In this modern day and age, being aware of one’s culture and respecting diversity is now a standard norm. People have learned to be more progressive and sensitive, so some jokes which used to be acceptable before are now considered inappropriate.
Here, we list some films made prior to the socio-cultural awareness age, and therefore may appear insensitive. Keep scrolling to find out why they would be deemed controversial if made today.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This Walt Disney Pictures’ 1996 animation film centered around a person with a hunchback at the Notre Dame cathedral. The main focus? His struggles to be accepted into society. With Disney producing more family-friendly content nowadays to appeal to a younger audience, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is ill-fitting to the said classification. It explores mature themes like infanticide, genocide, lust, and damnation, all dark narratives that are not suitable for children.
A coming-of-age comedy drama film, Jack is about a man who ages faster than normal because of Werner Syndrome, a kind of progeria. Today, the mere idea of having physical deformities as the subject of comedy narrative would be highly condemned. Deformity and disability are human conditions that no one should make fun of.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
This musical horror film is about a young couple whose car broke down and sought refuge by a castle primarily managed by Dr. Frank Furter, a mad scientist and a transvestite. While Frank was a transformative icon for the LGBTQ+ community, he was also a sexual predator who took advantage of his power and authority. Moreover, he had an extremist personality in which he killed anyone who displeased him, and that would surely be frowned upon today.
The Little Mermaid
Disney’s The Little Mermaid tells the story of the mermaid princess Ariel, who wished to become human and marry a handsome prince. She later entered a deal with Ursula, a sea witch, who granted her human legs in exchange for her voice. As enchanting as this sounds, contemporary context would show us how sexist and regressive this beloved film is. The way it regards looks as the sole indicator of one’s value is a huge disservice to women. Ursula’s character is also an embodiment of internalized misogyny, whereby her insecurities brought in her hostile behavior toward Ariel.
Jungle 2 Jungle
Jungle 2 Jungle is an American comedy film about commodities broker Michael Cromwell who recently learned about his son raised by his ex-wife in the jungles of Brazil. The movie was critically banned upon release. In today’s standards, we doubt it would get a better rating, especially with its racist stereotypes (i.e. Russians as gangsters) and politically incorrect jokes (NYC cab drivers unable to speak English).
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about a man who created a fun car for his family to enjoy. While the movie was made for children, it also featured scenes that were inappropriate for them such as children kidnapping, shooting and killing, and dancing women in provocative clothes. Such violent themes do not sit well with children in today’s context.
Starring veteran actor Tom Hanks, Big is an 80s fantasy comedy film centered on a teenage boy who wished to be “big” and woke up the following morning finding himself in the body of an adult. The movie was released to critical acclaim, but some scenes would be totally inappropriate for children for today. In particular, Tom Hanks (with the mind of a twelve-year-old boy) falls for an older woman.
Billy Madison attempts to take control of his dad’s money, so he goes back to grade school and high school. The movie received mixed reviews from critics citing the plot as inane and Adam Sandler’s performance as slightly annoying. For starters, his character has little character development throughout the movie, and the movie did not even let his supposed self-redemption materialize. Overall, it’s just slapstick without substance.
Adventures in Babysitting
This 1987 teen comedy film is about a babysitter caught in a series of misadventures with the kids she’s looking after. While it received a PG-13 rating, there were lots of inappropriate references and vulgar language, both of which may no longer fit the rating in today’s standards. In particular, Daryl’s (Anthony Rapp) male gaze at Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller) and Chris’ excessive cursing were already grounds to push the movie’s rating a bit further.
Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
In this film, the Crandell siblings were left alone all summer to a terrifying babysitter after their mother went out of the country. Now, one of the most disturbing points of the film was how the underaged siblings witnessed their babysitter’s untimely demise. What was more alarming was how they ended up conspiring to hide the truth from their mother and decided it’s best to just deliver her nameless body to a mortuary. Death is a serious matter, which might be one reason why this movie likely wouldn’t receive the same PG-13 rating today.
Matt LeBlanc plays a baseball pitcher in the movie alongside Ed, a chimpanzee, who ultimately builds up the team’s confidence. Obviously, the film’s plot is superficial. To have a chimpanzee successfully play baseball might be possible, but to have one surpass the skills of well-trained athletes is a bit delusional.
Mrs. Doubtfire tells the story of a dad desperate to spend time with his custody-bound children. Naturally, he disguised himself as a woman, who then works as a nanny in their mother’s new home. Such a scheme might be considered tasteless today, specifically for the cross-dressing. The film might be considered transphobic, especially to people in the LGBTQ+ community.
Mousehunt is a comedy film about two inheritors determined to increase their fortunes by selling their family house. However, they must first get rid of a mouse, which seemed equally determined to stay where it is. The movie had a lot of excessive use of bad language and violence, which may not be acceptable in today’s PG rating standards. Plus, it involves harming an animal, a topic that is not children friendly.
