Jim Carrey's latest film, 'I Love You Phillip Morris,' may be premiering this week but it's already been generating controversy for months. Based on the true story of Steven Jay Russell, a con man who fell in love with his fellow inmate Phillip Morris while in prison and then spent years escaping from jail over and over in order to create a fantasy life together, 'I Love You Phillip Morris' has languished in film purgatory for over a year and a half despite acclaimed performances from Carrey and co-star Ewan McGregor. The main reason? Distributors are still worried over how audiences will react to the gay relationship at the center of the story.
As Hollywood controversies go, however, the one over 'I Love You Phillip Morris' has turned out to be relatively small, thanks, no doubt, to the groundbreaking work done by 'Brokeback Mountain' five years ago. But the chatter surrounding 'I Love You Phillip Morris' still got us thinking: Which films were so controversial that they continue to spark debate and argument even today?
With that in mind, then, and in honor of the release of 'I Love You Phillip Morris,' here's a look at our picks for the Most Controversial Movies of All Time:
• 'A Serbian Film' -- Since 'A Serbian Film' debuted at the South by Southwest festival this March, the movie has managed to create a firestorm of controversy in every country it has been screened in. While director Aleksandar Radivojević and others claim the story's graphic depiction of rape, incest and murder is a metaphor for the brutality of the Serbian government, many critics have argued that it's actually a metaphor for morally indefensible torture porn. British authorities refused to allow the film to run in London, while Serbian authorities are currently investigating the movie on charges related to child endangerment.
• 'Fahrenheit 9/11' -- The highest-grossing documentary in American history, 'Fahrenheit 9/11' landed like a bombshell right in the middle of the 2004 presidential race. While few on either side of the political debate took issue with director Michael Moore's attack on the dereliction of duty preformed by the mainstream media over the past decade, his other main theme -- that President Bush's decision to invade Iraq was unjustified -- had pundits and average citizens on both sides of the debate up in arms. The result of the controversy? 'Fahrenheit 9/11' won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture but wasn't even nominated for the Oscar -- just like 'Twilight.'
• 'The Passion of the Christ' -- Rule number one: movies about Jesus create controversy. And 2004's 'The Passion of the Christ,' like 'The Last Temptation of 'Christ' before it, was no exception, as Mel Gibson's historical epic (which was filmed in Aramaic and Latin to increase realism) was attacked for everything from historical accuracy to anti-Semitism to just being too darn violent. The many controversies, however, only helped the movie build buzz as it destroyed box office records on its way to a shocking $611 million worldwide haul.
• 'Kids' -- One of the most shocking films of the '90s, 1995's 'Kids' is based on a still controversial premise: The main character, an HIV-positive teenager, embarks on a quest to intentionally infect as many young girls as he can through unprotected sex. The storyline, however, took a back seat to the graphic depictions of teenagers in flagrante delicto; outraged activists protested the sexual content, arguing that it both exploited kids and promoted sexual activity. Miramax heads Harvey and Bob Weinstein were forced to create an entirely new company to release the film when Disney refused to distribute the movie.
• 'Natural Born Killers' -- Director Oliver Stone is no stranger to controversy; his 1991 political epic 'JFK' still generates argument even 20 years later. But compared to 1994's 'Natural Born Killers,' the controversy surrounded 'JFK' is a drop in the bucket. Audiences and critics alike were shocked by the film's violent imagery -- the movie was banned entirely in Ireland -- and upon its domestic release, 'Natural Born Killers' was almost immediately blamed for a number of copycat murders. Which is especially ironic considering the film is a satire about the media's obsession with and glorification of serial killers.
• 'The Last Temptation of Christ' -- Before Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel even hit theaters in 1988, controversy already surrounded it, mainly due to an extended dream sequence in which Jesus imagines what his life with Mary Magdalene might be like if he were to accept Satan's offering of a human existence instead of death on the cross. Protests were staged across America, while in France, Christian militants burnt a theater to the ground during a showing, seriously injuring a number of theater patrons. Even today, 'The Last Temptation of Christ' is still banned in some countries.
• 'Salo' -- Subtitled 'The 120 days of Sodom,' 'Salo' re-imagines the infamous book by the Marquis de Sade as a political commentary on the state of fascist Italy during World War II and its similarities to the commercialization of sex by the modern media. At least, that's what defenders of the film have argued; opponents claim that its sadistic portrayal of the rape and murder of a group of underage victims is a moral outrage without artistic merit. Pier Paolo Pasolini never had a chance to answer criticisms, however; he himself was brutally murdered before the movie's 1975 premiere.
• 'Last Tango in Paris' -- When 'Last Tango in Paris' debuted in 1972, its frank depictions of a carnal affair between two strangers ignited a national controversy, landing the movie on the cover of TIME and Newsweek -- and landing star Marlon Brando a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards. Crowds in France stood in line for hours for a chance to see it, but in director Bernardo Bertolucci's home country of Italy, people weren't quite so happy; the government ordered all copies of the film destroyed and sentenced Bertolucci to four months in prison.
• 'Deep Throat' -- The film that turned the X rating into "X rated," 'Deep Throat' remains one of the best known porno movies of all time -- and not just because the name became synonymous with the Watergate scandal a year after its 1972 release. The film's producers and lead actor Harry Reems were prosecuted on federal obscenity charges in America, while the movie was banned for nearly 30 years in Britain. Co-star Linda Lovelace, meanwhile, has since alleged that her abusive husband forced her to film the graphic sex sequences, making the film little more than a chronicle of rape and also insuring that the controversy surrounding 'Deep Throat' will continue for years to come.
• 'A Clockwork Orange' -- Stanley Kubrick's 1971 masterpiece was controversial enough in America -- it received a X rating for graphic sexual violence and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops forbade their congregations from seeing the film -- but the furor here was nothing compared to that in Britain, where the film was set. After the government implicated the film in several copycat crimes, Kubrick received threats to himself and his family and petitioned Warner Bros. to withdraw the movie from British distribution. The film was banned in Britain until after Kubrick's death in 1999, a ban that was taken very seriously; one art house that attempted to show the movie in 1993 was permanently shut down.