How Controversial is it?

This is the last time I will ever mention The DaVinci Code in a feature post.

I promise.

I found this article: Kenya: Church Wants ‘Da Vinci Code’ Movie Banned and I started thinking, how controversial can this movie be? I haven’t seen it yet (I might this weekend just because I’m curious) but from what I’ve heard it’s just a boring and tedious movie with the media hyping up the controversy. (Again, I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know how true this is.)

But still, there has to be more controversial movies…. right? Right.

This article from Entertainment Weekly explains it all.

Riot Acts
Think ”The Da Vinci Code”’s controversial? Find out about 14 of the most notorious hot-button movies ever made, and why they caused a stir by Gary Susman

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

THE CONTROVERSY D.W. Griffith’s epic about the Civil War and the postwar Reconstruction era was an undeniably innovative feature — it pioneered camera movements and editing techniques still in use to this day. It was also unquestionably racist in its portrayal of heroic Klansmen and its depiction of blacks (played by white actors in blackface) as predatory and parasitical.

THE FIRESTORM The NAACP called for a nationwide ban. The film faced more courtroom challenges than any movie before or since, and many locales did ban or bowdlerize the movie. Riots broke out in some cities where the film screened. Still, it became an enormous hit and was accused of reviving the long-dormant Klan.

THE AFTERMATH The film’s legal battles led to a Supreme Court ruling that movies did not enjoy First Amendment protection, a ruling that stood until 1952. In 1916, a chastened Griffith released an anti-bigotry epic, the even more innovative Intolerance.

L’Age D’or (1930)

THE CONTROVERSY Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s feature-length follow-up to their similarly shocking short Un Chien Andalou, L’Age D’or was a surreal satire marked by sexually suggestive moments (like the scene above, where star Lya Lys sucks a statue’s toe) and open mockery of organized religion.

THE FIRESTORM Audiences in Paris rioted at the premiere, hurling ink at the screen, shooting guns in the air, and slashing paintings by Dali and other modern artists in the theater lobby. Paris police subsequently banned the movie.

THE AFTERMATH For decades, the film was available only in butchered, fuzzy prints, until the movie was restored for theatrical and DVD release in 2004.

Triumph of the Will (1935)

THE CONTROVERSY Like The Birth of a Nation, Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary about a 1934 Nazi rally, in which Hitler appears as a god descending from the heavens to lead the masses, is praised to this day for its technical innovations and reviled for its propagandizing for an evil cause.

THE FIRESTORM Riefenstahl, who made another brilliant but troubling documentary for Hitler, 1938’s Olympia, spent three years under Allied arrest after World War II; tribunals ultimately cleared her of collaboration charges.

THE AFTERMATH The taint of her work on Hitler’s behalf all but ended Riefenstahl’s career as a filmmaker. Still, until her death in 2003, she denied being a Nazi sympathizer, insisting that she’d been a naive artist working in a moral vacuum.

Gone With the Wind (1939)

THE CONTROVERSY During the filming of Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War epic, Production Code chief Joseph Breen gave his approval to controversial elements of the story: the patronizing view of Tara’s slaves, the horrors of the soldiers’ hospital, and Rhett’s (Clark Gable) marital rape of Scarlett (Vivien Leigh). But Breen balked at Rhett’s famous four-letter farewell to Scarlett.

THE FIRESTORM For months, producer David Selznick pressured Breen (and Breen’s bosses, the studios’ executives and stockholders), ultimately securing a new amendment to the Production Code allowing for certain mild expletives under limited circumstances.

THE AFTERMATH Audiences frankly did not give a damn; they were so far from scandalized that they made Gone With the Wind one of the biggest hits of all time. In any case, Breen was right to fear that a dam had been breached: The studios learned that they could beat the code if they lobbied persistently enough.

