The libertarian film festival


The United States may be a new nation, conceived in liberty, but does Hollywood know it? From the archives of TCM to the blood-soaked streets of Mel Gibson's Jerusalem, movies are all about higher callings, collective purpose, causes greater than our own selfish interests. The typical Humphrey Bogart picture inevitably ends with the iconic loner's throwing in with the team for the good of all. For the vast majority of Old West emigrants, going west was about making money and not having to deal with other people, but you'd never know that from old-school westerns (where it's all about establishing law and order) or revisionist westerns (where it's all about crimes against humanity). As for films that actually praise capitalism or the free market, well, what are you, Old Man Potter?

Here's what I've come up with for a libertoid film festival. Your own suggestions are, of course, welcome.

Singin' In the Rain: Maybe a few biopics about famous inventors give a favorable view of scientific progress, but this is the only movie I know of (science fiction included) where a technological breakthrough—in this case, the invention of talkies—solves the protagonists' problems and leads to a happy ending.

Sometimes A Great Notion: Bad Ken Kesey novel makes a bad Paul Newman film, the big screen's only known celebration of the strike-breaking scab as rugged individualist.

Anything John Milius is involved with: In Red Dawn, all civil and social authorities cave in to the invading Russians, and it's left to the hunky brat pack militia to fight for America's freedoms. In Big Wednesday, draft-dodging surfers are lionized. In Conan, the Milton Friedman-quoting future governor of California seeks mainly to be left alone by all authority figures. And so on.

The Hudsucker Proxy: Many will object to the presence of leftwing actor Tim Robbins, but the scene in which the Hula Hoop is introduced into the market is the most succinct explanation of Relative Value on celluloid.

The Maltese Falcon: In the eyes of Sam Spade, cops, robbers, partners and women are all equal. Though the idea that Mary Astor's pinched Brigid O'Shaughnessy is an irresistible knockout will seem quaint to modern audiences, Bogart's last-minute abandonment of her is a wonderful rejection of Hollywood piety. Sadly, Casablanca came along the next year, establishing the Bogartian change of heart as moviedom's favorite plot device.

Yojimbo and its various derivatives: Toshiro Mifune's plague-on-both-your-houses struggle for survival is not only the last word on existential cool, but a disgusted condemnation of states and factions.

The Castle: An Australian bloke comedy I've never seen but surmised (from the trailer) is about a family battling an eminent domain action against their house.

Lost In America: Horrible, horrible freedom! Albert Brooks' greatest movie is in one way a study in the impossibility of finding freedom in modern society. But it also has the courage to ask, "You couldn't change your life on a hundred thousand dollars?" Bonus: The most sensible character in the picture is Garry Marshall's unflappable casino manager.

La Muerte de un bur?crata (Death of A Bureaucrat): Great slapstick from a dissident Cuban filmmaker. Inevitably, an IMDb commenter from California sees this satire of bureaucracy in Castro's paradise as really being about the United States. (Thanks to Jesse Walker for the suggestion.)

Ghostbusters: "I've worked in the private sector; they expect results." Laid-off goldbricks launch a successful startup business—until the EPA steps in! Forget Wall Street: This is the Reagan era's greatest celebration of the free market.


NEXT: Cost-Benefit Ratio

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  1. Not to be obvious, but you can’t forget “The Fountainhead”.

  2. I was thinking of movies that give freedom a good name, but I guess you’re right.

  3. Brazil… After all, a libertarian film festival should celebrate not only the ideals, but the alternatives.

  4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers – A few lone, desperate holdouts. The most intelligent, capable and diligent of their city, surrounded by unthinking zombies.

  5. Brazil.

  6. Maybe there aren’t a lot of Libertarian movies because people go to the movies to see things they can’t see in real life, and people already know a lot of selfish assholes.

  7. Nigel Hawthorne’s one throwaway role: Dr. Cocteau in Demolition Man, a parable about the nanny state.

    There’s also a nice minarchist bit as the anarchists are told to clean up a bit, the government to dirty up a bit, and then to figure the rest out for themselves.

    Hey, if a bad Paul Newman film can make it…

  8. “Finding Nemo” for it’s “you got to take risk” theme.

