From Controversial To Canceled: Movies That Would Face Backlash In Today’s Social Climate

With each new year comes a collection of movies that fail to attract much interest. Whether it's due to inept film-making, an obnoxious tone, illogical characters, or simply boring stories, audiences see fit to drop them like a bad habit.

But sometimes, the problems people see with a movie aren't widely apparent until long after it's made. That could be due to the real-life actions of someone involved, or it could be baked into the movie's plot. But in either case, these movies are more likely to offend audiences now than when they were released.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

Jim Carrey crouching in tutu as Ace Ventura Pet Detective
Morgan Creek Entertainment/Warner Bros. via MovieStillsDb
Morgan Creek Entertainment/Warner Bros. via MovieStillsDb

Although Ace Ventura: Pet Detective will always hold a special place in many comedy fans' hearts as one of the movies that made Jim Carrey a star, the way it handles the main antagonist's gender identity is more likely to make modern audiences cringe than laugh.

When Ace discovers she's transgender, both his exaggeratedly disgusted reaction and those of everyone he reveals this information has hardly helped the film age well.

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Gone With The Wind (1939)

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Vivian Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With The Wind
Warner Bros./Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer via MovieStillsDb
Warner Bros./Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer via MovieStillsDb
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Although the film's artistic ambitions and striking performances give Gone With The Wind the reputation of an essential cinema classic, its implicit messaging has made its legacy far more complicated in the decades since its release.

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While part of this modern criticism comes from the film's framing of its Black characters, Gone With The Wind is more fundamentally criticized for its glorification of the antebellum South and its uncritical adoption of the Confederacy's "lost cause" narrative.

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Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)

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Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw walking through crowd of beggars as Indiana Jones and Willie Scott
Lucasfilm/Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Lucasfilm/Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom is a special case in that it's not hard to imagine a studio making it today. In fact, it's not even hard to imagine that the movie would be as successful as it was in the '80s.

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However, what is hard to imagine is that a movie that features monkey-brain eating and a scene in which a character's heart is graphically ripped out while he's still alive would secure a PG-13 rating. Nowadays, this film would either undergo some edits or end up with an R rating.

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The Passion Of The Christ (2004)

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Jim Caviezel holding bread as Jesus in The Passion Of The Christ
Icon Productions/Newmarket Films via MovieStillsDb
Icon Productions/Newmarket Films via MovieStillsDb
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Although The Passion Of The Christ was acclaimed as a harrowing depiction of Jesus's final days, some critics at the time accused the film of carrying an anti-Semitic tone with the framing of its Jewish characters.

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But while ABC News reported that director Mel Gibson's statements at the time reflected some potentially plausible deniability for any such bias, his own remarks during his arrest two years later stripped away this benefit of the doubt.

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Forced Vengeance (1982)

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Mary Louise Weller emerging from boat hold as Claire Bonner in Forced Vengeance
MGM/SLM Production Group
MGM/SLM Production Group
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Forced Vengeance is a Chuck Norris movie that sees his character, Jack Randall, fight against a criminal organization in Hong Kong.

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Although the movie's treatment of the local culture is more respectful than other films at the time tended to be, the overuse of non-consensual acts as a plot device would likely draw criticism today. The line, "Never let your girl handle your piece," doesn't help matters either.

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Sixteen Candles (1984)

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Molly Ringwald laying in bed as Samantha in Sixteen Candles
Universal Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Universal Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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Although John Hughes's filmography is packed with '80s classics, that doesn't mean all of his films have aged particularly well. Unfortunately, Sixteen Candles is possibly the worst offender in this regard.

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Not only is the racial humor underlying the character Long Duk Dong much more uncomfortable in retrospect but so are the issues of consent behind the first time Molly Ringwald's Samantha and Antony Michaell Hall's Ted get intimate.

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Manhattan (1979)

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Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway as Isaac and Tracy in Manhattan
Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions/United Artists via MovieStillsDb
Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions/United Artists via MovieStillsDb
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Although the age gap between Woody Allen's character in Manhattan and Mariel Hemingway's 17-year-old character is supposed to be scandalous, the real-life facts behind it make it an uncomfortable watch.

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According to Vanity Fair, that's because Hemingway discovered Allen allegedly wanted life to imitate art and waited until she turned 18 so he could whisk her away to Paris. Despite her parents approving of the arrangement, Hemingway declined.

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Crocodile Dundee (1986)

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Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee
Rimfire Films/Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Rimfire Films/Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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Paul Hogan's charisma has all but vouchsafed the enduring legacy of Crocodile Dundee, but the movie would need some serious rewrites if it were made all over again today.

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Because while everybody remembers "That's not a knife, that's a knife," it's much easier to forget how clumsily the movie's other jokes handle gender identity, relationships, race, and consent.

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We'll Never Have Paris (2014)

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Simon Helberg and Maggie Grace as Quinn and Kelsey in We'll Never Have Paris
Bifrost Pictures/Orion Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Bifrost Pictures/Orion Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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One could hardly call We'll Never Have Paris — a film through which The Big Bang Theory's Simon Helberg and his wife Jocelyn Towne told the story of their real-life relationship — a comedy classic.

