#3. Taxi Driver Brainwashes the MPAA With Uber-Violence
Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver was a goulash of controversy: There's Swedish porn. There's preteen prostitution. There's an attempted assassination of a presidential candidate by the friggin' protagonist. And all of that was topped off with a graphic climax in which Robert De Niro's character shoots up a sex hotel. You've got fingers flying:
This man gave the scene a thumb's up.
And knives going through hands:
Not the same hand that lost the fingers, mind you. That would have hurt.
Bullets in the neck, bullets in the torso, bullets in the head painting brains on the wall:
Creating the sex hotel's cleanest surface.
And assuming you take the film's closing scene at face value, murderous Travis Bickle doesn't even pay for his sins. He's hailed a hero and gets away scot-free. The film would obviously be rated at least an R; the only question was whether they'd get slapped with the dreaded X rating.
The filmmakers had an ingenious plan to make sure that didn't happen: nothing. They just repeatedly sent the MPAA copies of the same film each time the ratings agency tried to give it an X. They didn't actually cut any of the gore or violence -- the only change they made was to desaturate the color of the blood a little bit. But over time, says producer Michael Phillips, the MPAA simply became desensitized to the scenes from watching them over and over again -- the very desensitization to violence that moral guardians fear comes from watching violent films. Soon, the producers got credit for cutting content when they'd actually removed nothing. On the one hand, that's awesome, because we got a classic movie out of it, but on the other hand ... that's super awesome, because they completely broke the minds of an entire MPAA review board with Clockwork Orange-style brainwashing.
#2. Wes Craven Straight Up Stole a Rating
The Last House on the Left is an icon of horror that not only launched director Wes Craven's career, but also launched the entire "Let's substitute outlandish torture for plot" genre. It's known for its intense scenes of rape, chainsaw murder, and we don't need a third example because we already have rape and chainsaw murder.
Some guy does get his dick bitten off, but he's a jerk.
Watching the movie today, you can't help but wonder how Craven ever got away with an R rating. The truth is, he didn't.
When The Last House on the Left was submitted for rating, the MPAA insisted on cutting so much that the final product was only 60 minutes long. After struggling to edit together a coherent story with so little footage, producer Sean Cunningham finally just said "to hell with it," put all the horrifying stuff back in, and spliced in some official MPAA R-rated footage from another movie that was being put together down the hall. You'd assume that somebody is on hand to check these things, or that there's some code that makes the rating footage specific to the film or something -- but nope! Everything turned out fine. No one had any idea The Last House on the Left was released as an unrated film until Craven told the story decades later in a documentary.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The MPAA then tried arresting him, only to learn that they have no official authority whatsoever.
This bears repeating: Craven stole a rating, released an uncensored version of a film that he had already sent in for review (and was subsequently rejected), then had the balls to market it as being ridiculously violent, and no one at the MPAA ever noticed. Man, we're starting to think you could slap the devil's erect cock in a film and walk away whistlin' Dixie ...
#1. Seth Rogen Slaps the Devil's Erect Cock in a Film, Walks Away Whistlin' Dixie
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg had an R-rated comedy on their hands with This Is the End and really wanted to avoid the box-office-poison NC-17 stamp. They figured the mass deaths that spark off the movie's apocalypse wouldn't raise any red flags -- they were pretty tame, and nobody really misses Michael Cera -- but later, there's a demonic rape scene.
Not Jonah Hill's first sex scene, believe it or not.
We're not using "demonic" as hyperbole here: About an hour into the film, a demon rapes Jonah Hill. The scene is played up for laughs and doesn't depict anything too graphic, but obviously all rape is considered a bit of a touchy subject. Figuring this scene could cost them dearly with the MPAA, Rogen and Goldberg took advice from their distributor, Sony, and tried a risky tactic: They flooded the censors with needless objectionable material, hoping they would only ask that the outlandish stuff be cut and leave what the filmmakers wanted in the first place intact. So in the demon rape scene, they went out of their way to depict the demon's erect penis.
An erect penis is a huge (well, depending on the dude) no-no in an R-rated film, even during loving, consensual sex. So it seemed like a good plan: throw a demon cock at the censors and slip a rape scene by when they're ducking for cover. But you know how it is -- once you pop, you just can't stop rendering giant evil dicks on film. Right at the end of the movie, we're treated to the sight of a skyscraper-size Satan, his semi-truck of a dick swinging in the burning wind. The magical blue light of heaven slices the member right off, and poor Satan picks up his disembodied wang and wails.
To him, it's like the world is ending.
The men sent their cut to the MPAA and waited for feedback. They hoped the graphic cock shots would get cut and the content they actually wanted to keep would stick around.
As Seth Rogen once said: It just takes one fan of dick jokes giggling, and then the whole room will be happy to see your penis.
We might be paraphrasing a bit there.
Related Reading: Sometimes censorship can be hilarious. Case in point: "Yippie-ki-yay, Mister Falcon!" And of course there's the utterly wordless Frank Zappa album that somehow earned a "Parental Advisory" sticker. Ready for more of Big Brother's failures? Click right here.