  9. Traffic

  10. I think Desk Set works pretty well. The whole time the staff is going on about being laid off because of a new computer, but in the end, it’s explained by the consultant (played by Spencer Tracy) that it’s just there to help them because of a merger that’s about to happen.

    Besides, the film should be considered pro-free-market just for a scene that went something like this:

    Cutler (Spencer Tracy): This is a big office you’ve got here.

    Azae: Well, the clients and investors expect it. There’s another one just like it on the floor below. You want to use it while you’re here?

    Cutler: No, I don’t think so.

    Azae: You don’t care whether you impress anybody or not, do you?

    Cutler: Wait until you get my bill – you’ll be impressed.

  11. Sandy, that was indeed a great part, though I wish they had picked the obviously totalitarian Subway rather than the relatively innocuous Taco Bell as the real villain denatured-food monopoly.

    Joe Bonforte, I’m embarrassed to have forgotten Desk Set

  12. “Est-ouest”; perhaps not “libertarian,” but it does explore the horrors of Stalinist Russia (if through the vantage point of several romances).

  13. I nominate “Field Of Dreams”. Costner’s character undertakes a risky venture for his own sake, and at the end we see an near-infinite line of $20/person customers as a reward. Also, James Earl Jones (one of my favorite actors) portraying a reclusive intellectual author, who is violently opposed to his own fame. A good libertarian flick.

  14. “Strictly Ballroom” also works; “Tucker”; “Shenandoah”; and “Fahrenheit 451.”

  15. Last year’s Dirty Pretty Things made a pretty good case against unjust immigration policies. And…depending, no doubt, on one’s ideological biases…could be viewed as an argument in favor of an open market in human organs (as opposed to the underground one portrayed in the film).

  16. It’s a somewhat flawed adaptation, but the John Hurt/Richard Burton version of Orwell’s 1984 is certainly a stinging indictment of the evils of big–very big–government.

  17. Although, I’m not really sure Kubrick got Burgess’s point, I would nominate “A Clockwork Orange.”

  18. Brazil is my favorite example of a libertarian film, particularly because of the outlaw heating engineer, fighting the government tyranny over duct repair.

    Also has a good list of libertarian films.

  19. Paul Verhoven’s dystopian flicks where state/corporate power is absolute in Starship Troopers and Robocop.

  20. I’d second Demolition Man, unrealistic and poorly acted/directed as it was. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is pretty sympathetic to the pale-faced weed growers, and also quite cynical about Britain’s attempts at gun control. The Professional/Leon has little love lost for the DEA. Raiders of the Lost Ark strikes a devil-may-care individualist note and also closes on an anti-bureaucracy coda. And Heathers and Election each use their jaundiced view of high school life as a means of expressing disdain towards established authority and mass culture in general. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off does this as well, though not on a more lighthearted note.

  21. Typo: that should have been “on a more lighthearted note”

  22. I don’t want to come off like an asshole, here.

    But does anyone else think it’s kind of lame that libertarians seem to always be looking for evidence of libertarianism everywhere? It seems that every day some joker is coming up with wacky themes on pop culture staples like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or whatever and trying to spin it as some secret libertarian gospel.

    And I’m not saying those libertarian themes aren’t there. I don’t need someone pointing out to me that Harry Potter’s school is like a bureaucracy, or whatever. I don’t really care.

    I’m saying that it’s kind of lame to constantly be pointing those things out. Sometimes I’m guilty of it, too. But that doesn’t make it cool to do.

    If I had one wish, it would be that libertarianism–and more importantly libertarians–stop being so fucking lame.

  23. How about the Conehead movie? The aliens are brilliant, work harder than anyone else, and are great neighbors. Yet the State goes to a lot of effort to be rid of them.

  24. Actually, Starship Troopers, kind of reminds me of the current, and forever more War on Terror (TM).

  25. Breaking news, Martha guilty on all four counts!

  26. Fearless

    libertarian AND atheist. no higher power here, just a man struggling to fall back to earth after surviving a plane crash. beautiful movie, in every way.

  27. Ninotchka – “There will be fewer but better Russians!”

    The Continental Op was a better character from the infrared Hammett.

