There is a lot of competition out there for the attention of your eyeballs. Advertising is everywhere, which is why the people who design movie posters will use every trick they can to make you look twice. Sex? Of course. Violence? Absolutely. Random controversy? Sure, if it works. This has led to many posters being banned by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and even other international organizations and governments. Here are 12 of our favourites posters that never survived being seen in public. Thankfully, the internet exists and isn’t governed by the stupid censorship of the MPAA.
12. Taxi To The Dark Side
While most of the posters on this list fall into two categories — too much sex or too much violence — the banning of this poster was more political than anything. The movie is a documentary about the usage of torture and interrogation in America’s War on Terrorism. The MPAA decided that the image of a prisoner with a bag over his head was too much, and banned the poster.
“Not permitting us to use an image of a hooded man that comes from a documentary photograph is censorship, pure and simple,” said the director Alex Gibney.
11. Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night was a 1984 horror movie that featured a psychotic, axe-wielding Santa Clause terrorize innocent victims. The film was scheduled to be released right before Christmas and parents were outraged. After mass protests outside of theatres, all the ads were pulled six days after the movie was released. Shortly after, the movie itself was yanked. It survived the years, though, gaining a cult following and spawning four sequels.
10. Saw II
If you saw the first Saw movie, you know that violence and gore is a part of the deal. The serial killer Jigsaw sets traps for people based on their own sins, usually ending with a gruesome death. This poster for the sequel featured two severed fingers and originally made it passed the censors. The MPAA caught their mistake quickly though, and the poster was banned.
9. Ali G Indahouse
Ali G is one of Sacha Baron Cohen’s most offensive characters, and his feature film came with an offensive movie poster. It’s not hard to see why this didn’t make it past the censors. The Advertising Standards Authority in Cohen’s home of the United Kingdom received over 100 complaints about the poster and promptly pulled it, ruling it pornographic.
Spider-Man was a 2002 movie that was both set and filmed in New York city. Filming wrapped up in the summer of 2001, just months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed the world forever. In the aftermath, many forms of media were altered/taken off the air, including certain songs and television episodes. This poster also got yanked, as you can see the reflection of the World Trade Center in Spidey’s eyes. There was also a teaser trailer that got pulled featuring an enemy helicopter being caught in a giant spider web strung up between the twin towers.
If you look at this poster and think “what the hell?” then you are not alone. Teeth was a 2007 horror film about a woman who literally has teeth in her vagina. In case you were asking yourself the obvious question, yes, the teeth do bite off any unwelcome intrusions. The promotional poster featuring an X-ray showing some oddly placed chompers never even made it to the public before being banned. The film itself was actually well received as a campy, clever, and original take on horror movies.
6. Final Destination 5
This is another poster that got pulled in the UK after parents complained that the graphic imagery was too much for their children. Maybe they have a point, since multiple metal rods smashing through a human skull does seem a little violent. Warner Bros., the studio behind the popular horror series, tried to defend the poster by saying it accurately portrayed the contents of the film. The Advertising Standards Authority disagreed, banning the poster.
5. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
You might think a banned movie poster featuring Jason Vorhees would include blood, a machete, and maybe some half naked teenagers engaging in pre-marital sex. Nope, not this time. This poster was pulled because the iconic “I [heart] NY” logo is actually trademarked by the New York State Department of Economic Development. They didn’t appreciate one of the most famed fictional mass murderers of all-time slicing up their art, so they forced Paramount Studios to can the poster.
4. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
This movie is about guns, violence, and sex. What else could you possibly put on the poster? This shot of Eva Green drew the ire of the MPAA, who cited, “nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.” To recap: cleavage is okay, but underboob is not.
3. The People vs. Larry Flynt
In a movie about a man fighting censorship, the film’s poster was ironically banned. This poster is a triple-whammy, offensive to some people for the amount of female skin shown, the image of Woody Harrelson in the crucifix position, and the use of the American flag as a diaper. We imagine the religious right would have completely flipped out if this poster had been approved. The MPAA rejected it.
2. Zach and Miri Make a Porno
It’s too bad this poster was banned, because it’s so damn clever. How do you promote a movie where the entire plot revolves around the characters making an amateur porn tape in order to alleviate their financial problems? This very subtle poster features no nudity or violence, but was banned anyway because the implications on oral sex. Maybe Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks were just bending down to tie their shoes?
1. I Spit On Your Grave
This 2010 film is already disturbing enough. It is about a woman who brutally seeks revenge on a group of men who rape her and leave her for dead. The poster combines a half naked butt with a bloody knife, a losing combination for the MPAA. They considered it a sexualization of rape victims and banned the poster. A new poster was made, and the artwork for the sequel in 2013 was also much more tame.