Airplane!: Fellatio, cunnilingus, bestiality, paedophilia, topless women, a young girl who takes her coffee black (like her men), pornographic magazines, suicides, and repeated drug use, and it gets a PG rating? (Granted, PG-13 was still four years off...) In an interview on Later with Bob Costas, Robert Stack was amazed A) that the directors got away with the 'Shit hits the fan' joke and B) that it made him laugh a lot.
In Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter proclaims: "When that day comes I shall futterwacken... vigorously." This refers to a type of dance. It's how he says it.
Fester: I have needs! Gomez: Well, there's Thing...
In Austin Powers in Goldmember, Austin is approached by two attractive Japanese twins named Cindy Fook Mi and Sally Fook Yu. Due to their accents, and Austin's obvious reaction to hearing their names, it is very obvious that they are implying the word "fuck." However, at PG-13, only one use of "fuck" is allowed throughout the entire film in accordance with MPAA regulations. By making it not technically the word, they get away with saying it multiple times.
One segment in this British horror Anthology Film features ventriloquist Maxwell Frere and his Demonic Dummy, "Hugo". During a performance, the following exchange takes place:
Hugo/Frere:[to an unsuspecting French lady in the audience] Didn't I see you working your... head off at the Folies Bergère?note The Folies Bergère is a famous music cabaret hall Maxwell Frere:[to Hugo] Oh, the lady's face looks familiar, does it? Hugo/Frere: What would I be doing at the Folies Bergère looking at faces?
And Hugo's parting words to the audience are: "Good night, sleep tight, wake up sober."
Remember those old-time cowboys in Westerns who would mosey up to the bar and order sarsaparilla? A lot of viewers assume that this was a substitute for ordering alcohol, as The Hays Code had rules against drug use (mostly alcohol and illegal drugs. Tobacco smoking was still kosher in those days). But sarsaparilla was actually not so much a drink as it was a traditional medicine, and, in the 19th century, was mainly used as a treatment for syphilis. It's supposed to be an aphrodisiac, as well.
At the time Universal was producing its 1940s film series, the Hays Code forbade any mention of drugs — including Holmes' canonical cocaine habit. However, the writers did manage to slip one reference in: in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Holmes, captured by Moriarty and stalling for time, suggests to the professor that instead of just shooting him, he should try something "more imaginative" — like inserting a needle into his vein and slowly drawing out all of his blood. To which Moriarty snidely quips:
Moriarty: The needle to the last, eh, Holmes?
This was after the 1939 Baskervilles had attempted to include a similar reference, and had it cut by the censors. The movie's original final line was only restored upon the 1975 re-release:
Holmes: Watson, the needle.
Similarly, cocaine is never mentioned in the 2009 film. However, at one point Watson looks at some bottles, picks one up and says disgustedly, "You do know what you're drinking is for eye surgery." Cocaine was used as a topical anesthetic in eye surgeries, an application first discovered in the late 1800s.
In Bringing Up Baby, while David showers, Susan swipes his clothes to get him to stay. He is forced instead to wear her frilly bathrobe and answers the door in this bathrobe. The following scene is arguably the first time the word "gay" was used in a film to mean "homosexual", and the meaning would have been lost on most audiences back when the film was made.
Mrs. Random: Well, who are you? David: I don't know. I'm not quite myself today. Mrs. Random: Well, you look perfectly idiotic in those clothes. David:These aren't my clothes. Mrs. Random: Well, where are your clothes? David: I've lost my clothes. Mrs. Random: But why are you wearing these clothes? David: Because I just went gay all of a sudden! Mrs. Random: Now, see here young man, stop this nonsense. What are you doing? David: I'm sitting in the middle of 42nd Street waiting for a bus.
In his book Gay New York, George Chauncey mentions that the comment about 42nd Street confirms the double entendre was intentional. Before WWII, 42nd Street was one of the main spots in New York for gay men to look for "trade".
Midnight: In the time of The Hays Code, swearing or referring to number two was a no-no, so this is a nice innuendo.
Georges: The ground has just opened under our feet. Eve: Well... and me all set to jump for that tub of butter. George: We've landed in something, all right, but it's not butter.
Ghostbusters is a PG-rated movie that kids enjoy, but contains innuendo like the scene where a siren unzips Ray's pants in the middle of the night to do what would be implied as fellatio.
Egon's first scene with Janine has him coming out from under her desk, with her eyebrows raised and a smile on her face. Although it's explained by "Egon was setting up her computer", it's pretty clearly supposed to look like implied cunnilingus.
But then the film flew by so close it sliced off the radar dish with the sequence in the mayor's office where Venkman says of Walter Peck. "That man has no dick."