  28. Er, so is Braveheart just too obvious, or what?

  29. Hey, nobody mentioned that a quite-libertarian film just won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. Here’s my description of the socialized-medicine-mocking, multiple-ism-critiquing, French-Canadian film _Barbarian Invasions_:

    Others have noted the 70s one-man-vs.-the-IRS film _Harry’s War_, the anti-corporatist-regulation film _Tucker: The Man and His Dream_, and the anti-tenant-laws thriller _Pacific Heights_ (landlords as good guys!).

  30. How about “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”? My 3 year old watched it about, oh, 200 times. I like the line by the emperor, at the end, during the children’s uprising: “Were did all these children come from? We have a law against children!”

    OK greg, maybe I’m lame. But this is kinda fun, anyway.

    Hmmm. What about Shrek?

  31. How can we all forget Inherit the Wind?

  32. Steve, Field of Dreams explanation: ROTFL!

    Love that flick….oh and yeah, it has the “libertarian approved” label too. 😐

  33. And that is not, a good thing.

  34. Snake Pliskin in Escape from New York is the ultimate loner against both real society and prison society, at the end he destroys the tape that Donald Plesance is supposed to play to avoid WW3

    Videodrome, starring James Woods and Debbi Harry, presents the issues of censorship, media control and brain damage in a twisted yet weirdly relevant way.

    Willy Wonka – who’s more of a libertarian than him?

  35. I wouldn’t have been reminded of it if I hadn’t seen other stuff on H’n’R, but how about Private Parts?

  36. Le Fonctionnaire (Jean Bart, plz correct) — It’s the French movie upon which the American classic True Lies was based, and the joke here is that a boring French state-paid bureaucrat could actually have a secret double-life as a dashing James Bond type.

    Damnation Alley — Can’t tell you for sure what makes it “libertarian”; maybe it’s the survival-of-the-fittest-after-nuclear-holocaust, maybe (probably) it’s Jan-Michael Vincent, maybe it’s that dude who gets eaten by the cockroaches in deserted Las Vegas….

  37. I nominate Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for its amazing portrayal of what happens when corporate powers and the state collude to enforce the benefit of state and corporate power.

    Corporatism defined.

    Oh wait….the “Prophecy of the Chosen One”…..damn.

  38. The People vs. Larry Flynt

  39. Hmm, I’d nominate Minority Report but Spielberg totally missed the point.

    How about…

    A Man for All Seasons (St. Thomas More fights against tyrrany)
    Schindler’s List (The good that a private business owner can do.)
    Equilibrium (The fight against total state control. A great terrible movie.)

  40. Gonna go with Open Range. Two libertarian ideals clash (property rights vs. men defending their livelihood).

  41. Jon:
    “Hmm, I’d nominate Minority Report but Spielberg totally missed the point.”

    Why would you say that? Pre-Crime did shut down after all.

    And I’m not sure about the pre-cogs….what’s the difference between their visions and Yoda using the Force?

  42. If Lost In America can get in as a study of the pain in the ass of finding freedom in America, then Ghost World could get in for much the same reason. And if you pay close attention, you can see some of Peter Bagge’s comics in it.

  43. More believable was the Force. Sucked slightly less it did, yes.

  44. Henri-Georges Clouzot – “The Wages of Fear”

  45. I’d take Red Dawn off the list, not because I have anything against John Millius, but simply becuase it’s not a very good movie. Plus, I believe an unarmed prisoner of war is shot by the kids, which I believe a lot of libertarians would be up in arms about if it was discovered the US Army was doing that in Iraq. It’s still a war crime if C. Thomas Howell does it, although it’s not as big a war crime as Soul Man. I’d also add –

    The Man in the White Suit – Alec Guiness plays an inventor who develops a fabric that doesn’t wear out. The unions and big business immediately try to shut him down.

    Xiu Xiu: the sent down girl – a stirring condemnation of Communist China’s Cultural Revolution.

    Other People’s Money – a movie about corporate takeovers in which the corporate raider is the good guy.

    X-Men 2 – a group of outisders hole up in a compound with a weapon of mass destruction (you can kill a whole lot of people with Cerebro) and try not to bother anybody. For their trouble, they get raided by the Feds in a Waco-style assault.