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Critics maligned the film as overly exaggerated and derivative upon its release, but viewers may enjoy it even less nowadays. Rather than a romantic leap of faith, the main character's decision to follow his ex-girlfriend all the way to Paris would come off as concerning and stalker-like behavior.

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Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

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Paramount Pictures
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Although Audrey Hepburn's unforgettable charm almost makes Breakfast At Tiffany's timeless, the same cannot be said for Mickey Rooney's portrayal of her landlord, Mr. Yunioshi.

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The prospect of casting a white actor to play an Asian character, in general, is controversial nowadays, but Rooney's stereotype-laden performance is now considered one of the most offensive depictions of an Asian character in cinema history.

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The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

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Over 30 years later, The Silence of The Lambs remains a tense, brilliantly executed psychological thriller with multiple career-making performances.

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However, the movie also has a complicated legacy in modern times due to how it connects the main antagonist, Buffalo Bill's gender identity, with the character's unspeakable crimes. Unfortunately, the movie's success would help popularize this unwanted trope.

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Big (1988)

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Tom Hanks dancing on giant piano with Robert Loggia in Big
Twentieth Century Fox via MovieStillsDb
Twentieth Century Fox via MovieStillsDb
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For the most part, Big is a heartwarming and funny classic that's great for the whole family. But there's one aspect of Tom Hanks's big break that is a little too hard to ignore in retrospect.

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Although Josh Baskin considered his intimate relationship with Susan a wonderful aspect of his suddenly grown-up lifestyle, co-star Elizabeth Perkins has since acknowledged the unfortunate implications of that relationship in an interview with The Guardian. Because while Hanks was a grown man, his character was still technically a 12-year-old boy inside.

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The Breakfast Club (1985)

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Judd Nelson as John Bender in The Breakfast Club
Universal Studios via MovieStillsDb
Universal Studios via MovieStillsDb
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The John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club remains beloved for a reason and relatably touches on the pressures of adolescent life that influence how teens interact with each other and with authority figures.

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Still, it's hard for some modern audiences to stomach the fact that Judd Nelson's character, John Bender, ends up in a relationship with Molly Ringwald's Claire despite violating one of her most seriously intimate boundaries earlier in the movie.

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The Notebook (2004)

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Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as Allie and noah in The Notebook
New Line Cinema via MovieStillsDb
New Line Cinema via MovieStillsDb
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Although it's a go-to tear-jerking romance for many, it's not uncommon for those who watch The Notebook with younger relatives to walk away seeing the movie differently than they did the first time around.

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After all, it's hard to ignore that Allie and Noah's lifelong romance begins on a concerning and manipulative note. Namely, he threatens to endanger his life by jumping from a Ferris wheel to pressure her into going out with him.

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Aladdin (1992)

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Aladdin showing Jasmine the world while dressed as Prince Ali
Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Walt Disney Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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From the lush animation to Robin Williams's irreplaceable turn as The Genie, a great deal about Aladdin remains timeless.

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However, it seems Disney is well aware of what hasn't aged as well about the movie because the Disney+ version begins with a disclaimer about the stereotypical and questionable way Middle Eastern cultures are portrayed in the movie. They also swapped out two lyrics from the opening theme, "Arabian Nights," for similar reasons.

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Love Actually (2003)

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Universal Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Universal Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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Although there are some issues modern viewers have found with the beloved 2003 romantic comedy Love, Actually, perhaps the most glaring involves the secret infatuation Andrew Lincoln's character has for Keira Knightley's character.

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Even if she weren't in the middle of marrying his best friend, his clear obsession with her and grand attempts to win her over would likely come across more as unhealthy and creepy than romantic nowadays.

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Wedding Crashers (2005)

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Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as John and Jeremy in Wedding Crashers
New Line Cinema via MovieStillsDb
New Line Cinema via MovieStillsDb
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Although Wedding Crashers is obviously a raunchy and transgressive comedy, one aspect that's hard to enjoy even with that framing in mind concerns the first time Vince Vaughn and Isla Fisher's characters get intimate.

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Since it's treated as part of the happy ending when they become a couple in the film's latter half, it seems the audience is supposed to forget about the fact that their first time together is clearly non-consensual for Vaughn's character.

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Tropic Thunder (2008)

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Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus as Lincoln Osiris in Tropic Thunder
Dreamworks Pictures/Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Dreamworks Pictures/Paramount Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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Considering the satirical context behind Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of an actor in blackface in Tropic Thunder, it could be an oversimplification to say that one categorically couldn't make the comedy today.

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But considering how hotly debated the necessity of this makeup choice has been ever since, it does seem likely that Tropic Thunder would have generated far more controversy if it were released now compared to 2008.

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White Chicks (2004)

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Marlon and Shawn Wayans as Marcus and Kevin Copeland in disguise in White Chicks
Columbia Pictures via MovieStillsDb
Columbia Pictures via MovieStillsDb
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Although White Chicks was roundly criticized for its overly broad comedy and terrifying use of prosthetics upon release, a modern viewer able to look past those aspects might still find more than they bargained for.

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Needless to say, a movie that requires its actors to portray different races is inherently a hard sell nowadays.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

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