13 Shocking Movie Posters That Were Banned –



For all of the truly great posters out there, it’s incredible how many really, really bad ones make it into cinema lobbies and online. It almost feels like studios now just hand the duties to interns given a crash course in Photoshop for an afternoon.

Perhaps the reason for that is the sheer number of really clever or marketable movie posters that end up either censored or banned outright. All that work to create a memorable image and the powers that be take one look and decide on the general public’s behalf what will offend or sicken them. In that respect, you can probably understand why they’d just take the easier, inferior approach.

Thanks to the powers of the Internet, some of those banned marvels (and some that probably deserved to be banned) can still be found. So they might not be appropriate for outside advertising, but it’s a far more grown-up place round these parts…

13. Teeth

Roadside Attractions

To a certain extent, all you want from a poster is that it sells exactly what the film is about with some emotive hook but without wading into spoilery waters and giving away too much of the plot. To that end, this provocative one sheet from vagina dentata horror Teeth hits the brief.

Even without knowing anything about the film, the sight of some very low-set gnashers would be enough to intrigue even the most hardened of horror film fans. It also serves as a warning for anyone of a weak constitution not to watch it. So really, it’s doing everyone a service.

Sadly, the MPAA didn’t agree and the poster was banned for being too naughty.

12. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Dimension Films

“Excessive nudity” was the reason for the ban hammer being dropped on this poster from the wayward Sin City sequel. Apparently, the MPAA rejected this Eva Green character poster because it was just too risquee.

Having too much of her breast so obviously on show, as well as the darker area of her nipple visible through her outfit was enough for the regulators to get a little too stimulated, despite the fact that other Sin City posters had been basically just as suggestive. It’s also worth noting that the entire film franchise was fundamentally sold on the sexed-up image of femme fatales and guns – it’s just that this one was a step too far.

11. Saw II


This simple, elegant and bloody gory poster was the ingeniously creative way Lions Gate chose to market the sequel to the hugely popular first Saw movie. With so much pressure to come up with more inventive traps and show it all off in advance of the film’s release, they went with a far more muted, but no less effective campaign by chopping off a pair of fingers.

The MPAA didn’t see the ingenuity behind the artwork though. After initially missing it when it was first released on the net, they sent out a release belatedly to say that it was simply unacceptable. The replacement was nowhere near as efficient, but having a banned poster at least fed into the film’s marketability.

10. Man Bites Dog

Metro Tartan Films

Any movie as consciously provocative as Belgian black comic mockumentary Man Bites Dog was always going to attract a fair bit of controversy. The black and white micro-budget movie followed a serial killer’s crime spree with a documentary crew in tow, unflinchingly showing him killing victims including a young child.

The original Belgian poster ran with that particular moment, exaggerating it for effect by having a child’s pacifier popping into view in the bottom corner, presumably as the killer shot an actual baby. Grim, but effective.

When it came to a foreign release, French regulators insisted on a different version (so dentures were added in the pacifier’s place because shooting old people is apparently alright) and the UK banned it too. After a month of it being on show.

9. Lesbian Vampire Killers

Momentum Pictures

Apparently, it wasn’t the nudity in this poster for awful British comedy Lesbian Vampire Killers that was the problem when it came to passing it for use on the British transport system.

Instead, CBS Outdoor, the company that handles all advertising on UK transport were taken aback at the film’s title and banned Momentum from advertising to their lucrative market because the title was apparently too sexually offensive. Their statement said that the combination of sex, violence and horror in the title was just plain inappropriate.

8. Shame

Fox Searchlight Pictures

We may have all been made by it and it might be one of the most perfectly natural, normal things in the world, but it seems the folks behind poster regulation aren’t big fans of sperm. Fox Searchlight had inventively chosen to use said bodily fluid as the centre-point for their foreign advertising campaign, in an attempt to push the film’s NC-17 rating.

In fact, pretty much everyone was equally as disgusted by this poster for Steve McQueen’s portrait of sex addiction – which was released in Hungary initially – ended up with a ban. The film was already controversial for its subject matter and it being snubbed at the Oscars, so Fox probably weren’t entirely phased. After all, controversy begets attention and nothing begets controversy like jism.

7. The Zero Theorem

Stage 6 Films

Who’d have thought that America hated butts?

That was basically the inference taken in the aftermath of this poster for Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi The Zero Theorem being banned by the MPAA. It was literally just a case of the cheeky bare backside on show that they balked at.