    Although I think Greg Newburn is a bit harsh, I do feel a bit silly picking “libertarian films” considering that the criteria for being a libertarian film are so broad that a whole lot of films could be judged as “libertarian” simply because some character says something nice about “freedom”. “The Matrix” is often touted as a libertarian film even though the heroes seem to have no problem killing innocent people if it gets in the way of achieving their goals. It would only be a libertarian movie if the robots enslaved 99 percent of humanity and the remaining 1 percent tried to defeat them with a free trade agreement. 🙂

  46. Maybe I was harsh, but more importantly I think we’re seeing evidence that I was right.

  47. How about another John Carpenter film: They Live?

    Very conspiritorial in nature, but John Carpenter is not a big fan of authority.

  48. Shanep:
    In Dick’s short story, the point was that pre-crime was a bad idea to begin with, because humans need the chance to choose.

    To Spielberg, Pre-Crime was a good idea, except it was run by people, who are corrupt.

  49. Greg,

    I think I have to agree with you. I’m surprised no one thus far has mentioned the “Girls Gone Wild” series for it’s prinicpled stand against the nanny state and its tyrannical public decency laws. Or what about Xanadu, with its celebration of entrepeneurship?

  50. That is EXACTLY right.

  51. I just saw Laurel and Hardy’s “Utopia” for the first time. When uranium is found on their tiny island, they have to form a government to keep other governments from claiming their paradise.

    “Now, what should we have in our constitution?”

    “No passports!”

    “No laws!”

    “No taxes!”

    “Yes sir, this is shaping up to be a perfect government!”

  52. Cash McCall – Light-hearted romantic *business* comedy. No rallying points, just fun and business…and James Garner.

  53. Thanks for the response Jon. Yeah, I can see that looking back on the film.

    What about another Speilberg film: CE3K?

    In that film, an individual sidesteps the governments attempted coverup at contact and….

    wait……government scientists and large pork-barrel spending of the airstrip at Devil’s Tower….damn.

  54. THX 1138.

  55. Generally agree with Greg, but have to add anyway that “Goodbye Lenin!” (anticipated frequently on H&R) lived up to its billing. It had mixed messages about the results of capitalist tranformation, though, and was not libertarian in a sense.

    However, judging by this thread, every movie ever made is “libertarian” in some fashion.

    What would then qualify as a un-libertarian movie? “Birth of a Nation” ? 🙂

  56. I think that Classic Star Wars (original formula) is a very un-libertarian set of film. It forwards the idea that real revolution can only be led by an elite few that are destined to rule. Only the chosen few are given true power. The common man is trampled between the two sides without the higher ups really feeling the impact.

    Now… the Rocky Horror Picture Show… THAT’s libertarian! (j/k… or am I?)

  57. Actually dlc, you could say Griffith’s movie is libertarian in some way because it shows the consequences of the centralizing aspects of the reconstruction…lol.

  58. How about another John Carpenter film: They Live?

    Very conspiritorial in nature, but John Carpenter is not a big fan of authority.

    Well, except that Carpenter portrays capitalism as just another aspect of the Evil Alien Scheme — remember the money with “This is your god” written on it, and the bulletin boards that just say “Consume”?

    I would like to add “Other People’s Money” to the list. I think maybe the filmmakers were trying to be anti-capitalist (and certainly the original play was), but the end result didn’t turn out that way. Danny DeVito’s speech about “buggy whips” at the end is one of the best cinematic defenses of capitalism I’ve ever heard.

    What would then qualify as a un-libertarian movie?

    A movie that doesn’t celebrate individuality and individual enterprise.

  59. Jon:
    “I think that Classic Star Wars (original formula) is a very un-libertarian set of film. It forwards the idea that real revolution can only be led by an elite few that are destined to rule. Only the chosen few are given true power. The common man is trampled between the two sides without the higher ups really feeling the impact.”

    Yeah, knights, princesses, lords, etc. But, I think that really came out in Return of the Jedi for the most part…and unfortunately has been set in stone with the “chosen one prophecy” in the prequels.
    Remember too that in the original films, Han was promoted to General after the Death Star battle….and he was a smuggler against the Imperial regime. Pretty much a common man.

    But why didn’t Chewie get a medal too?

    Needs to pull some arms out their sockets to get one I guess. 🙂

  60. shanep,

    Yeah damnit, without Reconstruction, white Southernors would have never, ever tried to re-constitute de facto slavery in the South (like they did before radical Reconstruction took hold).

