Hollywood in the ’80s, ’90s, and even early ’00s was not as progressive as it is now. Films that encouraged racial stereotypes, had homophobic messages, and were just overall icky somehow slipped through the cracks and into theaters. The list goes on and on, but these nine movies are particularly awful. And, one thing is certain, they’d never get made today. (Thank God for that.)
Soul Man (1986)
Brace yourselves for this one. In order to get money for college, a white student pretends to be black and qualify for a minority scholarship. As in… he wears actual black-face. And this was marketed as a comedy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why this movie sucks.
The Toy (1982)
Alright, let me break this one down for you. A spoiled white boy is allowed to pick anything out from his rich father U.S. Bates’ (Jackie Gleason) toy store. Instead of going with like a teddy bear, he requests to have Jack Brown (played by Richard Pryor), a black man working in the store. Bates ends up offering Jack a large amount of change for him to become his son’s live-in friend. This is basically slavery tied up in a pretty bow.
Birth of a Nation (1915)
Birth of a Nation is frequently placed atop the most offensive/controversial films of all time, and for good reason. In a post-Civil War era, black men rise to power and pass laws that grant interracial marriages and make it mandatory for white people to salute African Americans in office. So, the Ku Klux Klan comes in and saves the day (?!?) by burning crosses and lynching people. That’s right: The KKK members are framed as heroes. Even worse is that this picture was originally titled The Clansmen and it was used as a KKK recruiting tool. GTFO with this.
In this buddy film, a straight cop and his newly assigned gay work partner go undercover as a couple to determine who is killing homosexual men in Los Angeles. An interesting premise, but what you get is more banal stereotypes — the film’s slogan is “Benson is a cop who wants to clean up the streets…His partner just wants to redecorate” — and the ridiculous assertion that gay men can’t work with straight men without an unrequited romantic undertone. The New York Post dubbed it “stupid, tasteless” and “sleazy.”
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)Paramount Pictures
While this film as a whole is classic, the problem lies with Mickey Rooney, a white actor, playing an Asian character named Mr. Yunioshi. With buck teeth and a caked-on accent, it seems like the filmmakers weren’t even trying to be politically correct. And it doesn’t age well at all.
Famed critic Roger Ebert called the movie “racist trash” when it came out, and that’s a pretty accurate description. Love between a male slave and a white woman, and a female slave and a white man create problems that lead to the main African American character Mede getting boiled alive in hot water. It’s a despicable film that harkens on old, gross stereotypes. We can’t believe it was made even in 1975.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
It’s pretty common knowledge that Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic, so him making a movie about Jesus was perplexing at first. However, after you watch the gratuitous and graphic violence Mel uses to depict Jesus’ crucifixion, it makes sense. It’s unnecessary and so jarring that one reviewer called it a “snuff film.”
Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to 2006’s Borat was a cheap exploration into every gay stereotype imaginable. From the hyper-sexuality to the Sex and the City references, Sacha’s portrayal of gay men is incredibly narrow and, for that reason, infuriating.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007)
In order to commit insurance fraud, Adam Sandler, the most offensive actor on Earth, and Kevin James enter a domestic partnership. Rampant with homophobia and gay stereotypes on the most extreme levels, this film would not (nor should it) fly today.