Would you ever expect a government to ban a family film from release? Since they are based at a young audience, family films usually do not contain content that would anger film censors. But these films—which certainly look “kid-friendly” on the surface—were prohibited from being screened in certain countries for surprising reasons that don’t always make sense. Is it true that you can find a controversy in everything? Or were these films banned for legitimate reasons? Let’s find out.
SEE ALSO: 10 Beloved Children’s Books Banned For Stupid Reasons
The Marx Brothers are a comedy staple. Between 1905 and 1949, they made thirteen feature films, several of which are considered the funniest movies of all time. But between 1933 and 1945, you couldn’t watch any of their films in Germany for one simple reason—the members of the famous comedy troupe were Jewish. However, Germany wasn’t the only country to ban the Marx Brothers’ films. Italy banned their 1933 film “Duck Soup” because Prime Minister Benito Mussolini viewed the film as a personal attack, and Ireland banned their 1931 film “Monkey Business” for appearing to promote anarchism (although they later permitted a cut version of the film).
Controversy found its way to the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” remake when, prior to the film’s release, director Bill Condon mentioned a “gay moment” in the film. Kuwait and Malaysia (both primarily Muslim countries) banned the film for its homosexual undertones, although the only “gay” activity actually appearing on-screen is a three-second clip of two men dancing. However, Malaysia later gave the green light to an uncut version of the film, released with a P13 rating, with the Malaysia Ministry of Home Affairs saying that “the gay elements in the film are minor, and [do] not affect the positive elements featured in the film”.
Germany censored the 1929 Mickey Mouse short “The Barnyard Battle”, which features an army of cats fighting an army of mice, because the cats’ headgear resembles a German military helmet known as the “pickelhaube”. Both the United Kingdom and Germany banned another Mickey Mouse short, “The Mad Doctor”, for its horror elements.
In 1998, actress Claire Danes described Manila as “smell[ing] of cockroaches, with rats all over”, and made several other disparaging remarks about the city. Because of this, the Philippine government declared her “persona non grata” and Manila placed a ban on all films starring her, even “Little Women”, one of her best-reviewed films of all time as well as an established family classic. Although Danes later apologized for her comments, the ban on her films remains in effect.
This one is a bit of a mystery. Malaysia banned the 1998 film “Barney’s Great Adventure” for being “unsuitable for children to watch”. Parents and educators have long criticized Barney for offering children “a one-dimensional world where everyone must be happy”, leading to several offensive parodies of the franchise, some of which resulted in legal cases. However, while Barney is one of the most hated franchises of all time, no reason was ever given for why exactly the movie was “unsuitable”.
Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia all banned “Abominable”, a DreamWorks Animation film featuring the adventures of a Yeti and an adventurous girl. Why? Because the film uses a map which features a variant of the “nine-dash line”, a controversial demarcation line used to claim total Chinese ownership of a section of the South China Sea that multiple countries (including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia) have territorial claims over.
China banned “Back to the Future” for depicting—of all things—time travel. The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television explained the ban by saying that time travel in media treats “serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore”. The ban might not make very much sense, but, then again, neither did “Back to the Future”.
You probably would not be able to guess offhand why the Arab League banned “Wonder Woman”. Lebanon pulled the film from distribution because Gal Gadot, the lead actress, served for two years in the Israeli Defense Force and has expressed support for Israel on social media. Because of their history of conflicts with Israel, Lebanon bans the purchase of Israeli products (although Lebanon did allow the release of the film “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” featuring Gadot, despite a movement to boycott it). Rania Masri, a member of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel—Lebanon, said releasing “Wonder Woman” in Lebanon would be “normalizing relations with an enemy state”, something they refuse to do. Tunisia and Qatar also banned the film, for much the same reasons.
While Lebanon banned “Wonder Woman” based on its lead, Israel banned a film for a completely different reason. Israel blocked the sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s popular film “Shrek” for a joke in the Hebrew dub about popular Israeli singer David Daor. Apparently because of the singer’s famed falsetto, a character threatens to emasculate another by saying “Let’s do a David Daor on him”. “This film intends to present me, in perpetuity, as a eunuch, a man with no testicles, and turn me into a laughing stock,” Daor said to an Israeli newspaper. A Tel Aviv District Court had the film removed from a handful of theaters before the distributors of the Hebrew dub decided to change the line to “let’s take a sword and neuter him”, satisfying Daor’s lawyers.
This incident takes the number-one spot because it remains the only case in which a country blocked a film from release because of an Internet meme. That’s right, after a slew of memes spread by PewDiePie (banned for the same reason) in July 2017 comparing Chinese leader Xi Jinping to children’s book character Winnie-the-Pooh, China blocked references to Winnie on social media. This led to “Christopher Robin”, a film adapted from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, being denied a release in China.
About The Author: Izak Bulten is an animator and amateur film historian who loves writing articles about conspiracy theories, pop culture, and “crazy-but-true” stories. He’s created logic puzzles for World Sudoku Champion Thomas Synder’s blog, “The Art of Puzzles“, and the e-book “The Puzzlemaster’s Workshop”. More recently, he’s been writing animation news for his blog, “The Magic Lantern Show“.