by Sherif M. Awad
Have you ever wondered why some movies are banned in certain countries? According to the International Federation of Film Producers Associations, more than 100 movies were banned or restricted in 2023 for various reasons. Some of the countries that have banned or restricted movies in 2023 include China, India, Vietnam, Bolivia, and France. These countries have different laws and regulations regarding film censorship, such as political sensitivity, moral values, religious beliefs, cultural norms, and public order.
This article will explore some of the movies that have been banned in 2023 and the reasons behind their prohibition, such as territorial disputes, sexual violence, graphic violence, family planning, privacy rights, and historical accuracy.
Movies Banned in 2023
Barbie: Territorial Dispute
Description: A live-action comedy based on the popular doll franchise, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
Why it was banned: It was banned in Vietnam for showing a map that includes China’s nine-dash line, which is a disputed territorial claim in the South China Sea that Vietnam rejects.
“We strongly oppose any act that infringes on Vietnam’s sovereignty over its waters,” said Nguyen Thai Binh, a spokesperson for Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism⁷.
The U-shaped line, which was first seen on maps in 1947, includes parts that Vietnam sees as its continental shelf, where it has awarded oil concessions. The line is highly controversial as many of China’s neighbors — including Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam — have competing and overlapping territorial claims, and the Chinese territory is contested.”
Women Talking: Sexual Violence and Religious Criticism
Description: A drama based on the novel by Miriam Toews, about a group of Mennonite women who decide to leave their isolated colony after discovering they have been drugged and raped by men from their community.
Why it was banned: It was banned in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina for depicting sexual violence and religious criticism against the Mennonite faith.
The film is a powerful and provocative exploration of faith, agency, and survival in the face of unspeakable trauma.
The film breaks free of the bleak narratives that have boxed in cinema’s rape victims over and over
Infinity Pool: Graphic Violence
Description: A horror film about a couple who vacation at a luxury resort in Mauritius, only to find themselves trapped in a nightmare of violence and terror.
Why it was banned: It was banned in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh for showing graphic scenes of gore, torture, and cannibalism that were deemed too extreme and offensive for the audiences⁵.
Quote: “The film is a twisted and terrifying exploration of human nature, morality, and survival in the face of unspeakable horrors.”
Another quote: “The film spares no detail in depicting the gruesome fate of the protagonists and their clones, who are subjected to brutal executions, mutilations, and cannibalism by the locals.”
Baby Ruby: Family Planning
Description: A psychological horror-thriller film about a young woman who kidnaps a baby from a hospital and tries to escape from the authorities and the baby’s parents.
Why it was banned: It was banned in China for portraying a negative image of the country’s one-child policy and family planning system⁶.
Quote: “The film is a gripping and disturbing exploration of maternal instinct, identity, and obsession.”¹³
Another quote: “The film challenges the audience to empathize with a woman who commits an unthinkable crime, while also exposing the harsh realities of China’s population control measures.”
Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence: Privacy Rights
Description: A true crime documentary miniseries based on the New York magazine article by Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh, about how a charismatic conman infiltrated a group of college students at Sarah Lawrence and manipulated them into joining his cult.
Why it was banned: It was banned in France for violating the privacy and dignity of the victims and their families.
Quote: “The film is a shocking and heartbreaking expose of how a group of vulnerable young people were exploited, abused, and brainwashed by a master manipulator.”
Another quote: “The film is an invasion of privacy and a violation of human rights. It exposes the intimate details of the victims’ lives without their consent and without any regard for their well-being or recovery.”
Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny: Historical Accuracy
Description: The fifth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, starring Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, about an ancient artifact that can alter the course of history.
Why it was banned: It was banned in Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia for depicting historical inaccuracies and cultural insensitivities regarding the Middle East.
Quote: “The film is a thrilling and nostalgic adventure that pays homage to the classic Indiana Jones movies.”¹⁷
Another quote: “The film is a disrespectful and ignorant portrayal of the Middle East and its history. It perpetuates stereotypes, myths, and falsehoods that are harmful and offensive to the people and cultures of the region.”¹⁸
Movies are often subject to censorship and bans in different countries for various reasons. In 2023, some of the movies that have been banned include Barbie for showing a disputed map, Women Talking for depicting sexual violence and religious criticism, Infinity Pool for showing graphic violence, Baby Ruby for portraying a negative image of family planning, Stolen Youth for violating privacy rights, and The Dial of Destiny for depicting historical inaccuracies.
Recommendation: Movie censorship is a complex and controversial issue that involves different perspectives and interests. We recommend that movie makers and viewers should respect the diversity of cultures and values around the world and be aware of the potential impacts of their films on different audiences.
Prediction: Movie censorship is likely to continue in the future as new technologies and platforms emerge and new challenges and opportunities arise. We predict that movie makers and viewers will have to adapt to the changing landscape of film regulation and find new ways to express their creativity and enjoy their entertainment.
Personal note: As someone who has lived in Egypt, I have witnessed firsthand how some movies can be banned or restricted after a few days of release due to political, religious, or moral sensitivities. For example, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Devil’s Advocate were both banned in Egypt for offending the Islamic faith. Sometimes, people are affected by the laws of their countries and become auto censors, avoiding movies that might cause trouble or controversy. This is unfortunate, as movies can also be a source of education, inspiration, and dialogue.