4 Hollywood movies banned by China
While China enjoys a vibrant local film industry, the nation also loves a great Hollywood blockbuster. Over the past two decades, many movies have enjoyed positive reception in China. Franchises such as Marvel, The Fast and The Furious, and Transformers all enjoy popularity in Chinese cinemas.
However, only 34 foreign films may be released in China each year unless the studio pays a flat-fee to override that limit. While studios benefit financially from the Chinese market, not every film passes the country’s censors, especially those that contain heavy violence, nudity, or ghosts.
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Some movies are altered to appease censors. References to torture by Chinese forces, including Bond shooting a man in Shanghai, as well as references to prostitution in Macau were cut from Skyfall. References to a villain’s Russian roots were removed in Chinese subtitles for Iron Man 2. Hacksaw Ridge, The Shape of Water, and Logan all were amended to remove violence or nudity in their Chinese versions.
But the struggle for censorship-free cinema continues. These are just the latest movies banned from Chinese theaters for political or religious reasons.
1. Christopher Robin
After Chinese media compared President Xi Jinping to Winnie The Pooh, China banned images of the character. When Disney brought the character onto the silver screen in the live-action Christopher Robin, Chinese censors denied the film a release. While other sources argued that the reason could be competition with other blockbusters, China blocked HBO for poking fun at the Pooh comparisons just shortly before the film’s release.
Paramount had hopes to bring Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic onto the Chinese mainland. The idea was to focus on the film’s “environmental message” and impressive computer-generated imagery. Aronofsky was even set to promote Noah there and a state-run news agency covered the film. The agency, Xinhua News, praised Noah saying it included “environmental protection, peace, human nature, kindness and evil, and redemption messages,” and that it would “bring lots of surprise to Chinese audiences.” But the censors wouldn’t let the film pass. A source told The Hollywood Reporter that the ban was for religious reasons. Another faith-based Paramount film, the 2016 reboot of Ben-Hur, had trouble with censors. While Ben-Hur was released in China, all references to Jesus were removed.
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3. The Departed
Even though the Scorsese film The Departed is based on Infernal Affairs, a Hong Kong thriller trilogy, the American film adaptation didn’t make it into the mainland’s cinemas. Part of film’s plot surrounds Chinese agents buying a military computer chip. To the censors, this seemed to imply Chinese aggression.
4. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
While the 2001 adaptation of Tomb Raider was released in China, its sequel didn’t get the same approval. The film, partly set in China, included “malicious intention” (according to a Chinese official). The official went on to say that in China there “cannot be secret societies.” Over a decade later however, the reboot starring Alicia Vikander opened strong in the country.
The Future of Film and Censorship in China
China continues to remain a big player for Hollywood, as new cinemas are built and Hollywood’s biggest films can receive a significant box office boost from Chinese screenings. Censors will continue to play a big role in this process. Appeasing both them and China’s moviegoers by working with Chinese companies and shooting in the country is an ongoing process.