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10 Blasphemous Movies: ‘Innocence of Muslims’ & More (Photos)

The Innocence of Muslims isn’t the first film to offend people of faith. From The Da Vinci Code to The Life of Brian, movies that raised religious hell.

Clockwise from top left: Youtube.com (2); Everett Collection (2)

Clockwise from top left: Youtube.com (2); Everett Collection (2)

The Innocence of Muslims isn’t the first film to offend people of faith. From The Da Vinci Code to The Life of Brian, movies that raised religious hell.

YouTube

Innocence of Muslims

The 14-minute trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims set off days of rage in the Middle East, including protests in Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, where U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others were killed. Produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (aka “Sam Bacile”) the movie’s trailer depicts the Islamic Prophet Mohammed as a drunk, a womanizer, and a child molester. (In Islam, it is considered blasphemous to depict Muhammad at all, let alone in such an insulting manner.) And Muslims are not the only ones offended by the film—Cindy Lee Garcia, who stars in the movie, told The Hollywood Reporter she and other actors were duped by the filmmaker: “He has a price to pay, this Mr. Bacile, maybe not here on Earth, but he’ll stand before God one day for what he has done.”

Everett Collection

The Da Vinci Code

Long before The Da Vinci Code became a movie starring Tom Hanks, the Dan Brown novel was criticized for being blasphemous for its central plot premise that the Catholic Church had perpetrated a 2,000-year cover-up to hide the fact that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene. The Ron Howard-directed movie was banned in several countries, including Pakistan and the Philippines, where it was deemed “the most pornographic and blasphemous film in history.” But most critics thought the film was God awful. “The Catholic Church has nothing to fear from this film,” Anthony Lane wrote in The New Yorker. “It is not just tripe. It is self-evident, spirit-lowering tripe that could not conceivably cause a single member of the flock to turn aside from the faith.”

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

Say this about South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone—they are equal opportunity offenders. Over the years, Comedy Central cartoon has made fun of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Scientologists, and atheists. So it came as little surprise when their 1999 movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut satirized several religions, and even depicted Saddam Hussein as Satan’s gay lover. But the controversy paid off—the R-rated movie made more than $80 million at the box office and its song “Blame Canada” was nominated for an Oscar.

Everett Collection

The Last Temptation of Christ

Adapting Nikos Kazantzakis’s 1953 novel The Last Temptation of Christ had long been a passion project for Martin Scorsese when he finally made the controversial film in 1988. As in the book, the movie strays from the Gospels and depicts Jesus (played by Willem Defoe) as a man who struggles with fear, doubt, and lust. Perhaps most heretically, the movie also portrays Jesus consummating his marriage to Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey). Before its release, the movie was heavily protested—including several bans by movie chains—and one Christian group even offered to buy every print from Universal and destroy them. For his part, Martin Scorsese said, “I'm a lapsed Catholic. But I am Roman Catholic, there’s no way out of it.”

Everett Collection

The Devils

Considered one of the most blasphemous movies of all time, Ken Russell’s 1971 film The Devils tells the story of an oversexed 17th-century priest and a convent of sexually repressed nuns who are possessed by the Devil. It depicts such outrageous acts as naked nuns sexually assaulting a statue of Jesus and Vanessa Redgrave’s Sister Jeanne masturbating with the charred femur of the martyred priest. The movie received an X rating in the United States and England, was banned in several countries, and to this day has rarely been shown in its original, uncut form.

Everett Collection

Hamlet 2

The idea of a sequel to Hamlet is sacrilegious enough to legions of Shakespeare-philes, but comedian Steve Coogan upped the blasphemy in the 2008 film when he staged a high school production of Hamlet 2, featuring time travel, a bi-curious Laertes, and big production number called “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” And while some called for boycotts of the movie, were the filmmakers really satirizing Christianity or rock musicals about Jesus?

Hail Mary

How blasphemous was Jean-Luc Godard’s 1985 film Hail Mary? It earned the wrath of the pope himself—John Paul II famously denounced it, saying the movie “deeply wounds the religious sentiments of believers.” A modern retelling of the virgin birth, Hail Mary is the story of a young girl who works at a gas station and is informed by her Uncle Gabriel that she will give birth to the son of God. In addition to the controversial religious themes, the movie’s full-frontal nudity offended many Christian groups, but Godard received some retribution when the film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival—a protester threw a cream pie in his face.

Everett Collection

Dogma

Starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as two fallen angels who want to get back into heaven, Kevin Smith’s 1999 movie Dogma had plenty of blasphemy to go around—Chris Rock starred as a 13th disciple named Rufus, Alanis Morissette played God, and the film even questioned just how chaste the Virgin Mary really was. Despite all the protests, when the movie was screened at the Toronto Film Festival, Smith told the audience, “We’re here tonight and lightning has not struck the building. So I guess it’s OK with the Lord.”

Youtube.com

Submission

Theo van Gogh’s 10-minute film, Submission, was considered so blasphemous that it cost the director his life. After the 10-minute movie—which was critical of Islam’s treatment of women—was shown on Dutch television, the filmmaker received numerous death threats, which he ignored. He reportedly told the movie’s screenwriter, “Nobody kills the village idiot.” But on Nov. 2, 2004, three months after Submission aired on television, van Gogh was shot eight times by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch Muslim, who also tried to decapitate him, and with another knife stabbed a five-page letter—complaining that Holland was run by Jews and calling for a jihad against infidels—through van Gogh’s chest. Bouyeri was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Everett Collection

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian

Brian Cohen had the good misfortune to be born on the same night, in the same town, and in the next manger over from Jesus. That’s the simple premise behind Monty Python’s 1979 film The Life of Brian. And it got the movie banned and boycotted around the world. Monty Python tried to embrace the controversy—they took out an ad proclaiming, “So funny it was banned in Norway!”—and even attempted to defend the movie’s religious integrity. John Cleese and Michael Palin famously debated critic Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark on British television. The heated exchange ended with the bishop scolding the Pythons, “You’ll get your thirty pieces of silver.” They received far more than that—The Life of Brian was the fourth highest-grossing movie in Britain in 1979. And the group also got the last laugh—at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, Eric Idle sang the song from Life of Brian’s final scene: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”