During the scene where Dana is captured by Zuul, several demonic arms burst out of her chair and hold her down; one hand very clearly gropes her on the left breast. In the original version, her breast actually pops out of her top as she's struggling. It happens so quickly that the censors missed it, and the scene was allowed to air on TV for years.
Zuul the "Gatekeeper" inhabits the body of the female Dana, while Vinz Klortho the "Keymaster" inhabits the male Louis Tully. They start making out when they "get together," and it's heavily implied that Vinz puts his "key" in Zuul's "gate."
Even in the sequel, the subtlety goes nuts, such as Egon noting the lab ladies are more than likely interested in his epididymis (a very scientific reference to the obvious).
Hook: During the Neverland baseball game, a banner can be clearly seen advertising some sort of business: "Pussycat — Come and give us a peek".
The same sign is seen earlier on, hanging over a house-ship occupied by heavily made-up women in low-cut dresses. It's also hinted that Smee is a regular customer: when one of the ladies sees him coming, she announces, "Put on your faces, girls! Here comes Smee!", prompting the rest to happily coo his name.
In Night at the Museum, Teddy Roosevelt has from his hips to the bottom of his chest flattened by a mail coach. Sacajawea uses a lit candle to soften and pour the wax to re-mold the damage to his midsection. The "oh boy" moan could have been bracing himself for the pain, but let's pretend that it's not.
Wonder Bar featured a rare instance of homosexual humor that came very close to getting the film banned altogether. During a dance, a gentleman approaches a dancing couple and asks if he can cut in; when the woman accepts, however, he dances away with the man instead. Al Jolson responds to this by waving a limp wrist and musing, "Boys will be boys!"
The Merry Widow, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, had minor cuts as The Hays Code was just starting to come into effect. Left in was the close-up during the trial scene of Danilo's handcuffs, which are personally engraved.
After watching Preston Sturges' classic comedy The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, reviewer James Agee wrote, "The Production Code must have been raped in its sleep." How else do you explain a movie about a young woman who goes out with a bunch of soldiers, gets drunk, and can't remember what she did, except it turns out she's both married and pregnant? Not to mention the fact she has tries to trick the man who's been in love with her since they were kids into marrying her, so there's also bigamy involved. And that's not even mentioning the fact the whole film is basically a parody of the Nativity story.
This only shows the hypocrisy of the Hays Code. One of the things the Code claimed to promote was "the sanctity of marriage;" however this example only appears to give the impression of them arguing "as long as there's no sex before marriage, everything else is permissible."
Scaramouche manages to convey with nothing but pantomime that the Marquis has fathered a baby with a local village wench.
Strangers on a Train has no shortage of themes that pushed the limits of the Code, but a particularly shocking line occurs just after the protagonist's cheating wife has been through the Tunnel of Love with her two dates; as they're climbing out of the boat she stumbles and one of them says (paraphrased) "Don't break your leg, we've got a use for you later."
Robot Jox: During the final battle, Alexander's Humongous Mecha unfolds a chainsaw from its groin in an attempt to kill Achilles, cutting through the cockpit to get at him. In other words, Alexander's mecha was tea-bagging Achilles'.
Bond's famous one-liners originated as a way to get the violence and nudity, which was sometimes quite shocking at the time, past the radar so as to secure US distributors. For instance, a brutal hearse crash is mellowed with the line "I think they were on their way to a funeral", not to mention the "You've had your six" line, which dulls Bond shooting an unarmed man in cold blood.
Diamonds Are Forever features the most flamboyantly gay yet still just subtle enough characters yet seen. One of them squeals in delight when Bond roughly pulls the hitman's arms between his legs and ties him to the bomb.
Moneypenny: You always were a cunning linguist, James.
Spectre: As M confronts C (who has been revealed to be working for the nefarious titular organization). C sneeringly suggests that M stands for "moron" as he tries to shoot him, only to realize that the gun is empty. M responds in kind as he reveals that he has the clip, saying, "And now I know what "C" stands for. (Beat) Careless." While he uses a very benign word, the pause leaves no doubt as to what M was really getting at.
Dracula's Daughter features a steamy scene where the daughter, who is artistically talented, attacks and bites the female model she had hired for a head and shoulders portrait. The model is just wearing her bra with the straps pulled down, and the attack is quite intense, with lots of "No, don't touch me!" Maybe no one in the Hays Office wanted to admit that the first lesbian-vampire movie had just been made. (The Hays Office was well aware of the lesbian implications, issuing detailed notes on the script so as to avoid any suggestion of "perverse sexual desire". Universal advertised the film with the tagline "Save the women of London from Dracula's Daughter!")