Gilliam announced the news on his own Facebook page:

Zero Theorem off to a good start in the US thanks to the Motion Picture Association of America’s censors. They have banned our teaser poster because of a bare butt. Your thoughts, please.

Quite what’s so offensive by a naked bum remains to be seen, but it was just too much for the people who counted.

6. Bad Lieutenant

First Look Studios

Though there has been something of a movement more recently to decrease the use of guns on posters more, the MPAA’s regulations on such things have always been a little confusing. Sometimes they’ll ban things outright for glamourising gun-use (or prompt painful last-minute Photoshopping fixes), but then other times posters with guns on just sail past censorship.

That wasn’t the case for this graphic (but actually terrible) poster for Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant sort-of-remake, which went further than just showing a gun being “sexily” pointed at someone outside of the frame. Apparently, the MPAA were turned off badly by the sight of actual violence going on in the poster and banned it.

5. Dying Breed

Ambience Entertainment

Nobody likes being reminded that some of their food might have once had a name and a face, no matter how delicious that face might have been. So it’s not that surprising that Australia’s transport system was closed off to this particularly gruesome teaser one-sheet.

The company who organised such advertising ignored the fact that the human pie image had been approved for cinemas and online adverts (where the rules are clearly a lot more lax) and banned its use outright. Seriously though, how better can you see a movie about a cannibal killer who baked pies for a living than by going full Sweeney Todd?

The producers were furious, but at least the controversy turned some more attention to their small film.

4. Bereavement

Anchor Bay

Just as SIlent Night, Deadly Night’s poster of Santa wielding an axe was banned because children are impressionable and would have thought that their favourite festive character was going to murder them in their sleep, this poster was pulled for child-linked violence.

Rather than a child being the victim, the problem for Bereavement’s poster was that it showed a child wielding an enormous hunting knife. Director Steven Mela announced the ban and his disappointment at the decision:

“The MPAA has banned the poster for depicting a child holding a weapon. It’s hugely disappointing, because that poster really encapsulated the plot of the film with an intriguing image. It’s a real setback for us, considering the challenges we already face competing for attention with a small budget.”

Sadly, it doesn’t matter how much you want someone to see your movie or how hard it has to compete with bigger movies, you can’t just go around handing weapons to kids.

3. The People Vs Larry Flynt

Columbia Pictures

Fittingly, for a movie about a provocateur as notorious as pornographer Larry Flynt, the poster was pretty much a triple-pronged attack on American sensibilities. Not only does it go after religious groups by posing Woody Harrelson’s titular “hero” as Christ on the cross, but also giving him a diaper made of the American flag and putting him in front of a giant vagina.

So that’s religious symbolism, sex and patriotism all in one fell swoop. No wonder it ended up being banned in double-quick fashion by the MPAA, just as Columbia Pictures probably intended it to be in the first place to fit in with the film’s firebrand subject matter.

2. Zack And Miri Make A Porno


Not content with cutting the title of Kevin Smith’s delightful bongo rom com to remove the “Make a Porno” because nobody should be allowed to even see the WORD ” porno” in case their mortal souls are eternally condemned to Hell, the MPAA also said no to this funny little poster that is significantly more harmless than any poster with a gun on.

It’s actually a laughably tame poster and there’s nothing even remotely sexually offensive or explicit about it. Crucially, if it was banned to preserve kids from the message, that was entirely over-zealous since nobody not already clued in on oral past-times would even get the joke. The cheeky look on Elizabeth Banks’ face says everything you need to know, but the MPAA went ultra-prudish on it (perhaps because of the title) and the poster was doomed.

You know, despite a poster for Good Luck Chuck doing the EXACT same thing and getting past censors.

1. Hannibal

Universal Pictures

As cool as this poster for the divisive (but underrated) Silence Of The Lambs sequel is, there’s no denying that the haunting sight of Anthony Hopkins’ maniacally-staring face seemingly cut to ribbons and sewn back together like a patchwork doll is pretty disturbing.

It had such an effect when it was originally sent out into the world advertising standards agencies in the UK insisted it was recalled and banned for apparently being ‘too disturbing’ for audiences. Which is exactly what a poster for a movie about a cannibalistic serial killer and a sex offender whose face was partially eaten by dogs probably ought to do, to be honest.

Which other banned posters belong on this list? Share your picks below in the comments thread.


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