Hollywood Isn’t Going To Censor Movies For China Anymore, Here’s Why

Relationships between China and Hollywood have soured, with Hollywood no longer wanting to censor films for the benefit of Chinese law.

By Douglas Helm | Published


The relationship between the US and China has always been chilly and Hollywood is no exception. While studios have typically done everything they can to make sure movies premiere in Chinese markets, it seems like things are beginning to change. Recent years have proved that the US film market may not necessarily need China and that censoring their films to appease the Chinese government isn’t worth the effort anymore.

No year has proved this trend better than 2022. This year, there have already been two major Hollywood blockbusters that opted to not pander to Chinese censors and remove scenes. The first was Top Gun: Maverick, which decided to not remove Taiwan’s flag from the final product. The Communist Party in Beijing has long claimed that Taiwan is Chinese territory, even though Taiwan is an independent self-governed island. Reports say that a Chinese backer for Top Gun: Maverick urged the studios to remove Taiwan’s flag from Tom Cruise’s bomber jacket. After the investor backed out, the flag symbol was replaced on the jacket. Now, it appears Top Gun: Maverick won’t be seeing a Chinese release. However, it seems like this won’t matter much, as it’s already the biggest box office success of the year, pulling in $599 million domestically and over $1.1 billion worldwide.

Lightyear faced a similar decision when confronted by Chinese censors. The film, which features Chris Evans voicing the titular space ranger, features a short scene with a same-sex kiss. Disney decided to leave the scene in, meaning that China likely won’t allow a release, since their censors usually block homosexual scenes. Perhaps one of the biggest examples of Hollywood no longer needing income from China’s market would be Spider-Man: No Way Home in 2021. Spider-Man: No Way Home featured a climactic final battle around the Statue of Liberty. When Chinese censors requested that the Statue of Liberty scenes were cut out or reduced, Sony reportedly refused. Despite not being released in China, Spider-Man: No Way Home became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, pulling in over $1.9 billion worldwide.

Hollywood pandering to China’s censors has long been a trend that many Hollywood creators disagree with. From a financial perspective, studios may have felt like they needed to adhere to the demands of Beijing since China has long been the second-biggest film market in the world for box office dollars. In 2020, China even took the box office crown from North America, becoming the biggest film market in the world. It remained on the throne in 2021, but now things have flipped back to normal in 2022. With North America once again holding the box office crown, Hollywood studios may continue to ignore China’s requests for censorship.

China typically releases 30 to 40 foreign films in their theaters each year, preferring to feature their own patriotic films as blockbusters instead. With China accepting fewer foreign releases than ever, just 20 last year, Hollywood studios also likely don’t want to deal with the hurdles to get have the chance to get their films released in Chinese markets. While there will still be studios that pursue the financially lucrative Chinese box office, it looks like the trend is slowly starting to wind down.