20 Netflix Series & Movies That Left People Outraged

Martha Sorren | Jan 23, 2020 TV
20 Netflix Series & Movies That Left People Outraged
Image: Netflix

Sandra Bullock, Julian Edwards, and Vivien Lyra Blair in Bird Box (2018)

There are so many things to love about Netflix. The kinds of shows and movies the streaming site has attract viewers, praise from critics, and trophies at nearly every award show. But Netflix doesn't always get it right -- at least according to its detractors who have taken issue with some of the shows and movies over the years.

Of course, not everyone is going to love everything Netflix makes, just as not everyone is going to love every theatrical release or network show. But these 20 projects struck a real negative chord with many people. Some people were so mad about certain shows and movies that they created petitions to have Netflix remove them. Thousands of signatures poured in.

Not all complaints are created equal. For one of the shows, fans were just mad about how much the plot jumped around in time. They simply found it confusing to keep up with. However, other offerings have upset people for alleged anti-Semitism, fatphobia, stereotypical autism portrayals, and more. 

Netflix doesn't just stand by everything it produces no questions asked. For some of the more serious complaints, it occasionally did revise the final product to take viewer concerns into account. Sometimes that response came quickly after the concern was raised. Other times it took years before Netflix removed the offending scene

However, other times Netflix has stood by its final product and defended the stylistic choices no matter the backlash. The company seems to play each scandal by ear when determining how to respond.

These 20 movies and shows are some of the streaming site's most controversial.

  • 'The First Temptation of Christ': 'Gay Jesus' Story Line


    After a Brazilian film company produced a satiric holiday special about Jesus being gay, the film company's Rio office was attacked with a gasoline bomb. In addition to the physical attack, people have protested online about the special, and a judge ordered it to be removed from the streaming service. Netflix declined to comment on the ruling. 

  • 'The First Temptation of Christ': Weed-Smoking Mary


    The First Temptation of Christ didn't just offend some viewers with its depiction of Jesus being gay. People also took issue with Mary being portrayed as a weed-smoker. Over 2 million people signed a petition for Netflix to remove the special.

  • 'Goop Lab': 'Pseudoscience'

    Gwyneth Paltrow
    Splash News

    Gwyneth Paltrow's Netflix show Goop Lab hasn't aired yet, but people are already up in arms about it. For one, the poster attracted some negative feedback for resembling a vagina. But people seem most upset about the marketing of it as a "lab" since the Paltrow's product claims have often been called "pseudoscience" by some experts.

  • 'The Witcher': Confusing Time Jumps


    Netflix came under fire for The Witcher for a little less serious of a reason than some of its other scandals. The time-jumping in the first season simply confused a lot of viewers, and they were outspoken about not liking that aspect of the series. Showrunner Lauren Hissrich recently promised that the structure of season two takes that into account.

  • 'Messiah': 'Anti-Islamic'


    Messiah imagines a world where a man claims to be the Messiah and quickly amasses followers -- all while he may just be conning them. The Daily Mail reported that thousands of people have signed a petition condemning the series for its alleged "evil and anti-Islamic propaganda."

    According to the Daily Mail, show creator Michael Petroni says he was "super careful" about telling the story and that while it is "provocative," he doesn't think it's offensive.

  • 'Don't F**k With Cats': Cat Lovers Disturbed


    Cat lovers everywhere were disturbed buy auto-playing ads of the new Netflix true-crime documentary Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer. It features people attempting to hunt down a man who killed kittens in an online video, and the content was graphic enough to upset viewers -- and also people who had no intention of watching but were subjected to the autoplay ads. After the outcry, the tech team got rid of the autoplay ad feature for this one title.

  • 'The Devil Next Door': Nazi Internment Camps in Poland


    It's not often that backlash results in Netflix changing something on one of its shows, but it did so for the documentary The Devil Next Door. According to Entertainment Weekly, some people were upset that a map of Nazi internment camps showed some of the camps inside Poland. 

    The Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki wanted it made clear that Poland was under Nazi rule at the time and was not responsible for the camps created within its borders. Netflix later changed the map to reflect that.

  • 'Stranger Things': Characters' Smoking Habits


    After a report found that Stranger Things had the streaming site's biggest smoking use in scenes, Netflix made some changes. Any show rated TV-14 or below and any movie under PG-13 won't have any smoking scenes to avoid influencing impressionable young viewers.

