ShareA Hollywood comedy lampoons a foreign dictator. That dictator gets peeved. A major studio has second thoughts about releasing the film to a wide audience. This scenario might make The Interview, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Sony Pictures come to mind. But in the best of Hollywood traditions, the recent ruckus over the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy is little more than a remake.
Past films have taken tyrants to task, and other studios have pulled the plug on productions for apparently political considerations. The Interview is just the latest in a long list of films that have had their public availability limited thanks to dissed despots or scissor-mad censors. Here are 10 previous films, both famous and obscure, that have been banned or drastically censored over the course of cinema history:
The Great Dictator (1940)
Charlie Chaplin’s comic turn as Adenoid Hynkel, a tyrant with an unmistakable resemblance to Adolph Hitler, may be the most famous film ever to poke fun at a foreign head of state. It also performed a similar service for the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, parodied as Benzino Napaloni by the actor Jack Oakie. Not surprisingly, the film was banned in Germany (where Chaplin’s films were already verboten), as well as in Japan, Spain, Peru and Argentina. It was also banned in Chicago, reportedly due to fear of antagonizing the city’s German-American population.
It Can’t Happen Here (1936)
This movie was based on Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 bestseller about a fascist takeover of the United States. Or it would have been. Production was already underway when MGM, which had bought the rights, decided to shelve the project, allegedly not wanting to anger fascist governments overseas. As the frustrated Lewis put it in a statement to The New York Times, “I wrote ‘It Can’t Happen Here,’ but I begin to think it certainly can.” (Read more.)