Time to amp up your weekend movie activity with some of the greatest libertarian movies of all time. These movies emphasize freedom, the individual, voluntary cooperation in society, and a healthy dislike for the government – – and do so in an entertaining way! [movies not necessarily listed by rank]
V for Vendetta – Easily one of the most entertaining and blatant anti-state movies of all time. A masked “terrorist” with a gift for verbocity helps a timid and compliant populace awaken to the lies and tyranny of their police state government. Remember remember the 5th of November.
- “Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition”
Braveheart – William Wallace wants to live in peace and raise a family. He marries his wife in secret so that the local government criminal can not claim his prima nocte “right” to rape her on the wedding night. After she is murdered by the local magistrate, Wallace and his volunteer army start a populist insurrection. His dying breath allows him to scream “freedom!” and inspire his fellow Scots towards their independence. “They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!” One of my favorite quotes and motto for life, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”
Serenity – “I aim to misbehave.” –One of my favorite quotes from Mal Reynolds. This fantastic movie was based upon the equally enjoyable TV series Firefly. Further summarized by another blogger: “Half of history is hiding the truth.” This western in space portrays a well imagined future in which humans have scattered across hundreds of planets and moons. The Alliance rules a flourishing civilization which fought successfully to defeat the secession of outlying settlements on the wild frontier. Serenity is a ship with a crew of former independence fighters who now make their way smuggling and hitting the Alliance when they can. The film brings the crew face to face with the dark heart of the Alliance’s mission to bring enlightened civilization to all, whether they want it or not. Filled with well wrought characters and a wonderful sense of humor, this film insightfully portrays not only the empire but a doughty band of independent spirits who just want to be allowed to go their own way.
Hunger Games – As LRC blogger Mike Adamas notes: The film is set 74 years after a popular uprising that failed to overthrow a corrupt, centralized federal government. As punishment for the attempted uprising, the all-powerful government now requires each of 12 districts to “volunteer” a young girl and boy each year to participate in the Hunger Games – a bloodsport “breads and circuses” event that serves as the opiate of the masses to distract society from the fact that they are all slaves living under tyranny.
Thank you for Smoking – A must watch movie with Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, who is defending the tobacco industry against nanny state politicians. With explicit themes on personal freedom and responsibility, the director, Jason Reitman (who calls himself a “classic American libertarian”), provides a great movie – -libertarian or otherwise – – that most folks have never even heard about.
Three Kings – Since World War II ended, the United States has bombed about 25 different countries. Number 19 was Iraq. Three Kings follows several U.S. soldiers as they separate from their Gulf War units on a cynical quest of greed into the heart of Iraq. Their motivations come to mirror the cynical motivations of the war itself. After getting a profound exposure to the deadly realities of what had originally seemed like an overseas adventure, the soldiers must make a choice between the gold that they sought and the Iraqi people that they have come to feel compassion for. A great anti-war film.
Blazing Saddles – It is the individual citizens and the new sheriff of Rock Ridge vs. the incompetent governor and his land stealing Attorney General Hedley Lamar. Like Mongo’s status, the government would prefer us all to stay pawns in the game of life. Sheriff Bart, The Waco Kid, and Magnum PI’s Higgins ain’t having that crap. While our movie protagonists are successful in protecting their property, government criminals today would simply use eminent domain and the supreme court monstrocity Kelo to snatch land from people. To paraphrase Taggart for today’s political environment, “God darnit Mr. Obama, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.”
Oh, and by the way, this is arguably the funniest movie of all time.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – Perhaps a suprise addition to our list for many readers, but if you dig into the details of PW’s quest to find his bike, you find he is in fact an unwitting hero for individualism and liberty.
Shawshank Redemption – An innocent man is put in prison, where only then does he begin to commit illegal acts as he helps his evil warden launder his corrupt revenues. We rejoice in Andy’s final escape and freedom even though the government still unjustly considers him a criminal. Another great quote: “Get busy living, or get busy dying. Damn right.”
The Godfather trilogy – “Do you know how naive you sound? …Senators and presidents don’t have men killed.” Mafioso Michael Corleone responds, “Oh — who’s being naive, Kay?” As we watch Kay slowly lose her naivete, the Godfather movies bring those who are willing to the recognition of the true nature of men in power. Underneath all the pomp and circumstance, all the glad-handing and talk of serving the people, the various gangsters in power over us ultimately always have “an offer that you can’t refuse.”
Lord Acton taught us that “Power corrupts”. In surveying mass murder by the state, Professor Rummel updated that to “Power kills”. In these three masterpieces by Francis Ford Coppola, we have this lesson re-taught for our times. If you thought these were just gangster films, you missed the point. As Michael Corleone says in the third film, “All my life I kept trying to go up in society. Where everything higher up was legal. But the higher I go, the crookeder it becomes. Where the hell does it end?”
