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10 Controversial Movies That Were Protested When They Hit Theaters

A version of this article was originally published in Death and Taxes on September 9, 2013.

Apparently, not everyone is crazy about the movies.

1. Cruising

William Friedkin’s 1980 serial-killer thriller set in a haunting NYC Meatpacking District was highly criticized by gay rights groups for its negative depiction of homosexual nightlife. Revisionists have since argued the film wasn’t trying to promote homophobia but, if anything, opened up the conversation about how the fears of promiscuity and talking to strangers exist in every New York City community.

2. Dogma

Members of the Catholic League gathered to protest outside the Lincoln Center in Manhattan during the 1999 New York Film Festival for Kevin Smith’s biblical satire, replete with shit monsters and penis-less, tequila-shooting angels. “This film mocks everything we hold sacred,” reads the Catholic League’s statement. “It condones what we condemn – murder, obscenity, violence, profanity, drugs, drunkenness and rebellion!”

3. Basic Instinct

The LGBTQ+ community wasn’t happy when they got word that “Basic Instinct’s” villain, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), had a super-hot lesbian lover in the film who was also homicidal. “It distorts the truth about lesbians,” said Rita Addessa, executive director of the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force. “At great risk of increasing interest in movies like Basic Instinct, I felt morally compelled to organize a response.”

4. Tropic Thunder

The Special Olympics and the American Association of People with Disabilities spoke out against Ben Stiller’s portrayal of the fictitious Simple Jack, the boy with an I.Q. of five whose eyes rain during moments of sadness. The president of the AAPD told Fox News that the movie was “tasteless” and “offensive start to finish.”

5. The Chernobyl Diaries

Bradley Parker’s 2012 thriller about the tragic remnants of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant now being haunted pissed off quite a few activists. One of which launched a petition on Change.org. “Seeing teenagers taking a vacation at Chernobyl, as if they were going to Disney World, shocked me deeply,” Yago Alayza told Reuters. “Anyone visiting Chernobyl should have the same respect as if they were visiting Auschwitz or the Khmer Rouge Museum in Cambodia.”

6. The Passion of the Christ

Leaders of Jewish communities weren’t happy when Mel Gibson’s torture porn hit theaters in 2004. But, rather than criticize Gibson’s film for depicting Jews as the bloodthirsty killers of the son of God, why couldn’t they slam the film for just being straight-up boring instead? Really beautiful cinematography, though.

7. The Last Temptation of Christ

Despite the totally killer Peter Gabriel soundtrack, Greek Orthodox religious groups picketed outside theaters upon the release of Martin Scorsese’s revisionist storytelling of the New Testament. At one theater in New York City, people on line for the film were battling one another with different signs. One read BLASPHEMY. Another read IT’S ONLY A MOVIE.

8. Silent Night, Deadly Night

Parent associations were disgusted by the 1984 Santa slasher — not just for the gore, but the implications that living a suppressed, vigilant Christian life can lead to sex, violence and getting impaled while topless. In May of 1985, the producer capitalized on the negative publicity and re-released the movie in theaters where mothers picketed during its original Christmastime release.

9. The Da Vinci Code

Nuns even protested the production of the big-screen adaption of Dan Brown’s terse novel. “When I face Almighty God,” 61-year-old Sister Mary Michael said outside Lincoln Cathedral in London, “at my final judgment, as we all will, I can say, I did try my best, I did try my best to protest.” Religious groups in the South also gathered in protest of the movie. Really, the best thing to ever come of this book was when people would say things like “Oh, man, that book! It only took me, like, four days to read!” So I could reply “It took you that long?”

10. The Love Guru

Hindu groups in India and North America called for a ban of the 2008 comedy, which depicts a negative stereotype that all Hindus look and act like Mike Myers. Shameful.

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