ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

No one likes to receive death threats, especially when that threat is communicated via a massive multi-million dollar blockbuster comedy movie starring two of the world's foremost and most successful comic actors. Unfortunately, that's the news North Korean dictator and hair-cut model, Kim Jong-un, had to wake up to when he heard news of Seth Rogan and James Franco's upcoming assassination comedy The Interview.

Indeed, Kim Jong-un is so annoyed he seems like he's willing to plunge us all into World War III to stop the movie making it to theaters. The North Korean government has promised "merciless retaliation" against the United States, with one spokesman adding:

The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays an attack on our top leadership… is a most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable.

So, should we start hording tinned food and building that bunker we've always meant to get round to building? No, probably not, because as Team America and Red Dawn have proven, when it comes to denouncing movies, the North Korean government blows more hot air than a wind tunnel in the Sahara desert.

Anyway, this isn't the first major movie to cause an international incident. Here are five more movies which got politicians complaining.

U-571 - 2000 - The End of the Special Relation-SHIP?

What was it about?

U-571 tells the fictional story of an American submarine crew - including a Mr Jon Bon Jovi - who brave the Battle of the Atlantic to capture the German secret Engima encryption machine from the titular enemy sub.

What was the international incident?

The British government took offence to the movie as it appeared to loosely depict the events of the real capture of the Enigma - which was conducted by British sailors of HMS Bulldog before the US even entered the war. A group of MPs, led by Lindsay Hoyle, stated in the House's of Parliament:

[That British sailors] risked their lives to board the stricken submarine, facing the danger that it might sink at any time. [The] members of the boarding party were decorated for their heroism in retrieving the encoding device and King George VI described their actions as perhaps the most important single event in the war at sea. [We] regret that Hollywood has chosen to distort the truth and detract from the valour of the British sailors concerned by appropriating the story for its own financial gain.

Much later in 2006, screenwriter David Ayer revealed he did regret distorting the history in U-571, and would not do it again. He stated:

It was a distortion...a mercenary create this parallel history in order to drive the movie for an American audience. Both my grandparents [sic] were officers in World War II, and I would be personally offended if somebody distorted their achievements.

For what it is worth, David Balme, the British officer who actually led the boarding party to capture the real Engima, called U-571 a "great film" but expressed disappointment that the producers refused his request to include a disclaimer explaining the true events at the beginning of the film.

Pacific Rim - 2013 - American Propaganda In Disguise

What was it about?

Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim tells of a multi-national effort to rid the Earth of interloping giant Kaiju from another dimension by using massive, piloted robots. It's awesome.

What was the international incident?

Shortly after its release in China - where it was incredibly successful - Zhang Jieli, an officer in the People's Liberation Army of China warned troops to beware of movies such as Pacific Rim. Jieli claimed Hollywood movies "have always served as a propaganda machine to convey American values and their strategies in the world", adding:

The decisive battle against the monsters was deliberately set in the South China Sea adjacent to Hong Kong. The intention was to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific area and saving mankind.

China has volatile territory disagreements in the Pacific Ocean, in particular with Taiman and Japan - two countries which are under an American protection guarantee. Indeed, the US plans to move 60% of its naval strength to the region by the end of the decade. Zhang continued:

Soldiers should sharpen their eyes and enforce a 'firewall' to avoid ideological erosion when watching American movies. More importantly, they should strengthen their combat capability to safeguard national security and interests.

Argo - 2012 - The Academy Loved, Politicians Hate It

What was it about?

Ben Affleck's Argo concerns the events of the 1979-1981 Iranian hostage crisis and, more specifically the Canadian Caper, in which CIA agent Tony Mendez led the rescue of six US diplomats from Tehran under the pretense they were a Canadian film crew.

What was the international incident?

