30 of the most controversial films of all time

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

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

30 of the most controversial films of all time 14

Based on James Leo Herlihy’s 1965 novel of the same name, Midnight Cowboy follows a Texas dishwasher Joe Buck (Jon Voight) who quits his job and heads for New York City, thinking he’ll latch on to some rich dowager. New York, however, is not as welcoming as he imagined, and Joe soon finds himself living in an abandoned building with a Dickensian layabout named Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). The two form a rough alliance, and together they kick-start Joe’s career as a sex worker just as Ratso’s health begins to deteriorate.

The John Schlesinger-directed movie was deemed controversial after it received an X rating from the MPAA, which apparently thought that suburban audiences could not stomach the film’s nightmarish depiction of New York City. Despite the controversy, Midnight Cowboy became the only X-rated film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.