Spartacus: One of the most notable scenes has this little exchange between Marcus Licinius Crassus and his slave Antoninus (all of which happens while Antoninus is bathing Crassus. They're talking about sexual preference, not seafood). Apparently, this metaphor seemed so obvious to Universal executives that the scene was cut after its premiere to avoid the wrath of the censors. It was reinstated in 1991.
Crassus: Do you eat oysters? Antoninus: When I have them, master. Crassus: Do you eat snails? Antoninus: No, master. Crassus: Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral? Antoninus: No, master. Crassus: Of course not. It is all a matter of taste, isn't it? Antoninus: Yes, master. Crassus: And taste is not the same as appetite, and therefore not a question of morals. Antoninus: It could be argued so, master. Crassus: My robe, Antoninus. My taste includes both snails and oysters.
A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example from the end credits of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: the format is modeled after the Marauder's Map featured prominently, a magical map that can track the locations and movements of nearby people and that displays each person as a pair of footprints. Two particular sets of footprints◊ are hidden in a remote niche, and based on their positioning and movements, it's pretty obvious that the two are having sex.
Rick: How'd you get in here? You're underage. Young woman: I came with Captain Rénault. Rick:[rolls eyes] I should've known... Young woman:[primly] My husband is with me too. Rick: Oh, he is? Captain Rénault is getting broad-minded.
In another scene, the Farlows hint to Humbert that they're very "broad-minded".
When Quilty checks into a hotel with his wife, he gets into a conversation with the manager that's laced with homosexual innuendo, as well as implying that his wife is something of a dominatrix.
1997, Adrian Lyne: Dolores has just been sitting in Humbert's lap, only to rush out when her mother comes in.
Charlotte: Humbert, is she keeping you up? Humbert:[Beat] No...
The Film of the Book of Marley & Me shows the birth of the Grogans' third child... and one of their first two says that their parents called her "oops", to his parents' shock.
In the 1930 prison film The Big House, the prisoners are getting magazines as reading material. One, a magazine called "Bride's Confession", has been "worn out".
Double Wedding: Confounded by Charles bohemian way of life, Margit asks this:
Margit: Do you smoke dope?
Fritz Lang made many amazing films in his lifetime. One of his final outings, Das indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb), featured A-list Hollywood actress Debra Paget performing a dance basically in the nude, except for a few strategically placed pieces of cloth. Read that date again: 1959 was at the height of the Hays Code era when screen nudity - never mind sexy dancing while nearly nude - was forbidden. (Since the Hays Code only applied to films distributed in the US, this is more a case of Values Dissonance.)
The children's film Horrid Henry: The Movie has the titular mischievous lad threatened with going to a fee-paying school called the Brickhouse Academy. Insert the word "shit" in between "brick" and "house" and you have something else entirely.
Poltergeist: There are some hints that Dana, the elder daughter, goes on dates with boys to have sex with them, but they're kept a secret from her parents. Stronger if you pay attention to a scene near the end of the movie: the family is about to move out of the house, but Dana is going out to see "some friends". Her mother tells her the name of the hotel where they plan to stay the night and Dana just says "oh, yes..." and smiles, implying that she knows that place pretty well and that she remembers something that happened there. Her mother catches this and asks her about it, but Dana waves it away by changing the topic. She leaves the scene and we don't see her until the end of the movie, where she returns home, sees all the ruckus and yells "What's going on?!" If you look closely at her neck on both sides, you will see lovebites...
Short Circuit: While both PG-rated films have their fair share of Radar evaders, this scene from the sequel really pushes it: Fred is getting his loan from a loan shark in a stripper bar, and the woman on stage at one point bares her breasts and shakes them at her audience. She's out of focus, but it's very obvious.
The Sweeper has NC-17level violence so brutal it could make you sick. See thesescenes as examples. Note: The film is rated R.
Citizen Kane: Charles Foster Kane is a thinly veiled No Celebrities Were Harmed shot at George Hearst. The plot revolves around finding out who is beloved "Rosebud" was. According to legend, "rosebud" was what Hearst called his mistress's clitoris.
With profanity, violence and sexual references abound in Guardians of the Galaxy, you start to wonder if director Creator/James Gunn straight-up cold-cocked the entire censor board in the opening five minutes. Special mention has to go Quill admitting that his spaceship is filthy, to the point of "if you had a blacklight, it'd look like a Jackson Pollock painting". A semen joke in a PG-13 film has to be some kind of record.
Captain Sabertooth: There's a scene where a character, speaking in a fake French accent (he's supposed to be German but got the accents mixed up) tries to assert his authenticity by listing things like "Chateau Neuf", "Chateau Marmont" and "Chateau Fuck Up". Keep in mind that this is a kids' movie.