  61. The Star Trek series is one that could go either way. It’s a very libertarian state that they live under, but I’m not sure if there are any over-arching storylines that really celebrate freedom and individuality.

    If anything, I’d say Wrath of Khan and First Contact were the closest to libertarian themed. The former for having common people work together to beat a superman, and the latter for the sub-plot of individuals fighting from being subsumed into a hive-mind.

    Still, I wouldn’t suggest those over other more blatantly “freedom advocating” movies, as their libertarian themes really aren’t that strong.

  62. Jean:
    “Yeah damnit, without Reconstruction, white Southernors would have never, ever tried to re-constitute de facto slavery in the South (like they did before radical Reconstruction took hold).”

    Yeah, I like how radical reconstruction brought about the supremacy of the greenback, the rise of the subsidized expansion of the west and genocide, and the motivation to white southerners to sanction discrimination.

    Nice libertarian notions.

  63. I may have missed a few of the comments, but could it be that no one has mentioned “The People vs Larry Flynt”?

  64. I don’t understand how anyone could think the Star Trek universe was even faintly libertarian. There is a world government, money has been abolished, there seem to be directives and regulations about everything.

    Sure, it’s fun to fly around in a Federation Starship. I wonder what Federation truck drivers think of the deal?

    Now Firefly, there’s a libertarian show. The protagonists are a bunch of people who are living on the edge of civilization to escape an oppressive government. They’d rather fight and die to stay free than join the bureaucracy. They have zero use for bureaucrats, regulations, or the ‘protection’ of government. The characters have even given some overtly libertarian-themed speeches during the course of the series.

  65. Enemy of the State w/ Will Smith and Gene Hackman…saw it on some movie channel a few weeks ago. It’s all about government conspiracy (so it’s right up my alley).

  66. The Searchers, John Ford/John Wayne, the undefeated
    rebel comes home with Yankee gold,
    and exercises his freedom of hate.

  67. If anyone’s interested, the “Other People’s Money” speech I mentioned can be found

  68. “Gonna go with Open Range. Two libertarian ideals clash (property rights vs. men defending their livelihood).”

    I was of the opinion that the “free rangers” were not on anyone else’s land. They were on open range, government owned land. Maybe Open Range was really about the tragedy of the commons . . .

  69. Having got this thread started, I suppose I’ve given up veto power, but if I did I would give a big No to all Spielberg and Lucas entries. Much as I like their movies, both are (artistically at any rate) big state power fetishists whose utopia is clearly a perpetual welfare/warfare benevolent kingdom where FDR would be president for life. This is no reflection on their pictures; there are very few Spielberg movies I haven’t liked. In fact, I think the interesting thing is that collective purpose and sacrifice of the individual for the greater good are themes far better suited to the emotional propaganda of movies than freedom, common sense, etc. Sad but true!

    I’m tempted to give a pass to Close Encounters because it popularized black helicopter culture, and Amistad because the courts uphold the right of the individual against the state. But … no … I just … can’t.

    Other nominees that seem doubtful to me: Wrath of Khan (another classic, but come on: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one? Says who?), The Searchers (unless you see Chief Scar as the real hero), and Field of Dreams (which makes sense as a pick, but it’s all about the spirit of the sixties, and the sixties is the greatest tyranny of all).

  70. How about


    great Oscar winner about an conflicted loner that follows his conscience and rebels against the thuggery of a local longshoreman’s union. Marlon Brando is brilliant in this. Not so much a peaen to freedom as it is an indictment of gang rule and an affirmation of the independent spirit.


  71. Steve in Co:

    Personally, I took Robocop films to be some of the most anti-libertarian films I’ve ever seen. Privatization is portrayed in a very poor light, the second film is blatently anti-drug legalization, and the heroine in the third movie rants at one point about the “capitalist” bastards the people of Detroit are supposed to rebel against.

    Now… If you want to see a libertarian movie, try to find the Patrick Bergin/Uma Thurman version of Robin Hood. There is a great speek Bergin gives in the begining about “Norman taxes on Saxon liberty.” Also, let me recommend the short-lived, highly under-rated, sci-fi series Firefly. Great stuff, and you can now get the whole series on DVD.

