Think of your favorite movie. A bunch of lovely memories come to mind, right? Now, allow us to ruin them.
We are sorry to say that the films you love have truly not aged well. Did you block out these problematic moments?
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
For the most part, the time-traveling heroes at the center of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure are goofy, rockin’ boys. Except when stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter use a certain homophobic slur. And it occurs often, including when the characters hug each other or when they want to insult others.
A fan asked Winter what he felt about the film’s homophobia. Winter’s response? “It speaks to the insensitivity of those times, that none of us are proud of. And certainly don’t intend to repeat.” The third film in the franchise, Bill & Ted Face the Music, comes out in August 2020.
We all remember the iconic moments of Clint Eastwood’s action hero. That scowl. That description of a .44 magnum. That challenge to make his day. But what we often forget about Dirty Harry is his casual racism and borderline fascism.
We’re not sure we’re feeling lucky anymore, punk.
In the film, we watch as hardboiled detective Harry Callahan threatens black criminals with stereotypical dialects. We watch as he makes jokes about his partner’s ethnicity. We watch him deliver unlawful acts of violence under the guise of “justice.” And we walk away feeling dirty enough to need a shower.
Animal House is a college comedy remembered best as a collection of set pieces. The food fight in the cafeteria. The smashing of the guitar. The non-consensual spying on an unclothed woman.
Wait a minute, what was that last one?
In that snooping scene, John Belushi turns to the camera and gives a knowing look, implicating us in the enjoyment of his crime. Later, a devil and angel appear on the shoulders of Tom Hulce as he debates what to do to a sleeping woman.
You know what? Expel these creeps.
Revenge of the Nerds
It’s a classic tale of David triumphing over Goliath. Revenge of the Nerds acts as a bit of wish fulfillment, a 1984 college-set fable of smart outcasts beating the dumb, beefy jocks. One of the ways our heroic nerds “win”? By committing a disgusting crime.
At a Halloween party, nerd Lewis (Robert Carradine) dresses in jock Stan’s (Ted McGinley) costume, and has sex with Stan’s girlfriend Betty (Julia Montgomery). This is a literal depiction of a deceptive, criminal felony, made all the more miserable when Betty winds up staying with Lewis based on that encounter.
In case his stereotypical accent, low status, and accompanying “gong” sound effect isn’t enough to tip you off, the Sixteen Candles character Long Duk Dong is very racist. Actor Gedde Watanabe does what he can, but John Hughes’ creation is fundamentally problematic, affecting Asian-Americans for generations to come.
If that’s not enough cringe for you, how about when Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) “gives away” a passed out, intoxicated Caroline (Haviland Morris) to Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), telling him, “She’s so blitzed she won’t know the difference”? When she wakes up, it’s implied that “something” she doesn’t remember happened.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Remember this song? “And I said, ‘What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s’? She said, ‘I think I remember that film, and as I recall I think we both kind of liked it.’”
If ‘90s band Deep Blue Something took a second, they would realize they shouldn’t “kind of like it.”
Beloved Hollywood star Mickey Rooney plays a Japanese landlord named Mr. Yunioshi. Rooney is, well, not Japanese. And his broadly accented performance, aided by offensive makeup and prosthetic teeth, is astonishingly offensive. Producer Richard Shepherd has since apologized for the decision.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen play Mortal Kombat together. They volley the same question back and forth: “You know how I know you’re gay?” The answers traffic in various stereotypes and offensive ideas. And 2005 audiences laugh, not realizing how badly The 40-Year-Old Virgin is missing the mark.
That’s not the only casually regressive moment in the Steve Carell comedy. At one point, his friends hire him a prostitute to “help” his virginity, but they don’t realize the person they’ve hired is trans. Everyone reacts with disgust, and Rudd even uses a slur to describe the person.
West Side Story (1961)
Incredible dancing! White actors in brownface! Luxurious music! White actors in brownface! An update of Romeo and Juliet that stands the test of time! White actors in brownface that absolutely do not stand the test of time!