Argo actually managed to annoy people on both sides of the Iranian hostage crisis. The Canadian government felt its major role in the incident was downplayed, while the British and New Zealand governments also took offense to a line which suggested these nations did not shelter or assist the fleeing US diplomats - which they did. John Graham, Britain's ambassador to Iran at the time of the incident said:

My immediate reaction on hearing about this was one of outrage. I have since simmered down, but am still very distressed that the film-makers should have got it so wrong.

However, most prominently, Iran also had something to say about Argo. In fact, they were so displeased with Hollywood's presentation of the events that they have decided to make their own movie concerning the hostage crisis. Mohammad Hosseini, the country's minister of culture and Islamic guidance, described Argo as "an offensive act" motivated by "evil intentions" and charged Iranian director Ataollah Salmanian to helm a new movie entitled The General Staff. Salmanian explained:

The film, which will be a big production, should be an appropriate response to the ahistoric film Argo.

The film will instead tell of the 20 US hostages which were released by Iranian revolutionaries as a humanitarian gesture after a 444-day crisis.

Apparently, a script has been written, but we've heard precious little from the project ever since it was announced in January 2013.

Borat - 2006 - Comedy? Or The Denigration Of An Entire Nation?

What was it about?

Hmm... well... how do I explain? Borat is a comedy creation of British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen and is presented as an anti-Semitic, sexist and homophobic reporter from Kazakhstan. The actual film is a mock-umentary comedy which combined scripted comedy with interviews and skits involving real Americans who did not know Borat wasn't an actual reporter.

What was the international incident?

Considering Borat is presented as a backward, ignorant racist who comes from an impoverished village, Kazakhstan was understandably not especially pleased with how their country was presented.

Prior to its release, the Kazakh government banned the film and stated it was a "concoction of bad taste and ill manners which is incompatible with the ethics and civilized behavior of Kazakhstan's people". They even went so far as to run a four-page advertisement in The New York Times to counter many of the claims made by Borat about the Eurasian nation.

Furthermore, The European Center for Antiziganism Research also filed a suit against Borat for apparently promoting negative attitudes towards Roma and Sinti people.

However, since its release, the Kazakh government has become more accepting, even praising the film as greatly boosting its tourism industry. One Kazakh newspaper stated:

[Borat] has managed to spark an immense interest of the whole world in Kazakhstan—something our authorities could not do during the years of independence. If state officials completely lack a sense of humor, their country becomes a laughing stock.

With another paper adding, the film was "certainly not an anti-Kazakh, anti-Romanian or anti-Semitic" film, but rather "cruelly anti-American ... amazingly funny and sad at the same time." Indeed, the film was also subject to numerous law-suits from its unwitting American 'stars'.

Cry Freedom - 1987 - Was Literally a Box Office Bomb

What was it about?

Directed by Richard Attenborough, Cry Freedom is a 1987 British Oscar nominated drama which tells the tale of black activist Steve Biko and his friend Donald Woods during the apartheid era of South Africa. The movie was released while apartheid was still official policy in South Africa.

What was the international incident?

Cry Freedom was originally approved by South African government censors with no alterations, accepting it was biased against the police, but did not threaten state security.

However, the film was seized by the South African police 7 hours after its release when its opening was met with two explosions and multiple bomb threats. Police commissioner Gen. Hendrik de Witt, stated the film - which featured a scene of police officers shooting Soweto schoolchildren in 1976 - "endangers the safety of the public, the maintenance of public order, and will delay the termination of the state of emergency."

Despite being passed by censors, the Minister of Information, Stoffel van der Merwe, overruled the decision and pulled the movie out of theaters nationwide, claiming:

The security forces are portrayed in such a negative light that their public image would be seriously undermined. Whites are typified as privileged and surrounded by wealth, as opposed to blacks living in great poverty and subjected to exploitation and repression.


We don't need that sort of internal disturbance and excitement from people like Richard Attenborough.

Eventually, after being passed a second time by censors, the film was shown, but with an age restriction of 19.

Do you think North Korea has a right to be annoyed over The Interview?


Is North Korea right to be upset?


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