Recently, the topic of censorship within Malaysia has been buzzing all over social media. It began with the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia, or Lembaga Penapis Filem (LPF), deciding not to allow Disney to air an uncut version of “Lightyear” in local cinemas. This was due to some brief depictions of a same-sex couple on-screen.
Now it seems that Marvel fans will be getting “Thor: Love and Thunder” at a later date, possibly because of the film’s depiction of an LGBTQ character, Valkyrie played by Tessa Thompson. Whether you think it’s a righteous decision or the government stomping on creative freedom, Malaysia has had a long history of heavy regulations when it comes to the film industry.
In fact, over the years, there’s been multiple popular films that have been banned in Malaysian cinemas. And frankly with services like Netflix, HBOGo and Disney+, we never really noticed! Well, we’re here to run down some of the most controversial films that didn’t make the cut pass Malaysian censors. Don’t tell your mom about these ones…
1. Bruce Almighty (2003)
We’ve all got to have a sense humour about the big questions in life. Questions like why is there suffering the world? Where did we come from? Or what if God was one of us? Well, turns out the LPF didn’t quite get the joke when it came to Jim Carrey’s “Bruce Almighty”. A film that sees God, played by Morgan Freeman, imbue his power to Jim Carrey’s Bruce Nolan, a dissatisfied field reporter looking to get ahead in life. Through his hilarious journey in godhood, he realises that he can’t control everything in life and learns to let go. In Islam, visual depictions of God and His Prophets are forbidden as it is believed it will lead to idolatory. Seeing that the majority of Malaysians are Muslims, this heart-warming feel-good film could be seen as blasphemous.
2. Babe (1995)
Who doesn’t love a cute, family-friendly animal film about adventure and friendship? The LPF apparently, seeing that they weren’t fans of “Babe”, a film about a talking pig who tries to prove himself as capable of herding sheep to avoid becoming a farmer’s lunch. Needless to say, the little piggy was portrayed in too positive a light for the LPF’s taste and they felt that having the protagonist be a pig, an animal considered haram in the Islamic faith, might be offensive to Malaysians. Another reason cited was that the pig’s name, Babe sounded too similar to the Malay word…babi? That last reason’s a bit of an odd one.
3. Zoolander (2001)
Okay, so for this one we completely understand why it was banned here…but it is still a pretty darn funny film. So the plot of “Zoolander” follows Ben Stiller’s Derek Zoolander, a bumbling fashion model turned spy, as he uncovers a secret conspiracy to murder the Prime Minister of Malaysia. In the film, Malaysia is depicted as a backward country with sweatshops ran by Asians. Yikes, clearly the LPF weren’t fans of this. That being said, it is pretty hilarious how the filmmakers thought Malaysia was essentially a copy of Thailand and didn’t even bother to represent us correctly. We never had a bald-headed Chinese prime minister, at least to our recollection. The writers should have definitely done their homework before working on the plot.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
If we ever got a censored version of Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”, it would probably be 20- minutes long because this film is insane! It is on a whole other level of depraved madness, and we utterly love it! It’s essentially a film about a bunch of immoral, horny, drug addicts who ran one of the biggest scam factories in the history of Wall Street. If there’s two things the LPF are concerned about they’re depictions of sexualities and drug abuse. We’ve even seen them censor kisses in children’s films. What more this coked up, orgy-filled roller coaster ride through the eyes of Leonard DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. What we wouldn’t give to see the LPF officials faces while going through the entire film. Their jaws must have been on the floor!
5. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
A film about kinky BDSM style sex between a billionaire playboy and a college student. Geez we wonder why the Malaysian censors weren’t exactly feeling this one? Well, LPF Chairman Abdul Halim had some strong words for the film. He described the film as “sadistic” and “not natural”, and that the film was “more pornography than a movie”. He particularly didn’t like the scene when Anastasia was tied to the bed and whipped by Christian Grey. To be fair, the engagement in a BDSM relationship depicted on screen between the two of them were consensual. Moral of the story: the LPF wants you to keep what you do under the sheets away from the big screen.
6. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
As we’ve mentioned earlier, visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and the other prophets of Islam are forbidden. So you can rest assured that the LPF weren’t going to let a chariot-racing, cocky prince, voiced by Val Kilmer, portray one of their most venerated propherts, Moses. And while we completely understand why the LPF would not allow this film for public consumption in cinemas, we’re not going to lie, this film is amazing. This is hands-down one of the most visually stunning animated films we’ve ever seen. The art direction, the music by Hans Zimmer and the story can only be described as masterful. For non-Muslims, we highly recommend giving this film a watch. This is DreamWorks Animation at its peak.
7. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Long before “Lightyear” became a lightning rod for controversy in Malaysia, there was Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain”. A film about the story of two gay cowboys trying navigate through what it means to be masculine cowboys with their LGBT identities. It’s a powerful film about youth, passion and love. One that the LPF certainly did not appreciate due to it going against Islam’s teaching of homosexuality as a sin. In many ways, “Brokeback Mountain” was as much a controversial film for the rest of the world as it was for Malaysia. Many countries like China and the United-Arab Emirates refused to air the film in cinemas. In fact, some American theaters refused as well.
8. Babi (2020)
When it comes satirist, musician and now director, Namewee, there is no shortage of creativity and controversy. Next to perhaps Fahmi Reza, Namewee is by far the most famous (or infamous) advocate for free speech in Malaysia. Which is why it came as no surprise when the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) decided not only that his 2020 film “Babi” would not be screened in Malaysian theaters but that Namewee himself is guilty of criminal charges. The film is a gripping high school drama film that discusses the dark realities of living in Malaysia and the effects that Malaysia’s New Economic Policy (NEP) has had on the lives of racial minorities. Ironically, Namewee’s film gained international acclaim but was reviled in its own native country. Love him or hate him, you got to admit that the man has guts!
9. The Danish Girl (2015)
Now here’s the strange thing, for a while there actually were posters of “The Danish Girl” in cinemas prior to its release. We suppose the LPF finally got around to watching the film and realised that Eddie Redmayne didn’t have a twin sister, he WAS the Danish Girl, Einar Wegener, a married Danish man who longs to embrace his identity as a transgendered woman, Lili Ebbe. This is the story of one of the first sex-reassignments surgery in recorded history. As you have noticed, the LPF tends to have a rather conservative heteronormative view of human sexuality. Hence we never got a chance to see “The Danish Girl” in Malaysian theaters.
10. Schindler’s List (1993)
Now this is one of the rare few cases when a nation banning a film they see as controversial, is itself deemed controversial by the international community. Now there were a number of reasons why the LPF felt this film depicting the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany faced during the Holocaust was inappropriate for public consumption. From nudity to violence to graphic scenes of tortures. Those reasons are somewhat understandable. However, in a letter sent to the distributors of the film, the LPF stated that the film was “propaganda with the purpose of asking for sympathy”. Regardless of what you think of the state of Israel and its war crimes, we can all agree that the Holocaust was a terrible event and that no one deserves that kind of fate. Till this day, it remains arguably the most controversial decision made by the LPF with some countries accusing Malaysia of being anti-Semitic.
So what do you think of all these films? Have you watched any of them? Be sure to let us know in the comments!