Needless to say, watching the classic West Side Story film adaptation is… complicated.
West Side Story involves a white gang, the Jets, a Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, and the doomed love story between Jet Tony and Shark Maria. Hollywood legend Natalie Wood, decidedly not Puerto Rican, plays Maria, and the makeup they use on her is really something to behold.
It ain’t a Quentin Tarantino movie without controversy.
The rebellious director of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and Django Unchained loves to poke around cultural hornet’s nests. But in Pulp Fiction, a movie many consider to be his best, one scene went too far.
Tarantino plays a homeowner bombarded by hitmen John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson with a dead body in a car. When he describes the dead body, Tarantino uses the N-word freely.
Wow — did the white writer-director cast himself so he could drop some racist slurs and get away with it?
In the 1980s, America loved seeing Russians get punished on screen, because the countries were in the middle of the nuclear-destruction-threatening Cold War. So when Rambo III was released, no one batted an eye when Sylvester Stallone did what he had to do to defeat those nasty Soviets.
Rambo basically teams up with the Taliban. You know, the guerilla organization responsible for one of the biggest terrorist attacks committed on American soil? Rambo and the Taliban join forces to defeat the Soviets. And frankly, it is odd to watch an American icon like John Rambo help “the enemy.”
Bring It On
Brrr, it’s cold in here, there must be some elements of a classic 2000s teen comedy that were fun and edgy then but are super problematic now in the atmosphere!
What we’re trying to say is, Bring It On gets a lot of things wrong.
It’s chock full of casual homophobia. Sparky Polastri, a flamboyant choreographer played by a straight actor, uses a slur toward neurodiverse people. High school girls are alternately body-shamed and sexualized. A male cheerleader gropes a female cheerleader publicly during a routine. And its views on race are… simplistic at best.
In one scene of Billy Madison, Adam Sandler’s surreal comedy classic where an adult goes back to school, a child asks Billy to inappropriately touch the teacher. Billy responds, “That’s assault, brother.” Pretty progressive!
But then, he continues: “Do you double dare me?” So close, and yet so far.
Let’s not forget Juanita, Billy’s maid. She’s played with comedic charisma by Theresa Merritt, a legendary, Tony-nominated actor. But the character comes dangerously close to harmful stereotypes about the oversexualization of black women, particularly in jobs like “being a maid to annoying, wealthy white people.”
Gone With the Wind
Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Gone With the Wind. It was 1940, and it was the first time an African-American had won an Oscar. However, her role of Mammy has been later regarded as regressive, overly doting toward white people, and destructive toward positive representation.
Another scene is unambiguously terrifying to modern eyes. Rhett (Clark Gable) forces himself on Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), despite her saying, “No.” But Rhett literally picks her up and takes her to their room anyway.
In the next scene, Scarlett seems satisfied — a dangerous conflation of criminal activity and romance.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
No, it’s not problematic to talk out of your butt — so long as you ask everybody first. And yes, many of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective continues to be a pleasingly zany showcase of Jim Carrey’s comedic talents. But one plot twist crosses the line and thensome.
“Finkle is Einhorn! Einhorn is Finkle!”
In this oft-quoted line, Ace Ventura finds out Sean Young’s character is trans… then heaves in disgust. When he later outs her to a group of men, they have similar reactions. At least in the sequel, Ace… goes to Africa to be a white savior?!
Perhaps surprisingly, we don’t really find an issue with the scene American Pie gets its title from. Watching Jason Biggs “get acquainted” with a pie before Eugene Levy interrupts him is earnestly funny and weirdly sweet.
Watching Jason Biggs film a nude woman without her consent is less so.
Shannon Elizabeth broke through as Nadia, an exotic exchange student. And what did she get for her troubles? A sequence where she is filmed, without her knowledge, undressing. Adding insult to injury — her character is deported, as a result of… being a victim to Biggs’ predatory impulses?
