I love movie posters. A good teaser will still get me excited for a movie, although I think more often than not they’re something of a lost art now. Posters used to be bold and daring pieces of art, especially for horror movies. They’re what would lead your imagination to run wild as a kid browsing shelves in the video store.
But these posters were also so daring that they used to get themselves into trouble. Many posters were met with outrage, usually from parents and religious groups, but from some other sources that might surprise you as well. And believe it or not, while much rarer now, this has still been known to happen today.
So join me as I look back through some of the best, most outrageous banned movie posters. Some of them were legitimately shocking, some of them were banned for reasons far beyond shock value, but each and every one of them is an interesting piece of history.
The Silent Night, Deadly Night Poster
Silent Night, Deadly Night was one of the most controversial horror films of the 1980s. Parents were outraged against the film’s very existence, even though it was hardly the first movie to feature a killer dressed as Santa. The poster made up for a large part of the outrage. It’s a great, simple, sinister design featuring Santa’s hand reaching out of the chimney, brandishing an ax.
The poster for Saw II originally displayed two severed fingers, which the MPAA were less than excited for. The poster was recalled and replaced with a version that was essentially the same, except that the fingers were enlarged so that you couldn’t tell that they were severed.
Let’s be real, the concept of Teeth was not going to win everyone over on principle. But this inventive X-ray poster left very little to the imagination. It’s not even that graphic or really offensive at all, definitely depicting the uncomfortable topic in a goofy and semi-cartoonish way, but even that was apparently too much for some.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
This poster for Jason Takes Manhattan is pretty harmless. There’s nothing graphic about it, it’s just a very inventive poster that shows Jason slashing his way through the classic “I Heart New York” logo… and that’s the problem. Apparently, that logo is copyrighted and the New York tourism bureau has very specific views on how it should and should not be depicted. Because of them, this poster was recalled and replaced with the Technicolor image of Jason’s mask towering over the city skyline. Which is also a poster that I admittedly love.
The Hills Have Eyes 2
This poster for the Wes Craven co-written sequel to the Hills Have Eyes remake is certainly unsettling, but hardly the most controversial poster of all time. So why was it banned? It’s really hard to say. The MPAA had a problem with an arm dangling out of the body bag, but all the approved version did was replace the arm with two legs. I can’t really see what kind of difference that makes.
The poster for the re-titled Camp Hope prominently featured Jesse Eisenberg. In fact, most of the poster is simply made up of Eisenberg’s face. This one was recalled after the actor himself filed a lawsuit for misrepresentation because he didn’t want to lead viewers astray as he is only in the movie for the duration of a brief cameo done as a favor to the filmmakers.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
One of my favorite posters of all time, the iconic image of the knife through the hockey mask symbolized a true end for the franchise and the death of Jason Voorhees. Unfortunately, the poster was considered too extreme and a version was released that removed the knife altogether. Even in the form of a poster, Jason rose from apparent death. Only fitting, of course, as the movie was anything but The Final Chapter.