Based on the children’s book of the same name, Jumanji is a fantasy adventure film centered around siblings Judy and Peter who find a supernatural board game that traps players inside the game. While the movie is supposed to be fun for younger audiences, filmmakers instead added special effects that would be way too grotesque and disturbing to small children. As such, it’s not entirely a kids movie, like it suggests.
In Little Monsters, Brian Stevenson felt isolated in his neighborhood, and it didn’t help that his parents argued all the time. He decides to befriend a monster who converted him into a monster, too.
Keen viewers can recognize the themes of deception and powerplay dynamics in the movie. Brainwashing children to use them for personal concerns is child abuse. It would definitely be inappropriate to have this content made now, especially with the same PG rating.
Blank Check is a comedy film about eleven-year-old Preston who gets his hands on a blank check and instantly becomes a millionaire after cashing it. While the movie succeeded in letting viewers realize that money can’t buy happiness, it also forgot to leave out some ugly parts. Preston, in his short-lived millionaire stint, had a romantic relationship with a 31-year-old bank teller, something that is not only inappropriate but also illegal.
Critics saw American Beauty as a satire of American, middle-class life. Despite being a popular movie back in the day, it remains inappropriate because it’s about a middle-aged man who objectifies a teenage girl. The film highlights the many wrongs of the male gaze.
Adrian Lyne’s 1997 film is an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a professor who preys on his 14-year-old stepdaughter Dolores (Dominique Swain). Of course, child abuse remains a sensitive issue, which is why this film still might not sit right with current audiences.
Entrapment was a 90s film that casted actor Sean Connery as a master thief and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones as an insurance investigator. At the time of filming, Sean Connery was 69 years old, while Catherine Zeta-Jones was 30. The huge age difference between the two raised a few eyebrows at the time, and today it might do the same. Further, the Prime Minister of Malaysia at the time criticized the way Entrapment portrayed his country.
Michael Douglas plays a mid-level executive at a tech company when his new boss, played by Demi Moore, assaults him on her first night in the company. While the film was marketed as an erotic thriller, it still did not change the fact that sexual harassment took place. The scene where Moore seduces Douglas was wrongly treated as an “desirable” moment instead of actual abuse, something that would definitely not sit well in the #MeToo era.
Can’t Buy Me Love
In Can’t Buy Me Love, Ronald uses his $1,000 savings to bribe a popular girl to pretend she’s his girlfriend. Ronald advances his social standing and begins to mistreat to everyone around him by forgetting about his old friends altogether. While the movie might seem funny to some, the act of humiliating someone remains unacceptable.
Junior follows a Dr. Alex Hesse, a male scientist who agrees to undergo pregnancy in his own body as part of a fertility research project. Not only did he get pregnant in the film, but he also successfully delivered a healthy baby girl through C-section.
Obviously, what happened in the movie cannot happen in real life. Junior blatantly ignored biology by including nuances exclusive to pregnancy like morning sickness and cramps. The film disregards the realities of pregnancy, which may not sit very well with women today.
The Hot Chick
In The Hot Chick, teenage Jessica Spencer, switches bodies with an older man. The movie attempts to highlight her switch in a funny light, but it fails. Its jokes and inappropriate language would not be acceptable in today’s standards. Specifically, using “gay” as a derogatory term is inexcusable.
White Chicks follows two disgraced FBI agents who go undercover to protect hotel heiresses from being kidnapping. Despite the film’s popularity, it was highly controversial, too, specifically for its use of “whiteface.” The movie was also packed with gender stereotypes targeted against women.
Me, Myself & Irene
In Me, Myself & Irene, Jim Carrey plays a cop with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Carrey’s character develops a split personality he calls “Hank,” who is violent towards others. The film makes light of mental illness and DID and ultimately dismisses its severity.
The Toy follows the unemployed journalist Jack Brown who is so determined to make ends meet that he willingly agrees to become a toy for Eric. The premise was problematic, as the plot could be seen as approving power dynamics, in which those with wealth could easily manipulate those with less money.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
Another Adam Sandler film to make the list, this one follows two straight NYC firefighters who pretend to be a gay couple in order to receive domestic partner benefits. While the film attempts to point out how religions discriminate against gays, it also treats two men kissing as hilarious and gross. It’s as if I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry tells the audiences gay bashing is okay, which is both offensive and disrespectful.
In Soul Man, a spoiled college student gets admitted to Harvard Law School, but his rich father refuses to pay the tuition. To resolve this, he disguises his appearance so he can qualify for a scholarship exclusive for Black students, a racist act commonly known as “blackface.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) criticized the film saying it used humor to disguise racism. No matter how well-intentioned the producers may have been, the film’s humor was tone-deaf and racially offensive.
This 1974 classic comedy film deals with a corrupt politician, who decides to displace the community keeping him from profiting millions by appointing a Black sheriff. While he initially thought it would anger the townspeople, he would later find out the plan would backfire.
Of course, this movie would be culturally inappropriate today because of how the movie depicts Blacks and Native Americans. The ethnic jokes, vulgarities and overall satirization of Western culture may appear tasteless and insensitive to some.