  • 'Prank Encounters': Too Mean

    Gaten Matarazzo
    Splash News

    Netflix may have thought it had a hit on its hands with a Punk'd style show starring Stranger Things' Gaten Matarazzo. But people became upset when they learned that the pranks were being pulled on people searching for employment. However, Netflix later clarified that participants were made aware that they were not getting full-time jobs. 

    "The pranks in Prank Encounters are spooky, supernatural, and over the top, and everyone had a great time," a Netflix spokesperson said to Time magazine. "All participants came in with the expectation this was a one-day, hourly gig and everyone got paid for their time."

  • 'After Maria': Upset Many Puerto Rican Viewers


    After Maria chronicled the lives of three women who came to New York from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. However, many Puerto Rican viewers felt like the documentary didn't accurately reflect the struggles of people still in Puerto Rico. A petition calling for the documentary's removal reached nearly 50,000 signatures.

  • '13 Reasons Why': Graphic Suicide Scene


    Two years after 13 Reasons Why first hit Netflix, the streaming site edited out Hannah's graphic suicide scene. After consulting with medical experts, the streaming site found that it was best to not have Hannah Baker's exact suicide method on display for viewers.

  • '13 Reasons Why': Sensitive Subject Matter (as a Whole)


    Suicide scene aside, 13 Reasons Why has come under fire for its portrayal of many sensitive subjects -- like rape, drug addiction, LGBTQ issues and more. The show loves to push the envelope, even when people push back against it. 

  • 'The Perfection': Made Some Viewers Sick


    Viewers usually love a good horror movie, but The Perfection was a little too horrific for some. The Allison Williams-led flick even made some people sick when they watched. Director Richard Shepard said that filming some of the gory scenes was too much even for him. "It was tough to edit ... Just looking at takes was exhausting. We’d have to work for a few hours and take a big break," he said.

  • 'Gerald's Game': Made People Pass Out


    Much like The Perfection, the horror film Gerald's Game made some of its viewers sick. Indy100 reported that some people even passed out or came close to passing out when viewing key gory scenes. Director Mike Flanagan admitted that reading the Stephen King book it's based on made his stomach similarly queasy. 


  • 'Atypical': Being Stereotypical


    Atypical follows the romantic journey of teenager Sam who is on the autism spectrum. The show caused some controversy with viewers because the actor who plays Sam is not on the spectrum, and some thought the representation was stereotypical. Season two remedied some of its biggest struggles, in part by adding some characters played by actors on the spectrum themselves.

  • The 'Insatiable': Body-Shaming Plot


    The plot of Insatiable angered a lot of people. It centers around a girl who rapidly loses 70 pounds after an accident leaves her with a jaw wired shut. No longer "Fatty Patty," she gets her revenge on her former bullies. That alone had people up in arms, but they were also upset that actress Debby Ryan wears a fat suit for some scenes. Despite the controversy, Netflix renewed the show for a second season.

  • 'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile': Ted Bundy Portrayal


    Zac Efron played serial killer Ted Bundy in this Netflix film. Not only is Zac an attractive actor, but some felt that the movie made the mass murderer too "sexy." One critic of the portrayal said, "It focuses on the killer’s infamous charm to such a degree that it makes you wonder whether we're actually meant to sympathize with him."

    However, Zac defended the movie's portrayal and claimed that it doesn't glamorize Bundy or his crimes.

  • 'Jinn': Angered Locals


    The first-ever Arabic Netflix series was hit with backlash when the young people in its Jordan-set show did things like smoke, drink, and have intimate relations. Some officials in Jordan even wanted the series to be taken down due to its "immoral scenes." 

    However, Netflix stood by the series.

  • 'Bird Box': Real Footage of a Train Accident


    Netflix agreed to make a change to Bird Box after some viewers got mad about a scene. The film had used real footage of a train accident that had led to 47 real life deaths. After public outcry, Netflix agreed to re-edit the movie without the actual footage out of respect to the real victims.

  • 'Our Planet': Footage of Walruses Plummeting to Their Death


    Nature documentary Our Planet angered viewers when it showed footage of walruses plummeting to their deaths from ledges overcrowded due to melting sea ice. CBC reported that some people had watched with their children, and didn't understand why there hadn't been a warning before the disturbing scene. 

    The filmmakers defended including the footage, as they felt it accurately represented how climate change is affecting the world's animals.

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