30 of the most controversial films of all time

These movies have taboo storylines, graphic sex scenes, and gruesome violence

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

30 of the most controversial films of all time 14

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, Last Tango in Paris follows a widowed American hotelier (Marlon Brando) and a younger Frenchwoman (Maria Schneider) who start a purely anonymous sexual relationship with each other after meeting by chance at an apartment they are both attempting to rent. While they do not even tell each other their names at the onset of their relationship, it soon becomes clear that the deliberate level of disassociation between them cannot continue.

The film’s raw portrayal of sexual violence and emotional turmoil, which includes a lengthy anal sex scene between the main characters, caused international controversy and resulted in various levels of government censorship in different regions. Last Tango in Paris was outrightly banned in Chile, Spain and even in Bertolucci’s native Italy, where his civil rights were revoked for five years. In the U.S., the film was given an X rating by the MPAA upon its initial release. But after it became part of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library, the movie was reclassified NC-17.

Last Tango in Paris earned two Oscar nominations: Best Director for Bertolucci and Best Actor for Brando.