These days, many moviegoers complain about “cancel culture” when it comes to the films created by Hollywood. The general criticism is that modern movies don’t necessarily push the envelope like they once did, preferring instead to play it safe rather than risk the wrath of angry parents’ groups and online activists who have a bit too much time on their hands.
Honestly, we don’t exactly think modern moviemakers are really that worried about cancel culture, but we can’t deny that some of the films of yesteryear pushed the envelope in a way that modern movies no longer do. Are you in the mood, then, to check out some classic movie scenes that went too far? Keep reading to find a roundup of our favorite ones!
A Clockwork Orange
The movie A Clockwork Orange serves as a fascinating glimpse into the life and lifestyle of violent youths being led by Malcolm McDowell. If you make it through to the credits, you’ll see that Stanley Kubrick is delivering an interesting meditation on the nature of violence, masculinity, and identity. But that means making it through scenes like the above, which showcase (and some say glorify) acts of violence and rape on the part of the gang.
It’s difficult to pick a single scene that is most shocking in Pretty Baby because the film stars an underage Brooke Shields playing a 14-year-old prostitute. The movie itself offers an unflinching view of what her unsavory world is like, and many critics and protestors noted at the time that the film’s scenes showing her sexual relationship with other characters bordered on child pornography.
Sometimes, movies are so shocking because they are ahead of their time. This is arguably the case with The Graduate, a movie where scenes of a young man in bed with an older woman were considered shocking to audiences unaccustomed to the idea of such a May/December relationship. These days, however, many use dating apps explicitly to filter their results and give them a chance to meet those who are younger or older than them, making this film less shocking than it once was.
You might not know the movie Promises! Promises! off the top of your head, but it effectively changed the Hollywood landscape forever. That’s because this film was the first movie with sound that featured its star (in this case, the voluptuous Jayne Mansfield) getting nude on screen. Scenes like the above were considered quite shocking, but the popularity of this movie eventually made nudity in films a common occurrence.
Even among hardcore horror fans, the original The Exorcist still holds a special place as one of the scariest movies ever made. Much of this is due to the performance of Linda Blair who, between her spooky makeup and even spookier line delivery, convincingly plays a child possessed by a demon. By the time you get to the scene where she is sexually pleasuring herself with a crucifix, it is genuinely difficult not to look away from the screen.
The original Death Wish is a movie filled with scenes that went too far, including the violent attack that fatally injures Joanna, wife to the main character Paul Kersey (played by Charles Bronson). However, the most shocking scenes were the ones that glorified the grieving husband getting a gun and waging a violent, one-man war on crime. Simply put, violent vigilante vengeance has never looked better than it looks here, and it’s pretty chilling to witness.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another film where it’s difficult to pick which scene went the furthest when it comes to shocking us. Ultimately, we have to go with the final scene, in which the fearsome Leatherface very nearly kills his final victim and joyfully dances in the air as she escapes. Not only does the ending emphasize that this horrific evil is still alive and well, but this ending helped establish the familiar horror trope of “the final girl” who narrowly escapes the villain’s clutches at the end.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was essentially made to tease and titillate audiences, so it’s no surprise that the movie is filled with scenes that some would say went too far. This includes scenes that reveal that Dr. Frank-N-Furter is serving the murdered Eddie to his dinner guests. But probably the most shocking scenes involve Frank-N-Furter pretending to be Janet and Brad in order to sleep with both of them, which effectively helped to normalize bisexuality during a time of extreme sexual repression.
Blazing Saddles is filled with scene after scene that, frankly, could never be made today. But the best example of this, and the scene that always makes us laugh, involves Gene Wilder explaining the stupidity of the racist people around them to Cleavon Little. It’s tough to not laugh at the “you know, morons” bit (an unscripted addition that really did crack Little up onscreen), just as it’s tough not to realize that Wilder’s speech, essentially coming from a perspective of white guilt, would be seen as too preachy for modern audiences.