One Of The Most Censored Movies In History Is Being Put On Netflix

It couldn't stay buried!

By Michileen Martin | Published

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September is quickly approaching, and with it a whole new crop of movies will be available on Netflix, including one that was almost a lot more difficult to see; not to mention one that would almost certainly never be made with a similar cast today. This Thurdsay, September 1, the controversial 1983 crime epic Scarface will be available for streaming on Netflix.

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Al Pacino in Scarface (1983)

Loosely remade from the 1932 classic of the same name, Scarface stars Al Pacino as Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who uses his landing in Miami as an opportunity to become a powerful drug lord. Facing not only the authorities but the rival crime organization run by Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar), Tony nevertheless soon has boatloads of money, an army of gunmen, a mansion that would make European royalty green with envy, and the lovely wife of his late associate Frank (Robert Loggia).

Of course, Tony Montana isn’t the first crime lord Pacino has played; a decade before Scarface‘s release Pacino originated the future iconic mob boss Michael Corleone in The Godfather. But in the Scarface that will soon be streaming on Netflix, it’s clear that Montana is no Corleone. As opposed to the quiet but fierce cunning of Corleone; Tony Montana is brash, impulsive, quick to anger, and utterly explosive. You might say Scarface is more like what The Godfather or one of its sequels would have been if Pacino’s Michael had remained a civilian, and his vengeful older brother Sonny (James Caan) had survived to keep waging war on the other five families.

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Al Pacino in Scarface (1983)

Unlike The Godfather and its 1974 sequel, Scarface didn’t earn a single nomination from the Academy Awards, though we should probably consider ourselves lucky it was released at all. As Story Screen noted, the original cut of the film submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was rated X; something that would have made it about as commercially viable as ice cream in a blizzard. Director Brian De Palma (The Untouchables) had to re-edit the film not once, not twice, but three times before the MPAA was kind enough to bless it with an R rating.

Ironically while the MPAA almost made Scarface a lot tougher to watch than Netflix, it had nothing to do with the objections many would bring up after the film’s release. As Vulture recalled in 2018, Scarface didn’t portray Cubans in a particularly good light. Critics, particularly Cuban-Americans, complained that most of the Cubans we meet in the film are hardened criminals and that it exaggerated the percentages of those who were found to be criminals after 1980 Mariel boatlift. There were also accusations–which likely would have hit harder today–of Hollywood whitewashing. Out of the lead cast, the only actor with any kind of Cuban or even Latino background was Steven Bauer (Breaking Bad), who played Tony’s right-hand man Manny.

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Al Pacino and Steven Bauer in Scarface (1983)

In spite of criticisms and attempts to censor the crime drama, Scarface survives as a cultural touchstone in music, video games, and even just in your average film nerd jokes. Tony Montana’s over-the-top boast during his last stand–“Say ‘hello’ to my little friend!”–remains one of the most utterly quotable lines in the history of cinema. The epic had a profound impact on hip hop, with rappers like Nas and Jay-Z identifying with characters from the controversial film.

If nothing else, Scarface‘s staying power is evidenced by the continued efforts to make a follow-up. In the early ’00s a planned sequel, Son of Tony, died on the vine. However, a reboot of the film has been in development since 2011. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the script for the upcoming film, with the director’s spot changing hands several times. Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) was attached for a time, but in 2020 Variety reported he had left and been replaced with Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name). While Diego Luna (Andor) was originally attached to play the lead, he has since left the project.

When Scarface drops on Netflix, it’s worth watching for the incredible cast if nothing else. Along with Al Pacino, the film stars Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer (What Lies Beneath), Robbert Loggia (Big), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad), and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss). Scarface was directed by Brian De Palma, from a script by Oliver Stone (Platoon).