Minority Report – More and more the State makes crimes of actions that don’t cause any harm, but might. Drunk driving, an improper paperwork trail for a large transfer of money, violation of any of a multitude of gun purchasing regulations. The point is no longer merely to punish the wrongdoer, but to prevent the crime from happening in the first place. What is the logical culmination of this? Minority Report shows us in a movie based on a story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick (who also inspired Bladerunner and Total Recall). In 2054, Washington D.C. has gone from being the murder capital of the nation to having no murders at all. This is due to the Department of Pre-Crime which, with the help of 3 “pre-cogs”, foresees murders before they occur and arrests the predicted murderer before he can actually do the deed.
The movie brilliantly explores issues of predestination and free will while demonstrating the injustice of a “justice” system that punishes not for actual crimes, but for ones that are yet to be committed… The ultimate “tradeoff” of liberty for security. A timely and masterfully executed collaboration between Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, this is a parable for our time and an exciting movie to watch.
Enemy of the State – A delightfully paranoid warning about the power of government in a technological age set in an action thriller format. Will Smith plays the lead, a man who finds himself hunted by government agents for no reason that he can fathom. This film is a sort of follow-up to “The Conversation” by Francis Ford Coppola, a very different kind of film which is more of a psychological exploration. Gene Hackman plays the same character in each film, an expert on snooping technology whose paranoia isolates him from others.
Shenandoah – Notes from David Boaz: Shenandoah, a 1965 film starring Jimmy Stewart, is often regarded as the best libertarian film Hollywood ever made. Stewart is a Virginia farmer who wants to stay out of the Civil War. Not our fight, he tells his sons. He refuses to let the state take his sons, or his horses, for war. Inevitably, though, his family is drawn into the war raging around them, and the movie becomes very sad. I cried when I was 11 years old, and I teared up again when I saw it recently. This is a powerful movie about independence, self-reliance, individualism, and the horrors of war.
The Castle – Notes Cato’s David Boaz: The Castle was produced in Australia in 1997 but reached the United States in 1999. It’s a very funny film about a character who thinks that living near the airport is just great. He even likes looking up at the massive power lines near his house because they remind him of what man can accomplish. Shades of Ayn Rand! Anyway, a man’s home is his castle, and the protagonist is shocked when the airport decides to seize his property to extend its runway. He fights the system to no avail until a smooth, well-dressed lawyer — way out of the lead character’s league — shows up and offers to take his case. Again we see powerful interests forced to defend themselves in a law-governed society. A nice defense of private property, and very funny to boot.
District 9 – a suprisingly good movie covering the figurative and literal transformation of the government bureaucrat in charge of managing the camps where stranded aliens are treated as inferior beings.
Wag The Dog – an anti-war movie where politicians bring in a Hollywood producer to stage a fake war in order to distract the public from other electoral problems. What seemed like a preposterous concept initially, quickly seemed plausible when folks saw Clinton’s Iraq bombing adventures in the middle of his Monica Lewinsky troubles.
Lord of the Rings – Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The ring tempts and infects everyone it touches, much like the power of the state often does with even the best of men. The uncorruptible Frodo was based upon Ron Paul – – my theory anyways, I don’t care what Snopes.com says!
Tommy Boy – In addition to being one of the funniest movies of all time, it also has some solid libertatrian themes. The Callahan family has built a proud and successful auto parts business. Once his father dies and the business is at risk, Chris Farley and David Spade don’t go looking for government bailout or subsidies, they find mutually beneficial trade partners to buy half a million brake pads and save their family business. We shall not speak of their subsequent collaboration “Black Sheep”.
300 – After rejecting the offer to become subjects/slaves to the Persian king, three hundred volunteer warriors fight against a vastly larger invading army. Throughout the movie, you’ll notice the absurdity of the divine right of kings, man’s ability to think critically and reason, taking up arms in defense of their rights, and the inherent corruption of most “representatives of the people”.
Schindler’s List – This movie is an excruciating look at what happens when government no longer respects the individual or their natural rights as human beings. With 262 Million killed by government in the last 100 years, we see that government and collectivism is the true threat to humanity.
1984 – George Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian future brought us the horrors of “Big Brother”. Many argue that vision is quickly becoming a reality.
Team America: World Police – The title and opening sequence give you a quick sense for how the rest of the movie will play out. After the team basically blows up most of Paris trying to capture a few terrorists, they await for the locals to shower them with praise and thanks. The fact that this movie also does a serious number on the smug hollywood elites is an added bonus.
Idiocracy – Depicts a world where idiots and their higher breeding rates now rule the world. For me, it is a less than subtle commentary on the supposed virtue of democracy.