Song of the South (1946)

THE CONTROVERSY A pioneering mix of live-action and animation, Disney’s musical was inspired by Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus fables. Here, Uncle Remus (James Baskett, center) is one of several happy, singing black sharecroppers on a Southern, post-Civil War plantation, a man who still lives to please his white bosses and their children.

THE FIRESTORM The NAACP recognized the artistry of the film, especially the animated sequences, but lambasted the movie’s caricatured and patronizing portrayal of African Americans.

THE AFTERMATH The film won two Academy Awards: Best Song for ”Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and an honorary Oscar for Baskett. Disney rereleased it in theaters a few more times during the next 40 years but withdrew it from circulation in 1986 and has never released it on home video in the United States.

Blackboard Jungle (1955)

THE CONTROVERSY Set in a poor urban school, Jungle raised eyebrows both for its gritty depiction of a teacher (Glenn Ford, left) battling against juvenile delinquents (like the young Sidney Poitier, right) and for its first-ever use of a rock & roll song on the soundtrack (Bill Haley and the Comets’ ”Rock Around the Clock” played during the opening and closing credits).

THE FIRESTORM Rock-loving audiences in the U.S. and U.K. were so excited by Haley’s song that they vandalized theaters. U.S. Ambassador to Italy Clare Boothe Luce got the Venice Film Festival to pull the movie because of its unflattering portrayal of American generational warfare.
THE AFTERMATH Jungle earned four Oscar nominations, including Best Screenplay. Rock & roll was here to stay on movie soundtracks, and juvenile delinquency remained a popular topic onscreen, from Rebel Without a Cause to To Sir With Love (also starring Poitier, but this time as the teacher).

Deep Throat (1972)

THE CONTROVERSY At the time of its release, this X-rated film, in which Linda Lovelace (left) portrayed an anatomically unique woman who found sexual pleasure only in administering oral sex, was the most notorious hardcore film yet to receive mainstream attention.

THE FIRESTORM Deep Throat faced more legal challenges than any movie since Birth of a Nation. Costar Harry Reems (right) was convicted on federal conspiracy charges, though his conviction was later tossed. Courts across America tried to ban the film on the grounds of obscenity, which only raised the movie’s hipness quotient, leading celebrities and suburbanites to stand in line to see it.

THE AFTERMATH The film grossed untold millions, made a star of sorts of Lovelace (who later renounced her porn career and claimed she’d been coerced into making the film), and inspired the nickname by which reporter Bob Woodward referred to W. Mark Felt, his secret Watergate source.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

THE CONTROVERSY Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel portrayed Christ (Willem Dafoe, center) as someone who had to struggle with his humanity — including fantasies of rejecting his destiny and living out a fleshly existence with Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey, left) — before ultimately accepting his divinity and sacrificing himself on the cross. Judas (Harvey Keitel, right) is portrayed as heroic for agreeing to fulfill God’s plan by betraying Jesus.

THE FIRESTORM Though the Catholic Scorsese defended his film as an affirmation of faith, several Christian groups called Temptation sacrilegious. Some activists offered to buy all the negatives in order to destroy them, while others called for a boycott of Universal. Scorsese and top Universal executives received death threats, and some anti-Semitic protesters blamed a cabal of Jewish executives for releasing the film.

THE AFTERMATH The controversy failed to draw moviegoers — Temptation grossed just $8.3 million in theaters and made religious topics anathema in Hollywood for years afterward

Boyz N the Hood (1991)

THE CONTROVERSY John Singleton’s debut feature was explicitly anti-violence, but it was pioneering and frank in its depiction of the pressures that often led to gang violence among young African-American men (such as the character played by Ice Cube, pictured, driver’s seat) living in communities like South Central Los Angeles.

THE FIRESTORM Several incidents of violence erupted inside or near 20 theaters showing the film, leaving two dead and at least 30 wounded. Singleton maintained that the movie didn’t prompt the incidents but merely reflected the social conditions that led to them.

THE AFTERMATH At 24, Singleton became the youngest person ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar. ”Hood” movies became a popular genre. Even in 2005, a fatal shooting at a theater showing Get Rich or Die Tryin’ seemed to echo the violence of 1991.

