Being a fan of good cinema and a libertarian at the same time is rough these days. A good libertarian movie is about as hard to come by as a kept promise by a career politician. It’s long been established that Hollywood is no friend to the liberty movement and even before the Red Scare that sent McCarthy and his buddies on a moral crusade to eradicate Commies from the film industry, truly libertarian films were rare.
Of course, there was the noble effort by the Ayn Rand fan club to turn her magnum opus into a three-part film series, but that book wasn’t made for film and the lackluster audience response is proof of its unimpressive adaptation. So, until someone with deep pockets has the guts to make the brilliant political thriller by yours truly, Gods of Ruin, into an epic blockbuster, we’re left to seek out quality libertarian entertainment where we can.
There are some excellent films with a strong libertarian message out there and I’m glad to be your curator. Here are the top ten libertarian films of all time:
The whole Guy Fawkes thing is dubious from a non-aggression principle standpoint, but a movie that spawned an international movement of masked Internet vigilantes can’t be all that bad. Money quote: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
In a deceptively tranquil dystopian future, this entertaining YA-book-turned-film celebrates the color of life that the dull gray of socialism seeks to blot out. Money quote: “You have stopped taking your injections, haven’t you?”
Pixar produced the year’s best film in nearly all of its first ten releases, and A Bug’s Life is no exception. It’s fun, it’s family-friendly, and there’s a nice libertarian message warning against the evils of socialism. In it, the productive ants work year-round and store for the winter, only to have the worthless leech grasshoppers come to forcefully confiscate the fruits of the ants’ labor. Money quote: “Ants are not meant to serve grasshoppers.”
The thoroughly entertaining story of a man who tried to achieve the American dream before it was stamped out by crony capitalism. Money quote: “If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he’d be thrown in jail for sailing a kite without a license!”
Probably the greatest animated film ever has some great libertarian undertones, specifically the celebration of excellence and individual achievement. This is the story of individuals overcoming evil by being incredible. Government plays the appropriate role of cleanup. Money quote: “Average people, average citizens quietly and anonymously making the world a better place.”
The 80s perfected the pop film and Ghostbusters could be the prime example. It’s well-written, it’s funny, and—what do you know—there’s a libertarian angle: small business owners take on the FDA Walter Pecks of the world to save the city from marshmellow-y supernatural disaster. Money quote: “Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”
True, JFK could’ve been edited down to about half its final screen time and true, some of the theoretical stuff is a little abstract to worry about, but Oliver Stone’s masterpiece is a brilliant political thriller, and, most importantly, it’s pretty much all true. This isn’t conspiracy theory, this is conspiracy fact and this production brings it to light in a way only a quality film can. Money quote: “The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison, is for war. The authority of the state over its people resides in its war powers. Kennedy wanted to end the Cold War in his second term. He wanted to call off the moon race and cooperate with the Soviets. He signed a treaty to ban nuclear testing. He refused to invade Cuba in 1962. He set out to withdraw from Vietnam. But all that ended on the 22nd of November, 1963.”
The film that started an entire subculture, Star Wars is an epic libertarian tale. Beneath all the light saber battles, lovable dog-looking aliens, and fiery explosions in the vacuum of space is the classic tale of a band of rag-tag rebels fighting to overcome a tyrannical empire. Money quote: “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for. You can go about your business.”
In perhaps the most well-acted production in the history of cinema, this play-turned-Oscar-winner gives the fight for liberty from a tyrannical authority an unprecedented dramatic flare. True, Sir Thomas More wrote the first “Utopia”, which was a socialist paradise, but his character in this classic is libertarian through and through. Money quote: “I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live.”
Braveheart has become a bit of a cliché in libertarian circles, but for good reason. It’s an excellent film (rightly winning the Best Picture Oscar) and it is the quintessential picture of libertarianism. William Wallace battles corruption in his own ranks, petty municipal authorities, and the tyrant of tyrants, Edward Longshanks—the Hammer of Scots. The speech before the Battle of Stirling proves the libertarian chops and puts into words the most resounding cry for freedom in cinema ever: “Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”
This article was edited for grammar, style, and spelling, but not for content. The views expressed are that of the author, JSB Morse, exclusively, and do not reflect that of BeingLibertarian.com or Being Libertarian LLC