10 Best Video Nasties (And Why They Were Banned)

Mary Whitehouse's 1980s hit-list is 2021's watchlist.

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In 1984, rising moral panic and a campaign spearheaded by conservative activist Mary Whitehouse led to the banning of a swathe of horror movies in the UK.

These 72 titles, ranging from trashy exploitation flicks to fairly standard horrors, had previously been readily available on VHS uncut, their distributors having taken advantage of a loophole to avoid submission to the censorious British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

But this new act would demand that all publications were submitted to the BBFC first, which led to heavy censorship, outright banning and even prosecutions for dealers and distributors under the Obscene Publications Act. Ironically, the notoriety only increased interest in these titles, many of which developed a cult following they may not have otherwise found.

Of the 72 nasties, some are now viewed as legitimate horror classics and many others, while flawed, are still respected for their influence on pop culture and film.

This list contains ten of the best and although some make for uncomfortable - even gruelling - viewing, they are all significant in their own way.

So read on, if you dare, and should you find yourself unnerved by the grisly details, just remember...

They're only movies.

10. Last House On The Left

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Wes Craven's most controversial film, focuses on a psychotic gang of fugitives who kidnap, torture and murder two teenage girls. Thereafter the gang unknowingly seek shelter at the home of one of their victims, whose parents exact bloody revenge when they realise what has befallen their daughter.

Due to its unflinching depiction of torture, rape and murder the film drew heavy critical fire on both sides of the pond. US audiences were reported to have fainted, vomited and allegedly, one cinemagoer suffered a heart attack.

Craven maintained that he intended the film as a statement on the Vietnam war and was surprised by the reactions it provoked, even among its cast. Fred J. Lincoln who played "Weasel" calls Last House the worst movie he'd ever made and to this day, Sandra Peabody (Mari) refuses to talk about it.

Critics Siskel and Ebert represented both sides of the argument. In his rating, Siskel awarded one star and called it the "Sickest film of the year" whereas Ebert gave it three and a half, describing it as: "a tough, bitter little movie, about four times as good as you'd expect."

In the UK Last House was banned, until 2002 when it received 30 seconds of cuts from the torture scenes. It finally passed uncut in March 2008, thirty-six years after its initial release.


Horror & crime fiction author. Lover of 80’s gore and pulpy paperbacks.