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The 5 Most Googled Movies In 2023 All Stirred Controversy - Except One

An old adage claims that controversy creates cash, so it's unsurprising to learn that four of the most searched films of 2023 caused outrage. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Barbie," "Oppenheimer," "Jawan," "Sound of Freedom," and "John Wick: Chapter 4" are the five films Google users were most interested in finding out about these past 12 months, but why did some of them cause so much polarization?

Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" upset some people in the political arena, as it was banned in Vietnam and Kuwait for depicting a map resembling the "nine-dash line." The symbol promotes the idea that the islands and reefs in the South China Sea belong to China, so some naysayers of the comedy have labeled the movie communist propaganda. 

"Oppenheimer" also caused an uproar that transcended the realm of entertainment. Christopher Nolan's blockbuster about the creation of the nuclear bomb has been accused of downplaying the atomic attacks that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, as the filmmaker opted not to recreate the horrific events in the movie. Elsewhere, the film was accused of being anti-Hindu by right-wing religious commentators as the title character (Cillian Murphy) reads from the "Bhagavad Gita" during a sex scene.

Both of these films took over the world in 2023, and their widespread visibility probably inflamed their controversies. However, some of this year's most searched titles were unlikely success stories that found crossover success and inspired debates.

How Sound of Freedom and Jawan stirred the pot

"Sound of Freedom" is one of 2023's most unexpected success stories. The indie thriller made $248 million at the worldwide box office, showing that some underdog movies can do big business. However, the controversy surrounding "Sound of Freedom" has been divisive, mainly because the movie deals with the topic of child sex trafficking and has been accused of propagating QAnon-endorsed conspiracy theories. This is partly due to the casting of Jim Caviezel, who previously lent his support to a conspiracy that argues adrenochrome is being harvested from children to feed a powerful network of cannibals.

Shah Rukh Khan's "Jawan," meanwhile, incited industry upheaval in Bangladesh. The Indian actioner's release came after the country's government changed legislation to allow 10 Hindi films to be shown in theaters annually. While this edict arguably diversifies the national moviegoing experience, its critics argue that it risks overshadowing films made by Bangladeshi artists, and some of them took to the streets to protest.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" didn't elicit any major controversies, despite the movie having a higher body count than most of 2023's releases combined. Some of its detractors took issue with Keanu Reeves' lack of dialogue and Scott Adkins' fatsuit, and Oliver Stone also lambasted the film for being more like a video game than a movie. However, the other films caused debates in sociopolitical forums, with a couple actually leading to governmental action. That makes "John Wick: Chapter 4" seem tame in comparison.