Censorship: Four Films that Made the Censor Wobble

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Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone's film was so violent that Quentin Tarantino was unhappy with his credit for the screenplay in the film's title. However, his tale of Mickey and Mallory Knox blazing a trail across America, killing more than 50 people, was released uncut after a three-month delay and even went out on video with an 18-certificate, to the horror of the then home secretary, Michael Howard. The BBFC rejected press claims that the film had inspired 10 "copycat" killings.

The Exorcist

The 1973 tale of satanic possession was withdrawn from video stores when the BBFC took over video classification in 1984 and refused it a domestic licence. The film's demonic themes and vision of a sexually explicit 12-year old have proved too much in subsequent applications, thanks, in part, to scares about Satanic abuse. James Ferman was particularly worried about its effect on young women. It is being looked at again by the BBFC's new president Andreas Whittam Smith.

Child's Play

Along with other classics of the splatter-fest genre like Driller Killer and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Child's Play was described as a video nasty. The 1984 Video Recordings Act was a direct response to a tabloid campaign against "video nasties". The campaign in turn was a reaction to the fact that the VHS revolution allowed obscure underground horror films to find their way on to the shelves of suburban video stores.


This was David Cronenberg's film version of JG Ballard's novel about a couple who get an erotic thrill from car crashes. The book could be treated as a highbrow look at society's enslavement to the car and a reaction to the death of Ballard's wife in a car crash. The film, however, was described in terms of weird, individual sex acts and a newspaper campaign was whipped up against it. The film was released uncut after the film censor decided that it was neither illegal nor harmful.