“Summer lovin’, had me a blast.” Aw! That’s nice! The high schoolers of musical classic Grease are having some good ol’ classic American fun! What are the rest of the lyrics of this song?
“Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?” Aw! That’s… not nice!
Putting aside predatory lyrics in cute love songs, the fundamental lesson of Grease is troubling. At its core, it’s a love story between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John that proves romance is possible for anyone — so long as the woman radically changes her entire persona to please the man.
Woof. Where do we even begin with Love Actually, the British Christmas romcom mainstay? Well, we could talk about its constant fat-shaming. Its inherent racism and exploitation of power dynamics in Colin Firth’s story with a housekeeper.
Or, we could dissect what’s arguably its most famous image.
Andrew Lincoln shows up at Keira Knightley door to confess his love via cue cards. Pushy, uncomfortable, entitled, “revealing-himself-to-be-a-stalker” cue cards. We’re supposed to find it all just so cute. But it’s not cute. And when Knightley gives him a kiss, exactly what he wanted, it’s toxic, actually.
In Best Picture-winning American Beauty, Wes Bentley’s Ricky watches video of a plastic bag in the wind, calling it “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever filmed.” Conversely, American Beauty might be one of the ugliest things ever filmed.
And scarily, it thinks it’s beautiful.
Beyond the annoyance of having to watch a privileged white guy kvetch and moan for two hours, Lester Holt is fundamentally a hero whose change is motivated by being a predator of an underage child.
Further complicating this? The horrifying allegations against Holt’s performer, Kevin Spacey.
Is it actually okay for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson to crash all the weddings they crash in Wedding Crashers? Maybe, maybe not. But beyond the 2005 comedy’s broad and vulgar set pieces, one sequence shocks and discomforts any modern viewer.
Isla Fisher plays Gloria, a character obsessed with Vaughn’s Jeremy. One night, Gloria ties Jeremy up and violates him. We’re supposed to laugh at this image of a woman behaving predatory toward a man — Owen Wilson certainly does. But it’s just disturbing, especially when Gloria and Jeremy wind up together.
Sandra Bullock is a charm machine. It’s impossible for someone to not find something to like in her performances. And Miss Congeniality, the comedy about an FBI agent undercover at a beauty pageant, is the perfect Bullock showcase.
Well, maybe not “perfect,” exactly.
The film has a frustratingly regressive view on gender. Women are either ugly and smart, not deserving attention. Or pretty and dumb, not deserving attention. Plus, Bullock herself makes some gross body-shaming jokes about eating disorders, “quipping” that one contestant will throw up a meal.
A woman suffers from amnesia after a traumatic head energy. Do you:
A) Help her seek medical attention.
B) Tell her she’s your wife for some cockamammie revenge scheme and eventually brainwash her to fall in love with you.
If you guessed A, congrats, you’re normal! If you guessed B…
…you might be the producers of 1987 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell comedy Overboard. Real life couple Hawn and Russell do their best to let their movie star charms save the material, but yikes and wowzers, is it creepy throughout. The 2018 gender-flipped remake does little to amend the film’s flaws.
She’s All That
Rachael Leigh Cook fully rules. And in She’s All That, her character Laney fully rules. She’s a tough, independent, talented artist whose unconventional attitudes appealingly disrupt what we’re used to seeing in high school comedies.
So, like, why does she have to change?
Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Zack originally pursues Laney as part of a bet. But when he actually falls for her, shouldn’t that render the need for Laney to change unnecessary? And yet, the film ends with Laney undergoing a conventional, sanitized makeover, finally earning the love of her peers.
The Silence of the Lambs
It’s terrifying, critically-acclaimed, and likely tanked the stock of Chianti wine manufacturers. It’s The Silence of the Lambs, the story of an FBI agent who teams up with a cannibal to foil a serial killer. But for the trans community, it may have done more harm than good.
Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) is a monstrous killer who wants to make a “woman suit”. We also watch him wear women’s clothing, apply makeup, and obscure his private parts so he appears more feminine. It’s not hard to argue this film’s viewing of trans identities as “creepy” and “evil.”
Thanks to a spooky Zoltar machine, young Josh Baskin gets his wish and gets Big, growing up into a handsome, charming-as-all-get-out Tom Hanks. Everyone remembers that he plays “Heart and Soul” on a giant piano.
But do you remember the super icky relationship he undertakes?
Elizabeth Perkins plays Susan Lawrence, an executive at the toy company. She is attracted to grown-up Josh because, again, handsome Tom Hanks. And they undergo a “rendezvous.” But… um… he’s still technically a kid. Right? Did we all root for a fundamentally illegal, immoral relationship?
Many controversies impeded Blade Runner, the Harrison Ford sci-fi-noir cult classic. Its original ending was obscured, a reluctant Ford voiceover was hastily added by a nervous studio, and there are approximately 9,000 versions of the film on blu-ray.
Among these oddities, though, everyone overlooks one questionable scene.
Ford’s love interest is Rachael, a cyborg played by Sean Young. In one scene, Ford’s Rick Deckard tries to kiss her. Rachael makes her nonconsent known by trying to leave. And Deckard physically restrains her, forcing a kiss.
Is there any version of the film where Deckard’s not a creep?
The Breakfast Club
“Don’t you forget about me.” That iconic Simple Minds song plays, Judd Nelson raises his fist in the air, and The Breakfast Club puts an exclamation point on ‘80s teen cinema.
But did you forget about the not-so-simple relationship between Nelson’s John Bender and Molly Ringwald’s Claire Standish?
In one scene, John literally puts his head into Claire’s lap without her permission. And the entire “club” covers for him, making noises to hide any shenanigans from Assistant Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason). Later, Ringwald expressed regret for this scene, and that the two characters still wind up together.
The supposed lesson of Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire’s big-screen debut of the arachnid superhero, is that with great power comes great responsibility.
Unfortunately, that platitude’s web doesn’t seem to cover Mary Jane Watson, played with charm by Kirsten Dunst. MJ gets a raw deal in this flick.
From nearly her first introduction, MJ is objectified and fetishized. Other boys talk about her leeringly. Maguire’s Peter Parker creepily obsesses over her, snooping on her with a camera without her knowledge. And later, her only character development seems to be “Now I love Spider-Man.”
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was banned in India upon release. Why? Because it’s also a temple of racism.
Indians don’t eat monkey brains, nor any of the other gross items featured. Plus, the filmmakers took real Hindu gods of peace and made them represent simplistic evil.
Also — we have to talk about Short Round.
Indy’s sidekick, played by Jonathan Ke Quan, is a young Chinese boy who speaks in a clipped, thick accent. His lines, like “Hold on to your potatoes,” are Long Duk Dong-level silly. He is yet another example of flawed Hollywood representation.
In modern eyes, the very silly, very charming 2001 comedy Legally Blonde has become a bit of a feminist classic. Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods is a woman who doesn’t change who she is to get what she wants.
Unfortunately, Woods reaches this satisfying conclusion using hurtful gay stereotypes.
Woods reasons that her female client couldn’t have been an affair with a man, because that man correctly named Woods’ shoes as Prada, which must make him gay. Then, the man is outed in court! And this is all treated as a win! What a world!
Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
If you haven’t seen Adventures in Babysitting, we can sum it up simply. A bunch of suburban white children get caught up in a series of “inner city shenanigans” trying to find their white friend.
In other words — Black America is scary, and White America needs to be rescued.
Pretty much every black person in the film is a criminal. And if they’re not, they’re a bunch of strange blues bar patrons who force our white heroes into singing the blues. And when our white heroes sing the blues, it is as awkward and cringe-inducing as you can imagine.
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