The Controversial Subject of A Clockwork Orange

Updated on May 25, 2018
Katie Newbery profile image

I have always had a passion for movies as I spend most of my days watching them and ranting about them, so why not share my opinions online?

The history of A Clockwork Orange and the controversy surrounding it.

A Clockwork Orange was released in 1971, which was nine years after the book it is based on was published. The film was initially released with an age rating of X with no cuts, so it was only available to adults over the age of 18 due to the movies high levels of violence. Because of the fact the film was said to add to the debate about violence in 1960s Britain, it was not seen as being completely unacceptable.

However, many members of the public stated that they were concerned that young people would copy the crimes carried out in the movie by the main character, Alex, because of his love for breaking the law. Some people even went on to say that the film did cause many copy-cats of crime after watching it, but this was rarely backed up because the offences committed could not always be directly linked to the viewing of A Clockwork Orange. However, the film was linked to the murder of an elderly drifter by a 16 year old boy in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, who pleaded guilty after telling police that friends had told him of the film "and the beating up of an old boy like this one", which constituted for the film to be banned. This desire for the film to be banned was supported even more when a woman was raped and her attackers sung “Singin’ in the Rain” as “Singin’ in the Rape”, which was featured in the film.

Because of the explicit sex and violence, The National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures rated it C, "Condemned", a rating which banned Roman Catholics from seeing the film. In 1982, the Office abolished the "Condemned" rating. Subsequently, films believed to have unacceptable levels of sex and violence by the Conference of Bishops are rated O, "Morally Offensive".

This differentiates to the opinions of the American public who thoroughly enjoyed the movie, which resulted in a grossing of more than $26 million. The film was critically acclaimed and nominated for several awards, like the Academy Award for Best Picture. A Clockwork Orange was the most popular movie in France in the year of 1972. After the film won the New York Film Critics Award, Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a brilliant and dangerous work, but it is dangerous in a way that brilliant things sometimes are."

In 1973, Stanley Kubrick who directed, produced and wrote the screenplay for this film, chose to ban the film in the UK as him and his family received many threats after the supposed rise in copycat crimes. Although, the film still remained accessible in many other places around the world because the BBFC never categorised the film as being unacceptable for viewing. The film was re-released in North America in 1973 and earned $1.5 million in rentals after Kubrick himself removed 30 seconds of sexually explicit scenes from the movie.

It was not until Stanley Kubrick’s death in 1999 that his family requested for the film to be released again in the UK where it was given an 18 certificate without cuts by the BBFC. The video of the film was also given an age rating of 18 uncut in the year 2000.

I was both deeply disturbed and filled with enjoyment when watching A Clockwork Orange. I can see why numerous people were offended by it as it is distressing at times, but the film’s message is not about showing crime and violence in a positive light, it is about showing the psychological testing that would have taken over Britain if it had continued to go down the same path as it was, which would have subsequently transformed human beings into robots of civilisation.

It is completely understandable why many people found the film too violent and terrifying to watch because it reigns true in lots of people’s lives, especially seeing as it displays many cases of rape and assault throughout. However, there are many movies that show rape and violence and were never banned, so I believe that this film was banned because Stanley Kubrick’s movie showed a dystopian world in which society was afraid would eventually come true.

Seeing as A Clockwork Orange was not accustomed to the same level of threats and complaints as it was back in the 1970s, it shows how the public were able to see that it is just a movie now that Britain evidently did not go down the path that writer Anthony Burgess had predicted it would. Overall, I think society was so afraid of this film becoming true that they depicted it as dangerous instead of viewing it as a fictional story with a much more meaningful message.

I would recommend this film to a person interested in history as it is a fictional representation of a world that could have potentially happened during the 1960s, so it is fascinating to see the imagined future world at the time. If you are sensitive to the topic of rape and violence then perhaps this movie is not for you as it can be difficult to watch at times. However, overall it is a unique film that was not afraid to cross boundaries and show the world for what it was becoming, rather than how we all wanted it to be.

4 stars for A Clockwork Orange

After reading this article are you going to watch this movie?

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Click on this link to purchase the DVD of A Clockwork Orange or watch on Amazon Video


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    • Katie Newbery profile imageAUTHOR

      Katie Newbery 

      2 years ago from United Kingdom

      I agree entirely with what you have said and yes it can seem like quite a shocking film when you first watch it as nothing like this has ever been made before where so much sex and violence is used in a lighthearted way by the main character. And yes, rehabilitation is also a controversial subject that many people have opinions on so it was interesting to see it depicted so graphically in a movie that was way ahead of it's time in that respect. I would also like to see more content surrounding rehabilitation and the impact it can have on society.

    • Neutrastaff profile image

      Staff Oneil 

      2 years ago from Norfolk, VA

      This was a rather sexual movie with some rather controversial material, or at least it was at the time of its release. I saw this on TCM a while back and I was quite caught off guard by what I was looking at. The idea of rehabilitating criminals is something that isn't well looked at in today's society and should be considered for the benefit of mankind. I also thought it interesting of the idea of getting revenge on someone who has wronged society, when Alex was rehabilitated, many people he tortured got back at him. But in all I liked the film and I too recommend this, well at least if you can get past he violence and sexual themes, especially the rape


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