6 films that broke sexual taboos


As The Feed on SBS2 wraps up its Taboo week tonight, we thought we’d look at six films that broke the ultimate film Taboo: sex. Sure, you can blow someone’s head up and depict violence in a realistic manner – but the minute there is nudity, or sex, the censor board has a field day. Now most of the time, in today’s age where sex is just a mouse click away, this goes by un-noticed. It gets an R rating, and adults see it anyway. But sometimes the makers deliberately push the taboo to its limit, often resulting in the film getting banned – or at the very least dealing with the threat of it. These six films are such examples, sometimes brilliant, always controversial:

Ken Park (2002)

The age of consent is a blurred line in the mind of Larry Clark, who constantly churns out films featuring young kids doing some very adult stuff; and it’s always brutally realistic. Suicide, threesomes, murder, even autoerotic asphyxiation. Ken Park is perhaps Clark’s most controversial one, having been banned upon release and causing quite a stir for it’s rather graphic sex scenes involving minors. Unlike Clark’s film Kids, the film hasn’t gone on to reach a cult status, but it certainly sits as a perfect example of a director who’s willing to push the taboo to its limits.

Caligula (1979)

Released in 1979, Caligula remains banned in some countries today, being a movie that was one of the first Western films to feature unsimulated sex scenes, scenes of actual ejaculation, and more orgies than you can count. It’s an excessive display of gratuitous sex and surely raised the ire of many during its time.

Fun fact: The movie stars a young Malcolm McDowell.

A Serbian Film (2010)

Is nothing sacred? This 2010 Serbian thriller about a retired porn actor violently coerced into partaking in snuff films amongst other, highly disturbing things, is understandably highly controversial. It’s a very difficult movie to watch, set out to make the viewer uncomfortable with scenes depicting lewd acts on newborn babies, incestuous rape, and murder all in the name of money. The protagonist of the film mirrors our disgust of many of the acts, but even he isn’t enough to ground the abhorrent things you see in Srdan Spasojevic’s debut feature film.

Baise-Moi (2000)

This French film has almost become a Taboo in its own right because it’s widely considered as a pretty average film. In Australia, the film was released with an R18+ rating, but then was banned shortly after… and is still banned to this day. However an edited version was made available. The film features two women who go on a 77 minutes violent, sex fueled spree. There’s murder, gang-rape, attempted suicides… it’s a wild ride. But ultimately considered a fairly pointless one.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)

This film sits at the opposite end of the spectrum as Baise-Moi. Also from the French, the  three hour film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and is widely considered something of a masterpiece, albeit a controversial one. Released as La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 in its native tongue, the film documents what happens when a 15 year old girl meets a college student, as she is coming to terms with her own sexuality, realising she’s attracted to those of the same sex. The taboo is obviously that a young girl has a relationship with an older women – and the film is full of sex and nudity from the pair. But this never feels unnecessary. It’s a taboo in every way, but treated delicately, and ultimately telling a fairly typical story: a coming-of-age romance. The start, the middle and the end of a passionate, maturing love.

Hard Candy (2005)

Featuring Ellen Page in her breakthrough role, a 14 year old girl meets a 32 year old man, who she then leads into a trap to punish him for his sickness as a “pedophile, child rapist and murderer”. It throws the taboo of pedophilia in another direction, which is why we thought it should make this list. It doesn’t show the girl as the victim, but rather as the one in control of the situation. It was a controversial film for obvious reasons, but a fairly brave one at that and one that makes the viewer question what is right, what is wrong and how the actions of Page’s character Hayley Stark fits into the equation.


For more on the topic of Taboo, watch The Feed tonight on SBS2 from 7.30pm! The Feed screens Monday to Thursday.

This article was written by Chris Singh and Larry Heath


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.