The community John builds on the farm in Our Daily Bread — no private property, everything going into a common pot, everyone working together and sharing the proceeds equally, one big boss to run everything — is communism. It's actually pretty amazing that director King Vidor got this made and distributed in America in 1934. The film bears an obvious debt to Soviet propaganda films, specifically the 1930 silent classic Earth.
Paddington manages to sneak in a few adult jokes. As Mr Brown disguises himself as a cleaning lady to break into the Geographer's Guild's archive:
Paddington: This is gonna work, Mr. Brown. You look very pretty. Mr Brown: That's what they're gonna say to me in jail.
Modern Times: The Tramp gets high on cocaine in prison. It's not referred to as cocaine, only as "nose powder", but there's no other way to interpret that scene! Quite daring for its time, since The Hays Code (in effect from 193068) didn't allow drug references in movies.
Detour: The Hays Code did not allow films in which murderers got away with their crimes. To work around this, director Ulmer included a brief scene at the end where the protagonist is picked up by a police car, implying his arrest.
The Divorcee: The most blatant instance is the scene where Jerry comments about her boyfriend having an erection. The camera shows a tight closeup of hands and arms that makes clear Jerry's lover is embracing her from behind. He says something to her in French, and she parries with "I don't understand French, but I know the symptoms of high blood pressure in any language."
After the Thin Man: Asta returns home to find Mrs. Asta with a litter of puppies...including one black one. Later, Asta chases away a black terrier lingering around the doghouse. This joke references not just adultery but miscegenation, two deeply tabooed topics under The Hays Code.
As a Disney film, the N-word is not used to refer to the black players and Coach Boone — the word "coon", a derogatory albeit far more obscure term, is used instead.
John Brown. It's an old Southern euphemism for "damn", "damned" or "God damn", and Boone uses it often, usually when exasperated or trying to prove a point. His wife even utters "Well, I'll be a John Brown" in amazement in one scene.
In the pre-code Skyscraper Souls, a drunk woman tries to say "We're being awfully shitty" but she ends up slurring instead and it comes out as "silly"/"shilly". She even lampshades it when the person she's talking to thinks she said "silly".
Doctor at Sea snuck one in on its original 1955 release, with one character describing the ship's captain's fearsome and unpredictable temperament as being from a man whose father wasn't married (i.e. a bastard), whilst still maintaining its U (suitable for all audiences including children) rating. Subsequent re-releases under different rating schemes have seen it bumped up to PG, although this was for the depiction of an attempted suicide by hanging.
When 3PO remarks that the Master Codebreaker sounds like a guy who can do anything, Maz chuckles, "Oh, yes... He can," in a very lascivious manner. The awkward looks on the other characters' faces really sell the moment. Note that when she says this, Maz is stroking a blaster.
When reprimanding Poe, Leia angrily tells him to get your head out of your cockpit in a very Carrie Fisheresque manner.
TLJ also contains the harshest language heard yet in the franchise, including words such as "bastard" and "big-ass".
A New Hope has the moment when Han winks after getting his medal from the Princess. It could be interpreted as irreverence, but it also could be that he just took a look right down her cleavage.
Dr. Jekyll & Ms. Hyde managed to get away with a lot while keeping a PG-13, such as Sean Young briefly appearing topless, an obvious penis bulge and a visible erection.
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho: There is a rumor that this film was not passed for release because Janet Leigh's nipple (or more accurately, that of her body double) was visible during the shower scene. Hitchcock made no changes and merely sent it back, assuming that nobody at the Hays Office would bother to watch it. They also objected to the scene of the flushing toilet, another cinematic first.
Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 is rated PG despite multiple depictions of topless women.note It was released a year prior to the creation of PG-13.
Mrs. Doubtfire: During the transformation scene, Robin Williams is dressed as a Jewish grandmother, and says 'I should never buy Gribenes from a Mohel. It's so chewy!'. Gribenes (Gri-ben-es) is crispy chicken or goose skin akin to crackling. A Mohel is specially trained in the Jewish rituals and procedures of circumcision. It's unlikely the censors would have allowed a reference to eating fried foreskins had they known.
The 2009 documentary film Reel Injun demonstrates that Native American actors, when they were actually used, would sometimes curse in scenes in their native languages because they knew white people couldn't understand them, and the directors only cared that it sounded "Indian".
In the 1989 Filipino film Si Malakas at Si Maganda, Vic Sotto's character chants a magic spell that goes "angna-angna, sulakihin, somaskidot, moko-moko." When these seemingly made-up words are arranged from top to bottom, the syllables can be arranged to make up the sentence "ang suso mo nilamas ko, ang kiki mo, nahindot ko." In English, this means "your breasts I mashed, your pussy I fucked."