While most movies are intended to be enjoyed by mainstream audiences, some movies are made to be transgressive.
As a result, some of our most infamous films tend to get banned in certain countries. Plenty of transgressive movies use sex and violence for shock value, existing solely for the intent of stomping on taboos and upsetting audiences. But sometimes, incredibly graphic movies like these serve a greater purpose, using taboo imagery as a means of holding up a mirror to society.
Every movie on this list has been banned at some point in one country or more for breaking societal conceptions of "decency." Every movie on this list is also very good and absolutely worth watching (provided one can handle them, of course):
A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel, A Clockwork Orange, features a protagonist who commits unthinkably evil acts including rape and "ultra-violence." But the violence serves a larger narrative, revolving around an experimental aversion therapy technique that essentially takes free will away from criminals in order to rehabilitate them. Thus, A Clockwork Orange explores themes of morality and redemption, ultimately asking whether or not taking free will away from a bad person is "wrong" if it means they can behave as functional members of society.
Having inspired an entire genre of video games (literally, "battle royale") and an incredibly successful, super-watered down rip-off franchise (The Hunger Games), Battle Royale is one of the most influential movies in pop culture history. The premise is simple: In a dystopian Japan, a middle school class is taken to an island and forced to kill each other off until only one person is left alive. It's not hard to understand why a movie about children killing each other would be considered controversial, but the execution is excellent and provides one of the greatest thought exercises in all of film: What would you do in a battle royale?
Natural Born Killers
Following Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a couple who go on a killing spree, Natural Born Killers might seem like a particularly disturbing concept for a black comedy. And yet, Natural Born Killers is very funny. It's definitely also disturbing. Director Oliver Stone combines bizarre visuals, graphic violence, and sharp dialogue to create a cutting social commentary that satirizes American media's fetishization of murderers.
Possibly one of the goriest movies ever made, Peter Jackson's pre-Lord of the Rings slapstick zombie comedy is as funny as it is disgusting. Very much so. The violence is ridiculously over-the-top, with Jackson flexing his practical effects muscles at every turn. One particular scene involving a lawnmower will likely go down as the single greatest zombie-killing scene in movie history. For anyone who enjoys gross-out humor and lots of (very fake) gore, Dead Alive has stood the test of time.
Ichi the Killer
Directed by prolific Japanese auteur Takashi Miike, Ichi the Killer commonly shows up on lists of the most disturbing movies ever made. This distinction is certainly deserved due to the movie's graphic depictions of violence, both sexual and otherwise, but many people fail to recognize the function of the violence. In Ichi the Killer the violent imagery is both brutal and shocking, but sometimes it also transcends into the realm of humor––violence so awful that we have to laugh. The result is a movie that implicates viewers in the violence, forcing audiences to question their own enjoyment of such horrific imagery. For those who can stomach it, Ichi the Killer provides one of the most unique viewing experiences in all of film.