An explosive tour de force from one of our greatest filmmakers, Martin Scorsese's long-gestating passion project shares elements with several films on our list: sex, violence, Jesus Christ. But this reimagining of Nikos Kazantzakis' speculative novel about the Son of God's human fallibility easily ascends to the top of our countdown due to the sheer furor it inspired worldwide. Pundits denounced it. The Vatican and numerous Christians took vocal issue with the extended sequence in which Jesus imagines an alternate life for himself (sun-dappled sex scenes included) with the prostitute Mary Magdalene. One French fundamentalist group launched Molotov cocktails into a Paris theater, injuring several patrons. And some countries banned the film sight unseen (it still can't be shown in the Philippines or Singapore). Lost in all the commotion is the film itself: Beautifully performed (especially by Willem Dafoe as Jesus), impeccably shot and scored (Peter Gabriel's propulsive soundtrack is one for the ages), it's the work of a true believer in both movies and mankind.
Brace for impact: The most controversial movies of all time don’t go down easy. Stubbornly, they persist in our cultural memory—these are the films that feel like gauntlets to run. (Don’t expect any Marvel movies.) They contain the most lurid sex scenes, the most gruesome violence, the foulest language. Or at least it was at the time, when popes and cultural watchdogs raised alarms. Even so, some of these films have won Academy Awards and count among the best ever made, despite (or perhaps because of) their inflammatory nature. Ultimately, our list represents cinema at its cutting edge, often literally. It’s not safe for work. Close the door, turn out the lights and fire up the 50 most controversial movies of all time.
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