  72. Color me deeply ashamed at having forgotten Ninotchka and Escape From New York. To anybody who hasn’t seen Ninotchka: You owe it to yourself.

  73. Awwww! Dan beat me to it with the Firefly reccomendation! I love Sheperd Book’s line from “War Stories” about “A government is a body of people largely ungoverned.”

    I also reminds me of my favorire role-playing game, Traveller: A bunch of rougish misfits aboard a cargo ship or mercenary vessel making their fortune on the frontier of a vast interstellar empire. To bad Joss Whedon isn’t into aliens like Marc Miller is.

  74. “Sometimes A Great Notion: . . . celebration of the strike-breaking scab as rugged individualist.”

    “Dirty Pretty Things …could be viewed as an argument in favor of an open market in human organs”

    “the anti-tenant-laws thriller _Pacific Heights_ (landlords as good guys!)”

    “at the end he destroys the tape that Donald Plesance is supposed to play to avoid WW3”

    “Can’t tell you for sure what makes it “libertarian”; maybe it’s the survival-of-the-fittest-after-nuclear-holocaust, . . . maybe it’s that dude who gets eaten by the cockroaches in deserted Las Vegas….”

    “Schindler’s List (The good that a private business owner can do.)”
    [NB: That was the message you took from Schindler’s List?!]

    “Other People’s Money – . . . the corporate raider is the good guy.”

    “The Searchers, John Ford/John Wayne, the undefeated [racist, pro-slavery] rebel comes home with Yankee gold, and exercises his freedom of hate.”

    “I’m tempted to give a pass to Close Encounters because it popularized black helicopter culture”

    In case any of you were wondering what prompted that one guy’s comments about “selfish assholes,” the answer is . . . you did. The best argument against libertarianism is libertarians.

  75. The musical version of Ninotchka, called Silk Stockings, has a lot of good anti-statist lines and lyrics. “I got the Red blues,” goes one of the songs. Also has Cyd Charisse and Fred Astair, but now I’m just showing my biases…

    More generally, I see a strong theme in this thread that lists “anti-establishment” or “anti-authority” movies as if they were necessarily libertarian. Not the same thing, no matter how much one might want to scorn the establishment or disdain authority.

    BTW, Greg, this helps to explain why some of the choices seem so lame.

    One of my kids talked back to me tonight and refused to go to bed on time. What a libertarian!

  76. OK. We’ll be taking back the decoder rings starting now.

  77. Movies that actually espouse libertarianism are pretty rare. Generally anti-statist movies that take a strongly libertarian stance on one central issue — like Harry’s War and taxes, or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and institutionalization — are more common. Mostly, though, movies get dubbed “libertarian” because they feature either individualist heroes who go their own way (how come no one’s mentioned Charley Varrick yet?) or incredibly oppressive systems that crush the human spirit (note all the nominations for Brazil). Or occasionally both (see The Prisoner, though it isn’t actually a movie), but that’s extremely rare because they’re two very different sensibilities.

    But that doesn’t mean we’re lamely trying to claim movies or filmmakers or actors as libertarians when they’re not. We’re just saying these are movies with some themes that libertarians should dig. Nothing wrong with that.

    On another topic: There’s a small handful of Spielberg movies that I like, but if all his pictures disappeared from the earth tomorrow the only one I’d probably miss would be Jaws.

  78. Death of a Bureaucrat is a great movie, but calling Tomas Gutierrez Alea a “dissident Cuban filmmaker” is just wrong. He’s not a simplistic pro-communism propagandist either, but he’s been supportive of the Castro regime and a leading figure in the Cuban film industry since 1959.

  79. There’s gone-to-the-Gulag dissent and there’s uneasy-relationship-with-the-authorities dissent. Gutierrez Alea is more in the position of a Bulgakov than a Solzhenitsyn, but I still think the label fits.

  80. There’s a small handful of Spielberg movies that I like, but if all his pictures disappeared from the earth tomorrow the only one I’d probably miss would be Jaws.

    Amen to that.

  81. Yeah, I can’t believe nobody mentioned Risky Business till d did. I have an excuse – I’ve been offline.

    “Princeton can really use a guy like you, Joel.”

    Brazil would have to be at the top of my list.

