Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Best Libertarian Movies?

I've been thinking the past few weeks about good libertarian movies and I'm trying to come up with a halfway decent list. What I'm looking for is films that showcase a uniquely libertarian point of view- Not merely films that highlights a position staked out by libertarians (such as the film Traffic, which critiques the war on drugs) and not films that are simply anti-authoritarian (awful V for Vendetta I'm looking your way). I'm looking for movies whose themes stress the moral superiority of individuals over the force of government and maybe more importantly, a movie which tells a libertarian styled story that defies a more traditional storytelling device.
Mostly, I just don't want films that other political ideologues can make a claim for. This is a work in progress, but so far I've got four films, which just so happen to all be recent.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

This underrated Will Smith film gets the nod because I think it's the most positive portrait business and finance have ever been given on the big screen. It's different because it's a hard luck, rise to the top story without the usual nods to victimization and without the typical villains. In fact, there are no villains, other than a faceless IRS which yanks our heroes bank account. In the world of film, leaders of business and finance are never, ever shown in a good light, but here they're shown to be considerate and accommodating.

Thank You For Smoking (2005)
How could I not include the film in which the tobacco lobbyist is cast as the hero? You've got it all from a libertarian perspective- an underlying individualist argument, sanctimonious and self-righteous politicians and activists getting their just desserts, and a lead character who's comfortable with being a "merchant of death."

O Brother Where Art Thou (2000)

This is a different sort of choice, but I can't recall another film that ever took such swipes at the New Deal and the progressive politics of the 30's. The plot of the film follows George Clooney's Ulysses Everett McGill literal odyssey to return home to his wife and family. McGill's home is threatened and eventually washed away when a Tennessee Valley Authority style project floods the valley he had lived in. Not only that, but we see the modern, progressive pol in the film portrayed as a klansman and his opponent, the ever present Pappy O'Daniel wants to win elections by "gettin me some of that reform." Oh, and the sheriff searching out our heroes seems to literally be the devil.

Serenity (2005)

We're all just folk now. Serenity took Firefly's message of live and let live to the big screen, in a film who's plot literally highlighted the notion that the government's good intentions may well kill you. As I mentioned in my intro, we've seen thousands upon thousands of movies with evil, authoritarian governments and people fighting for freedom. In Serenity, the only evil is found in the mindless bureaucrats seeking to protect the monolithic government.

That's all for now, but I'd welcome other recommendations that don't begin with "V for Vendetta."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good discussion topic. I would have to agree with your choices, but there are a lot of older films which are fine examples of films with a libertarian bent. A lot of Westerns and Detective movies would qualify. In no particular order:

Casablanca: Bogart as the quintessential self-made hero.

Shenandoah: Jimmy Stewart as a Virginia farmer who wants no part of the civil war. Classic dialog about freedom and responsibilities.

Lonely are the Brave: Kirk Douglas as the last of the old-time cowboys, refusing to carry a social security card or to get a driver's license.

Fahrenheit 451: Government burning books as a means of control.

A Clockwork Orange: Even thoroughly nasty individuals have rights.

O Lucky Man: Malcolm McDowell as an "everyman" coffee salesman trying to make a life for himself in an increasingly bizarre modern England.

On the Waterfront: Marlon Brando as a not too bright boxer who takes on a corrupt union.

A few others come to mind:

The Godfather
Touch of Evil
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The Immigrants and The New Land

It would be a longer list than I originally expected; you can find libertarian leanings in a lot of films.

6:53 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I've never heard of Shenandoah before, but it sounds awfully interesting and I've always liked Jimmy Stewart. I'll have to give Lonely are the Brave a shot too.

I loved Fahrenheit 451, but I'd put it more in the category of anti-authoritarian movies that folks of all political persuasions tend to agree with. With your Kirk Douglas movie, there are probably people who watch and think that as romantic as the movie is, the guy should just get a social security card. Alternatively, no one supports the book burners. Even the folks who want to ban some books in the real world don't support the book burners.

Westerns seem to be a particularly good choice, given the availability of themes of rugged individualism and wanting to just be left alone, but I'm not all that well versed in the genre

1:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home