JFK (1991)

THE CONTROVERSY Who killed John F. Kennedy? Hey, who didn’t? Oliver Stone’s film posited that countless individuals, from lowlife drifters to prominent Southern businessmen to top federal officials, were involved in a plot by the military-industrial complex to kill the president. Stone’s hero is New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner, center), the only prosecutor ever to try anyone for involvement in the assassination.

THE FIRESTORM Many historians blasted Stone for his mixing of fact and fiction, of documentary and staged footage, and of evidence and speculation, worrying that Stone’s compelling narrative would become received wisdom for moviegoers too young to know better. Others praised Stone for challenging the official version and asking questions about the high-level decision makers whose actions led to the escalation of the Vietnam War.

THE AFTERMATH The film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture (it won two, for editing and cinematography). JFK also launched a vogue for conspiracy theories (popularized in such entertainments as The X-Files).

Basic Instinct (1992)

THE CONTROVERSY Even during production, Joe Eszterhas’ $3 million screenplay was notorious for its lead female role, an openly bisexual woman who may be a man-hating serial killer.

THE FIRESTORM Gay rights groups called the characterization homophobic; women’s rights activists called it misogynistic. Some protesters picketed throughout the filming in San Francisco. When Instinct opened, protesters outside theaters showing the film tried to discourage moviegoers by wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the spoiler ”Catherine Did It.”

THE AFTERMATH Protests subsided after it became clear that a starmaking performance by Sharon Stone (right, with Leilani Sarelle) had made the character less of a stereotyped villain than a Hannibal Lecter-ish folk antihero. The movie was a huge hit, though Stone’s long-delayed sequel fizzled in 2006.

Natural Born Killers (1994)

THE CONTROVERSY Oliver Stone’s melodrama about husband-and-wife serial killers (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) was both a satirical commentary on how the media glorify violence and an exploitative example of same.

THE FIRESTORM Media outlets were quick to blame several real-life killing sprees on the film’s influence, despite limited evidence. The Firm author John Grisham, friend of a victim of two Oklahoma teens who’d watched the film before embarking on their rampage, argued that Stone and other Hollywood filmmakers should be subject to product-liability lawsuits if their movies inspired real-life crimes.

THE AFTERMATH Sure enough, the family of another victim sued Stone, the producers, and the distributors (including Time Warner,’s parent company), but a Louisiana appeals court ultimately dismissed the case, supporting an initial court ruling that the defendants were protected by the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

THE CONTROVERSY Mel Gibson’s depiction of Jesus’ final hours seemed, to many viewers, to place collective blame for the execution of Christ on the Jewish people. The movie was also incredibly violent and gory, going into greater detail than the Gospels did in its depiction of the wounds Jesus (Jim Caviezel) suffered during his scourging and crucifixion.

THE FIRESTORM Gibson denied any anti-Semitic intent, engaging in a war of words with such critics as Anti-Defamation League president Abraham Foxman and New York Times columnist Frank Rich. He also defended the violence as necessary to show the extent of Jesus’ self-sacrifice. Many viewers apparently agreed that the violence was more moving than nauseating: Passion earned $370 million at the box office.

THE AFTERMATH Gibson later relented and released a cut of the film with much of the violence trimmed out, a re-release that audiences largely ignored. Still, along with Fahrenheit 9/11, Passion was the most talked-about movie of 2004.


There you have it. 13 controversial films. If you want my opinion, they’re more controversial than The DaVinci Code is.

To read what Entertainment Weekly said about The DaVinci Code controversy, click here.

2 thoughts on “How Controversial is it?”

  1. I saw DVC on Friday. I thought it was excellent. Audrey Tatou is definitely the best in the film, though. But Sir Ian and Hanks are great, too. I think the Cannes people are totally wrong about this film. It is really worth seeing. Maybe even twice.

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