  82. Jesse:

    Yeah, I still think quite a bit of this is a stretch. Ferris Bueller is one of my favorite movies, but its relationship to politics is unclear to me. More generally, adolescent rebels, odd-balls, drunks, and whores aren’t libertarian heroes. They’re just rebels, odd-balls, drunks, and whores.

    This might all reflect some twisted version of the minarchist/anarchist split, or the old “free to sin” vs. “free from sin” distinction.

    Now, Road Warrior as a libertarian film? I dig it.

  83. Risky Business…. It’s all about taking the initiative, earning the cash, and getting the girl.

  84. Perhaps Ferris and Office Space and The Matrix are more est-y (ick), personal liberation sort of movies, which is another thing entirely.

  85. High Noon? Is Gary Cooper’s character not a rugged individualist?

  86. High Noon.

  87. How about Seabiscuit? The guy who trained him was a man of the old West, and lived in the barn with Seabiscuit as he trained him. Not because he had too, because he wanted too. As a result, his libertarian spirit and understanding that hard work and sacrifice, not government promises of equal outcomes, rewarded him with an all-time great horse.

  88. By the way, the IMDB commenter on Death of a Bureaucrat was simply stating that the film applies to more than just Castro’s Cuba – that the US has plenty of beureacracy for an American viewer to see it as relevant. The film’s REALLY about ideas that are not rooted in a specific place and time – not such a silly notion.

  89. I’m surprised no one mentioned “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” yet. Granted, it was a mess in production, and the story gets a bit bogged down, but some scenes are priceless.

  90. They Might be Giants – one of George C Scott’s finest roles: a delusional ex-judge who believes he is Sherlock Holmes and who runs into a psychiatrist named Watson (wonderfully played by Joanne Woodward) evading the authorities to track down Moriarity at a final showdown. Thomas Szasz would be proud.


    -shows that the war on drugs is failing

  92. There is actually a web site dedicated to the latest in libertarian film at and a book, “Miss Liberty’s Guide to Film and Video,” (available at Amazon and Laissez-Faire Books, and a newsletter all about libertarian film (which you can sign up to at the aforementioned web site).

  93. I would like to mention “Apollo 13”. Yes, I know that NASA is a tax-funded bureaucracy; nevertheless, A13 is the only movie I’ve ever seen in which the main protagonist is human intelligence.

    Also, somewhat off topic, allow me to call to your attention an old TV series (only on for one, maybe two seasons) called “The Iron Horse”, about railroad building in the 19th century. It starred Dale Robertson as a Nat-Taggart-like entrepreneur who, although handy with his fists and his gun, nevertheless solved most of his problems/crises with endless ingenuity and resourcefullness.

  94. “Kidco” is a great sleeper film about kids who create their own successful company. The Encore PLEX station used to play it. And what about “Jacob’s Ladder” with Tim Robbins — government drug experiments with soldiers? It sounds just like today. I just heard that an anti-malaria drug has caused brain damage in some soldiers, and look at all the other damage those injections and drugs have caused. “Atlas Shrugged” would indeed make a great movie or miniseries. It would also be cool if the rock group Rush made a movie based on their “2112” epic. I think it is a great time for freedom-oriented films, and I hope one is released that can really get the ball rolling to change things for the better. Maybe Aaron Russo is the man to watch for something like that. Or some independent movie-maker with his own Final Cut, to make the next “Brazil.” Roll the tapes and let’s make some history!

  95. I found my way here by means of the Miss Liberty newsletter. I am not sure about the “libertarian” nature of movies in general, but there are many that have hints of lbertarianism in them. There are many of these same films that have hints of many other ideologies as well. As for those who are upset because of “Libertarians” always looking to find hints of libertarianism in everything they see, it would seem you are no better in your drive to find reasons for rejecting the libertarian ideals. It is afterall, natural to look for things that support your beliefs.

    I think that many of the old westerns, both movies and television series, were very libertarian in nature as I recall them.

    I would like to see Atlas Shrugged made into a movie ( I have read in various places that it is in the works ), Fountainhead was good, and I have seen a number of films that had a “We The Living” feel to them.

    I would really like to see a cartoon based adaptation of “I Pencil” along the lines of the America Rocks stuff.