The Incredibles – A family with exceptional abilities is forced into hiding and mediocrity by a society dominated by lawyers, regulations and envy. Keep digging deeper, and you’ll see the egalitarian dream of keeping everyone equal is shown to be both immoral and disastrous in practice.
Pursuit of Happyness – Based upon a true story, this movie shows the audience how a father’s love for his child, hard work and an entrepeneurial mindset can overcome most any of lifes’ hurdles.
Tucker: A Man and His Dream – Another movie based upon a true story; this time it is an entrepeneurial car maker who battles to bring his product to market while the crony capitalist big 3 automakers and government conspire against him.
Star Wars – We cheer for the secessionist rebels as they battle the evil central government Empire
Red Dawn – Pure 80’s, but great fun. The cold war comes to Colorado as the Soviets invade and a small band of high school students take up arms. The insurgent “Wolverines” continue to fight while local politicians do what they do best and cozy up to the new leadership in a partnership to keeping the general populace obedient.
Footloose – A free spirited young adult vs. local government and its anti-dancing law. What did David do?!
First Blood – Somewhere…I think I still have my Rambo knife with the screw bottom compass. Also inside the handle are fishing hooks and matches…an early introduction to doomsday prepper bug out kits. John Rambo is a vietnam vet struggling to acclimate back into society when he is brutalized by the local police. As he strikes back, his government pursuers and handlers argue whether their damaged “resource” should be exterminated or allowed to live.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as noted by a Mises forum post: which portrays a corrupt government with a media propaganda machine under it’s control preferring to save public relational face than perform it’s duty of providing security to it’s citizens, and which sends a classic nanny state bureaucrat of a villain to attempt to manage a private school, and ends up greatly worsening the quality of education while more and more meddlesome regulations keep piling up. Only the private Order of the Phoenix is capable of combating criminals in that day and age, and they do so in the face of government condemnation.
I, Robot – A two pronged libertarian movie with one aspect covering humanity and reason, and the other highlighting the slippery slope evils of utilitarian logic. VIKI the computer’s logic is undeniable once we concede the role of government (or robots) is to protect us from ourselves.
The Brave One – After becoming a victim of a brutal assault walking through the public park, Jodie Foster channels her inner Charles Bronson and begins exacting vengeance for herself, and justice for others. Are we allowed to take the law into our own hands? Or is it more accurate to say that asking the question itself shows how far we have been removed from natural law and true justice?
On the personal trivia side of things — One of the hoodlums is played by the brother-in-law of the same friend of mine who was also the web developer for this site.
Pump Up The Volume – The government owns the airwaves?! Happy Harry Hard-On and his pirate frequency radio show beg to differ.
Simpson’s Movie – Power hungry EPA officials and a slow witted president wrongfully imprison the entire city of Springfield (which state?).
SouthPark: Bigger, Longer, Uncut – As massive amounts of profanity save the day against the invading horde of demons, the obvious lesson being conveyed relates to the danger and immorality of censorship.
The Siege – From the 90s, this movie foretold America’s upcoming war on civil liberties – – or more commonly called “the war on terror”. Suspension of habeus corpus, rendition, torture, assassination…all in the name of keeping us safe.
They Live – Roddy Piper! That’s all we really need to say, but the movie also has a great politically subversive message.
Matrix – With the machines as the metaphorical state, most human beings exist only to add to the collective. It is the only the rare few that sense something isn’t right, and make the break towards freedom and truth. How many of us are ready to take the red pill?
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand’s opus finally coming to screen. As the most productive members of society begin to disappear, those that remain begin to ask, “Who is John Galt“. Part two is coming to theaters in October 2012.
True Grit – The daughter of a murdered farmer purchases the services of Rooster Cogburn to help her track down the killer. There are some great scenes early as she barters and trades to obtain the resources for her venture. A movie about private markets and true justice.
The Big Lebowski – As noted by contributor to the Mises forum: The hero is a marijuana smoking pacifist that, by seeking to decrease a felt uneasiness (the rug really tied the room together), ultimately uncovers fraud. The police are portrayed as either useless or belligerent – the sheriff of Malibu calls it his beach community, and believes he has the power to decide who is and is not allowed in. He then assaults the Dude.
Harrison Bergeron, A movie developed from the Kurt Vonnegut short story. The movie/book takes to the extreme a society of the lowest common denominator. The plot summary as noted by the online movie site IMDB: “All men are not created equal. It is the purpose of the Government to make them so.”
Some Others I Have Not Seen Yet, But Come Recommended:
- The Big Country
- The Fountainhead
- Cool Hand Luke
- Animal Farm
- The Outlaw Josey Wales
- Shane – “A gun is a tool, Tommy, no better or worse than the man who uses it.”
- Legends of the Fall
Coming Soon – Silver Circle, The Bubble, Atlas Shrugged Part 2