For the 1997 American television showing, the film was broadcast virtually unedited. The telecast was the first to receive a TV-M (now TV-MA) rating under the TV Parental Guidelines that had been established earlier that year. Senator Tom Coburn, then an Oklahoma congressman, said that in airing the film, NBC had brought television "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity", adding that it was an insult to "decent-minded individuals everywhere". Under fire from both Republicans and Democrats, Coburn apologized, saying: "My intentions were good, but I've obviously made an error in judgment in how I've gone about saying what I wanted to say." He clarified his opinion, stating that the film ought to have been aired later at night when there would not be "large numbers of children watching without parental supervision".
Controversy arose in Germany for the film's television premiere on ProSieben. Heavy protests ensued when the station intended to televise it with two commercial breaks. As a compromise, the broadcast included one break, consisting of a short news update and several commercials.
In the Philippines, chief censor Henrietta Mendez ordered cuts of three scenes depicting sexual intercourse and female nudity before the movie could be shown in theaters. Spielberg refused, and pulled the film from screening in Philippine cinemas, which prompted the Senate to demand the abolition of the censorship board. President Fidel V. Ramos himself intervened, ruling that the movie could be shown uncut to anyone over the age of 15.
According to Slovak filmmaker Juraj Herz, the scene in which a group of women confuse an actual shower with a gas chamber is taken directly, shot by shot, from his film Zastihla mě noc (Night Caught Up with Me, 1986). Herz wanted to sue, but was unable to fund the case.
The song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav ("Jerusalem of Gold") is featured in the film's soundtrack and plays near the end of the film. This caused some controversy in Israel, as the song (which was written in 1967 by Naomi Shemer) is widely considered an informal anthem of the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War. In Israeli prints of the film the song was replaced with Halikha LeKesariya ("A Walk to Caesarea") by Hannah Szenes, a World War II resistance fighter.