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Movies can divide an audience. Check out ‘Birth of a Nation’ and other releases that have sparked controversy.

‘The Birth of a Nation’: The most controversial movies in the past decade

Netflix came under fire after news site PJ Media reported it for “child pornography” over an Argentinian film it’s currently streaming titled Desire. The accusation was made due to the opening of the film, which involves a young girl accidentally experiencing her first orgasm while watching an old cowboy movie with a friend.

However, the movie’s director – Diego Kaplan – responded that the scene was filmed with the actor’s mother present at all times and that he also filmed “making of” footage for any further clarification on how the scene was made. In light of this controversy, let’s take a look at some of the other films that have caused a stir over the past ten years.

The Birth of a Nation

Flash back to early 2016 and The Birth of a Nation has just been picked up for a record-breaking $17.5 million by Fox Searchlight Pictures after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Not long after, an eye-catching poster is released with star and director Nate Parker pictured with a rope made of the American flag around his neck.

The film was instantly touted as a potential Oscar contender, but this all went down the drain when it came to light Parker had been accused of rape a few years previous (an offense he has always denied). The story took an even darker turn when it was reported the woman who had made the accusation against Parker and his friend and co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, had committed suicide in 2012.

Along with Parker receiving criticism for his behavior towards the woman following her claims (he hired a private investigator to “out her”) and poor reviews, the film was forgotten about as quietly as possible.


It wouldn’t be a list of controversial movies without a French film that shows unsimulated sex featuring some dead-eyed performers. To top it all off, Love was released in 3D, providing audiences the unique experience of seeing a money shot splurt its way through the screen. Grimy!

Leap Year

Michael Rowe’s beautiful film is a lament on loneliness in the modern world and the strive to fill that lonely void with loveless sex. The film is pretty much entirely set in Laura’s (Mónica Del Carmen) small apartment as her relationship with a one night stand slowly becomes more.

But as the relationship develops, so do her desires for more extreme sexual situations. Also note that in 2010 another film called Leap Year was released – a romcom starring Amy Adams & Matthew Goode. For the love of God, don’t get these mixed up if you’re looking for something to watch with the family.

The Act of Killing

An astounding documentary that totally deserved to win the Oscar that year. The doc follows Anwar Congo, who killed some 2000 people in Indonesia (for being communists, leftists, or liberals) during the 60s. The filmmaker challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Overall, The Act of Killing is an incredible look at a man who by his own admission has killed thousands of people and whether or not he is capable of feeling remorse or even understanding what he has done.

Ghost in the Shell

The long-awaited live-action Ghost in the Shell met with controversy due to the “white washing” of its lead actress. In the animation of the film, the lead is a Japanese woman, but in the live-action movie, the character is played by the totally not Japanese Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Infinity War). It’s also pretty much the only thing about the film worth talking about.


Yorgos Lanthimos has made three controversial films back-to-back now, with The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer coming after Dogtooth. The films all look at dark subject matters, with Dogtooth also bearing a resemblance to the Josef Fritzl case (though the script was actually written before that case came to light). The movie’s legacy took an even darker turn recently due to the untimely death of one of its lead actors Mary Tsoni, who was found dead in her apartment last year aged only 29.

The Tribe

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s film is a masterpiece of modern cinema. Set in a boarding school borstal for deaf teenagers in Ukraine and featuring no verbal language at all, the viewer has to actually watch the film to know what is happening. Much of the content involves the young girls working as prostitutes and seeking out illegal abortions in a series of hard-to-watch scenes.

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s film was met with confusion by some viewers and adoration by most film critics. It’s a dark watch and doesn’t go for the straight-up narrative structure of most, featuring Scarlett Johansson as an alien who picks up men in Glasgow and takes them back to her lair to drown them in some sort of tar-like substance. The film is both very strange and very beautiful and features a fair amount of nudity.


It wouldn’t be a list of controversial films without a Lars von Trier one, would it? Antichrist is actually a great horror movie, with most of its controversy deriving from the fact that Trier directed it. Although the film does feature a scene in which Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character cuts off her clitirous with a pair of rusty scissors, which we guess is kinda controversial.

The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is a masterpiece and a masterclass in acting. The film courted some controversy upon its release due to the fact it bares a striking resemblance to the birth of scientology and the life of its leader, L. Ron Hubbard. All controversy aside, the film is simply one of the finest of the last 20 years, featuring outstanding performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), and Amy Adams (Arrival).

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