Saudi Arabia Reopens Movie Theaters: Here Are 10 Films That Are Probably Not Coming to a Cinema Near Riyadh

The kingdom is set to allow cinemas to reopen, but don’t buy your popcorn expecting these films to be showing

British actor Sacha Baron Cohen gestures as he speaks to the audience before a preview of his latest movie "The Dictator" in Cologne May 14, 2012
REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

"It feels like we have been through the apocalypse, we survived and we are going to make a new civilization," said Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi actor, upon hearing the news that Saudi Arabia plans to reopen cinemas in the kindgom.

But Fageeh shouldn't buy his popcorn hoping to see these movies grace the silver screens of Saudi Arabia. Here are 10 movies Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman probably won't be promoting to the Saudi people: 

1. 'The Dictator'

The completely fictional Republic of Wadiya is run by an anti-Semitic despot, Admiral-General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), who backs Al-Qaida and is building a nuclear weapon to wipe out Israel. While Baron Cohen may have based his shambolic character on Libya's Muammar Gadhafi, there's enough here to offend any Middle Eastern state, let alone one that hasn't seen a movie on the big screen since the 1970s.

2. 'Thelma & Louise'

This is either the ultimate story of female empowerment or a cautionary tale about what happens when you let women loose behind the wheel of a Ford Thunderbird. And it would have been the perfect choice for that drive-in cinema in Riyadh (closed during the sandstorm season).

3. 'Dune'

Sure, "Dune" is about the desert planet of Arrakis and isn't connected to Saudi Arabia in the least. But when movies are sold on the idea of escapism, a planet full of sand probably isn't ideal for a country containing the world's largest continuous sand desert – the aptly named Empty Quarter (al-Rub al-Khali).

4. 'Cocktail'

Saudi Arabia may be swinging open the creaky doors of its cinemas, but don't expect to get served an alcoholic beverage while you're watching. And definitely don't expect to see films featuring a cocky bartender (Tom Cruise) offering you Sex on the Beach.

5. 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan'

Benjamin Netanyahu may think the Saudis have become Israel's best friend, but that doesn't mean the kingdom is ready for a film about a hummus-chewing ex-Mossad agent played by Adam Sandler. Mind you, the rest of the world wasn't either.

6. 'Brokeback Mountain'

Same-sex relationships are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, so it would take a very brave person to project Ang Lee's gay cowboy drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. So, how about it, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?

7. 'A Separation'

This ticks all the boxes for the arthouse crowd: an acclaimed Oscar-winning film about the pain of divorce. Perfect for a country where divorce rates rocketed in 2016, up a staggering 50 percent from the previous year. Just one problem – the film is Iranian. Next!

8. 'Fahrenheit 9/11'

Michael Moore's documentary on the September 11 attacks shone a bright light on the lucrative links between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family while reminding everyone that 15 of the plane hijackers were Saudi. Which might make for some awkward scenes on the red carpet.

9. 'True Lies'

There was a time in the 1990s when you couldn't make a blockbuster without having an Arab villain, and this Arnold Schwarzenegger juggernaut was the very embodiment of shameless Hollywood racism. Typically, it cast a British-Pakistani actor, Art Malik, as Arab terrorist Salim Abu Aziz, who leads the most feebly named terrorist organization ever: Crimson Jihad (because Crimson Tide was taken).

10. 'Lawrence of Arabia'

It may one of the most acclaimed movies of all time, but David Lean's classic still offers the classic Western approach that a crazy white guy (Peter O'Toole) single-handedly led the Arab revolt against the Turks in the early 20th century.