were decidedly divided over its experimental subject matter, which was labeled as deep and pretentious in equal measure by critics and audiences, respectively. Although it was a more difficult film for the public, it still won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
9/10 Spring Breakers
Not one to shy away from controversy, Harmony Korine (who also wrote the screenplay for the highly controversial teen flick Kids) is writing and directing the fast-paced crime Spring Breakers. Spring Breakers was released to mixed reviews in March 2013 and received backlash for its highly sexualised content, with The Guardian lambasting it for reinforcing rape culture in a scathing review. Proponents of the film, however, argue the exact opposite, saying the film opposes obvious double standards and that the female characters featured are empowered to make their own decisions. IndieWire, in fact, named Spring Breakers one of the 50 best movies of the 2010s.
8/10 The neon demon
Another director known for his provocation is Nicolas Winding Refn, responsible for two entries in this list. The first is 2016’s fashion horror The Neon Demon, starring Elle Fanning. Following the film’s Cannes premiere, critic Beatrice Behn called the film “an absurd fantasy of Lolita in a shimmering neon dress in slow motion with a parallel order of ’90s music video aesthetics.” While The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin gave the film five out of five stars, saying: “As the film reaches its logical endpoint, Refn keeps pushing and eventually lands on such a jaw-dropping streak – almost certainly a sly, brilliant streak – magazine remaking the groundbreaking surreal short Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali – that all you can do is howl or clap. »
Heavily criticized in the 90s as one of the worst films in history for its sexual content, nudity and cheesy acting, Showgirls has come a long way since its 1995 release, earning a loyal fan base and a cult following. . Elizabeth Berkley recently paid tribute to her character Nomi in Season 2 of the Revival series Saved by the Bell, saying, “The way [Showgirls] exists in pop culture today is different, of course, than when it first came out. I just wanted to acknowledge that, I’m aware of that and I love how it’s been passed and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Taxi driver 6/10
Pictures of Colombia
Taxi Driver follows the story of injured Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle as he battles his own internal demons. Throughout the film, Bickle becomes increasingly embittered by the violence and squalor of New York. After meeting a woman named Betsy, he becomes obsessed with her and is convinced that he must make the world a better place for her. He becomes obsessed with a young teenage sex worker named Iris, whom he believes he can free from the clutches of his pimp Matthew.
Taxi Driver was one of the most violent films ever released at the time, and Scorsese had to desaturate the film to appease the MPAA and avoid an X rating. Even the famous playwright and jury president of the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, Tennessee Williams, strongly opposed the violence in the film. Williams told reporters: “Watching violence on screen is a brutal experience for the viewer, films should not take a voluptuous pleasure in shedding blood and dwelling on terrible cruelties as if one were in a Roman circus. Despite Williams’ criticism of the film, Taxi Driver certainly has its cinematic merits, garnering legions of fans and ironically winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1976.
5/10 Only God forgives
Gang of thugs
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives also received polarizing reviews. Riding on his success with Drive just two years earlier, audiences had high expectations for the film, which reunited the director with star Ryan Gosling. Unfortunately, the film failed to live up to the hype and was even met with boos at Cannes. Although audiences (and some critics) lambasted the film for its over-the-top graphic violence, the film had its supporters, with several critics giving it five-star reviews.
4/10 The David Cronenberg crash
Registered Image Company
David Cronenberg’s Crash is based on JG Ballard’s novel and is undeniably one of the most controversial films of all time. The latter is not difficult to imagine when you know the subject. The film follows a dissident sect of society sexually aroused by car accidents and their aftermath. After being involved in a car accident, a former television executive becomes obsessed with the sexual energy produced by car accidents and tries to use this sexual energy to save his marriage. Audiences, particularly in the UK, were appalled by the marriage of sex and violence and thought the film was dangerous for sexualising car accidents and promoting reckless driving. Similar to Taxi Driver, Cannes jury president at the time, Francis Ford Coppola, strongly opposed the film’s premise and did not believe it deserved a Palme d’Or nomination.
3/10 The Passion of Christ
The Passion of the Christ was certainly no stranger to controversy, and at the time of its release was one of the most divisive films of all time, which was even banned in some countries. Various religious groups have stood up for describing the acts of torture Jesus was subjected to, while some consider it to be an honest portrayal of Christ’s last days. He was also ridiculed for anti-Semitism, which only intensified after director Mel Gibson’s infamous tirade. No matter which side you fall for, you can’t deny that The Passion of the Christ was a box office hit. The film inspired a sequel titled The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection, with Gibson at the helm. The controversial film recently celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2019.
2/10 Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Zack Snyder has been the driving force behind some of the most controversial films of all time, such as The Suicide Squad and Watchmen. His most controversial film to date, however, has to be Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Critics spoke out against the film’s gritty, dark tone, while fans rallied behind the film, saying there was interference from the studio. Snyder will eventually release his cut of the film with an additional 31 minutes of footage. In a recent interview, the controversial director explained why people haven’t tuned in to his version of Batman and said he’s “okay with that.”
1/10 Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
And the prize for the most controversial film of the 21st century goes to Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson’s sequel trilogy was so upsetting to much of Star Wars fans that they canceled his trilogy altogether. The heavy criticism is due to the fact that many fans believe that Johnson squandered much of the story setup of the previous films and changed it so drastically that they accused the director of disrespecting the previous trilogies. . Some fans, however, came to Johnson’s defense saying that Disney ruined Rian’s film. Many critics disagreed with fans about how The Last Jedi propelled the story forward and praised Johnson for his bold creative choices, but that wasn’t enough to fix the problem in the base of Star Wars fans.
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10 most controversial films in history | Pretty Reel