Good Movies Banned in Burma

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I’m fascinated by the subject of movie censorship in general, but also by the movies that wind up being censored. As part of the aforementioned fascination, this article is dedicated to an examination of some of the good movies banned in Burma (also known as Myanmar).

This country located in Southeast Asia doesn’t guarantee freedom of the press or freedom of speech, and everything from cartoons to newspaper advertisements must be approved by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division of the Ministry of Information. The requirements are especially stringent in Burma, too, as indicated by their ranking of 170 out of 172 by the worldwide press freedom index (as of 2008).

Over the years, the film industry has seen increasing government oversight. It was privatized in 1989, with the company known as Mingalar becoming the major player. Sadly, many native actors and directors who were involved in political activities have been banned from working in Burmese cinema.

But for those of you who live outside of Burma, you can watch these censored films as many times as you wish. Netflix carries all of them, as well as motion pictures banned in other countries. All you have to do is become a Netflix member to start enjoying the over 100,000 films in their library. We do get a small commission if you sign up, but it all goes right back into our site (and there’s not a damn thing the government of Myanmar can do about it).

300 (2007) – Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, this stylized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae pits 300 fanatical Spartans led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) against the one million troops of Persian ruler Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The result is a chest-pumping testosterone-fest from director Zach Snyder that incorporates bizarre giants, war elephants, mask-wearing warriors, and a hunchback with a nifty hat.

Saturday Night Fever (1977) – I don’t know if the Burmese government had a problem with John Travolta portraying a Brooklyn youth who finds his release through dancing, or maybe it was the fact that the Bee Gees were featured prominently on the soundtrack. Either way, one of Gene Siskel’s all-time favorites became just another good movie banned in Burma.

United 93 (2006) – Paul Greengrass directs this look at the doomed journey of United Airlines Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked and later crashed during the 9/11 attacks. A tense film from start to finish, it underscores the pain and suffering felt by an entire nation on that fateful day. It’s also notable as the first feature film in Hollywood to directly deal with the September 11th attacks.

Scarface (1983) – Al Pacino became an icon among rappers by portraying a Cuban criminal who washes up on the shores of America and slowly builds a cocaine empire. The drug-fueled shootout at the end is the stuff of cinematic legends, as is the scene involving a chainsaw. Directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone, the film originally received an X-rating for graphic violence, over-the-top drug use, and frequent uses of the f-word. Co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, Steven Bauer, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) – Steven Spielberg redefined war films with his sepia-toned and ultra-violent tribute to the fighting men of World War II. Tom Hanks leads a squad a men sent into enemy territory to retrieve a soldier (Matt Damon) whose three brothers have all been killed in combat. This leads to a series of bonding moments interrupted by intense (and graphic) fighting. Co-starring Ed Burns, Tom Sizemore, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, and Jeremy Davies.

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Zoolander (2001) – Ben Stiller delivers one of his more memorable performances as Derek Zoolander, a vacuous male model who’s brainwashed into becoming an assassin. Owen Wilson plays his male model rival, Christine Taylor is the love interest, and Will Ferrell is the villain (as well as inventor of the keyboard necktie). It’s not the traditional comedy, but those looking for something different will be pleased. Fans of celebrity cameos will enjoy appearances from David Bowie, Paris Hilton, Vince Vaughn, Garry Shandling, Gwen Stefani, Donald Trump, Natalie Portman, and many more. And wait until you see “Magnum” in all its glory.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) – War movies with a message seem to be among the most banned films in Burma, and this Stanley Kubrick set during the Vietnam War is no exception. From boot camp under a brutal drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey) to senseless death in Southeast Asia, this anti-war tale is punctuated by quotable dialogue, memorable characters, and touches of dark comedy throughout. Starring Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Adam Baldwin.

Sin City (2005) – Robert Rodriguez adapted the Frank Miller comic books for the big screen, and numerous scenes were reproduced shot-for-shot. Add in a series of digital backlots, and you’ve got one of the more original-looking movies to come down the pipe in years. Three hard-boiled tales of crime and corruption are told by an all-star cast including Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Elijah Wood, Mickey Rourke, Benecio del Toro, and Carla Gugino. Think of it like a pulp novel come to life…only bloodier.

Catch-22 (1970) – Adapted from the work of author Joseph Heller, this anti-war dark comedy stars Alan Arkin as Captain Yossarian, a bomber pilot stationed in the Mediterranean during WWII. Tired of the all the death and virtual suicide missions, and unable to get himself released on mental grounds, Yossarian plots his escape. Co-starring Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Jon Voight, Orson Welles, Martin Sheen, and Martin Balsam.

Three Kings (1999) – Comedy and drama collide in this tale of four U.S. military personnel (George Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and Spike Jonze) who set out to steal a fortune in gold at the end of the Persian Gulf War. There’s plenty of violence and anti-war commentary, so don’t expect a laugh riot. Do, however, expect a damned inventive motion picture.

I hope this list of good movies banned in Burma has served as an eye-opening experience of sorts. If you live in a free country, just glance back over the list above and think about how good you’ve got it. For those who need additional proof, head on over to Netflix and become a member. Chances are that most of the films you come across aren’t permitted in Myanmar.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 2:42 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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