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Controversial Classics

A collection of the bold and the banned; causes célèbre and succès de scandale to incite, provoke and arouse.

Any history of cinematic controversy in the UK is necessarily a history of our country’s censorship and the evolving vagaries of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). Most of these films have fallen foul of the censors at some point, but thankfully they’re now all restored to their once incendiary glories.

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Bad LieutenantBad Lieutenant

Crime199296 minsDirector: Abel Ferrara

Abel Ferrara's disturbing character study of a corrupt N.Y.C. cop and his slide into insanity, starring Harvey Keitel in a career-best performance.

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RomanceRomance

Drama199998 minsDirector: Catherine Breillat

Shockingly explicit, Catherine Breillat’s critically acclaimed Romance is one of the most controversial films of modern cinema.

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Nymphomaniac Vol. INymphomaniac Vol. I

Drama2013118 minsDirector: Lars von Trier

Volume 1 of Lars von Trier’s explicit, controversial film about a woman recounting the history of her sexuality in episodic style.

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Christiane F.Christiane F.

Drama1981131 minsDirector: Uli Edel

David Bowie’s image and music gives brooding energy to this tale of a junkie sex-worker in 70s Berlin.

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CrashCrash

Drama1996100 minsDirector: David Cronenberg

Technology and sexuality meet in head-on collision in David Cronenberg’s controversial adaptation of writer J.G. Ballard’s hugely transgressive 1973 novel, starring James Spader and Holly Hunter.

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DemonloverDemonlover

Drama2002121 minsDirector: Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas' neo-noir cyber-thriller is a chilling exploration of the nexus between sex and violence available at the click of a button.

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The Night PorterThe Night Porter

Drama1973119 minsDirector: Liliana Cavani

Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling star in this controversial story of the profoundly disturbing relationship between a former SS officer a concentration camp survivor.

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OldboyOldboy

Thriller2003120 minsDirector: Park Chan-wook

Park’s wilfully grotesque fable about an abductee trying to fathom the mysteries of his past.

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Salon KittySalon Kitty

Drama1976133 minsDirector: Tinto Brass

Before Caligula, Italian provocateur Tinto Brass directed this controversial and transgressive drama, inspired by the true story of a Nazi-run brothel in 30s Berlin.

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MaitresseMaitresse

Drama1976113 minsDirector: Barbet Schroeder

Gerard Depardieu plays the young innocent who falls for the mysterious maitresse Ariane (Bulle Ogier), a leather clad dominatrix, in Barbet Schroeder’s controversial film.

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TheoremTheorem

Drama196898 minsDirector: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pasolini’s classic about a handsome, enigmatic stranger (Terence Stamp) who arrives at a bourgeois household and seduces an entire family.

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The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the SeaThe Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Drama1976105 minsDirector: Lewis John Carlino

When an English widow, Anne (Sarah Miles, Ryan’s Daughter) falls in love with a dashing American sailor (singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson), her jealous teenage son goes to horrific lengths to restore the status quo.

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Trans-Europ-ExpressTrans-Europ-Express

Thriller196695 minsDirector: Alain Robbe-Grillet

This stylish, cult 1966 erotic thriller stars French New Wave icons Jean-Louis Trintigant and Marie-France Pisier.

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Visions of EcstasyVisions of Ecstasy

Drama198920 minsDirector: Nigel Wingrove

Nigel Wingrove's experimental depiction of the erotic imaginings of the 16th Century Carmelite nun remains the only film ever to banned under Britain's blasphemy laws.

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Drama1969116 minsDirector: Barbet Schroeder

The first feature by Barbet Schroeder (Maîtresse, The Valley), More created a sensation when it was released in 1969, quickly becoming a cult classic and famed for its Pink Floyd soundtrack.