  96. I don’t see “Legends of the Fall” mentioned here, but I think it’s very libertarian in its critique of
    1) Prohibition
    2) World War I
    3) violations of the property rights of native Americans
    And after Anthony Hopkin’s character’s stroke, he can still manage to mumble the words:
    “**** the government”

  97. A lot of great ideas posted here – thanks everybody for the memory-jog.

    – The first of my three major suggestions is also the most overlooked: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Set against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia is a stunning – and apparently entirely unintentional, from the audio commentary by Kaufmann et al – parable of the responsibility inherent in freedom. Watch this film (as I did on its theatrical release) taking sexuality to be a metaphor for freedom, and observe how the three very different principle characters (Day-Lewis, Olin and Binoche) each handle their sexuality/liberty – and the consequences. A film with a flawed tongue-in-cheek beginning complete with cheesy narration, transforms itself into a stunning poetic masterpiece.

    – Juzo Itami’s “A Taxing Woman” is a hilarious and stylish “instant classic” satire of the ridiculous lengths to which a tax collector will go in pursuit of “delinquent” businessmen. Not a particularly flattering portrayal of business, but the focus is on the relentless efforts of the infuriating yet adorable Ryoko. Whether intentional or not, the message on balance is a withering sendup of government injustice against traders. No one should go through life without seeing this film! But beware the DVD of this (reportedly a horrific direct transfer of the VHS, subtitles and all.) The sequel “A Taxing Woman Returns” is also to be avoided at all costs – a complete reversal with tax collector as hero and business as villain. Go figure.

    – Mamet’s “The Edge”: I about fell out of my theater seat the first time I saw this. A billionaire hero (Anthony Hopkins) teaches a snivelling, whiny leftwing yuppie (Alec Baldwin, appropriately,) that the only means of survival in the wild after a plane crash – and under pursuit by a huge Kodiak bear with a taste for human flesh – is….reason? Absolutely incredible dramatization of the theme of reason as man’s only means of survival – literally.

    – “Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius”: Ok, no major theme of liberty vs tyranny, but I was amazed to see a projection of retro-50s Space Age Americana done without a shred of sneering, sarcastic contempt – coupled with themes of the power of unshackled ingenuity, the inherent decency of American society, plus amazing (and frequently hilarious) computer animation!
    [This brings up a note of dissention I’d like to make on somebody’s suggestion of “Shrek.” What elements of anti-statism that movie contains is utterly outweighed in my mind by the contemptible theme of “beauty is inferior to ugliness/blandness.” The shopworn “beauty comes from within” I could’ve stomached, but not “In any choice between beautiful princess vs. semi-obese plain-jane, reject beauty.” Yeeeek.]

    – Count me as another Johnny-come-lately to third (fourth?) the nomination of Whedon’s “Firefly,” even though it was a TV series – inexplicably hacked short by Fox after a single season – and the movie (which is definitely going to happen) hasn’t come out yet. Rare to see such a vivid – almost overt – dramatic connection of free trade with literal survival… [read my more detailed synopsis on Amazon, dated April 15 under the moniker “UFO6”]

    -I second “Braveheart” as a shoo-in, despite Gibson’s more recent lurch into heavy religion. It’s hard to recall a more powerful dramatization of liberty as an ideal.

    Pardon the running l o n g . . .

  98. We need people to watch more anti-totalitarian films such as Equilibrium, The Matrix, X-Men and X2.

    I will post a full list on the as well as this site if I decide to make one.

  99. Top Ten

    1. Equilibrium
    2. The Matrix
    3. X-Men
    4. X2
    5. Fahrenheit 911
    6. Liberty Bound
    7. Jin-Roh
    8. Grave of the Fireflies
    9. Akira
    10. Ghost in the Shell

    I have not seen Stranger in a Strange land, but I have heard it is a very good Libertarian Film.

  100. Top Ten

    1. Equilibrium
    2. The Matrix
    3. X-Men
    4. X2
    5. Fahrenheit 911
    6. Liberty Bound
    7. Jin-Roh
    8. Grave of the Fireflies
    9. Akira
    10. Ghost in the Shell

    I have not seen Stranger in a Strange land, but I have heard it is a very good Libertarian Film.

  101. I have this vague memory of Hombre (Paul Newman) being a great individual against society story. Does anyone else recall this film?

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