These films capture the essence of libertarian thought while never forgetting to entertain us.
It happens every year in Hollywood.
The industry winds up and delivers a film with overt liberal messages. Think 2015’s “Truth,” a failed attempt to spin liberal anchor Dan Rather’s attack on President George W. Bush’s National Guard service.
Last year, the industry uncorked “Miss Sloane.” Jessica Chastain’s film might as well have been written by Everytown for Gun Safety or The Brady Campaign.
Actually, that might have been the case.
What about Libertarian movies? You may not believe it, but the film industry has produced a number of films which libertarian-leaning audiences adore.
The messages often aren’t as obvious as with “Miss Sloane” and “Truth.” These Libertarian movies honor freedom and limited government all the same.
Hollywood in Toto reached out to several Libertarians to learn which movies truly embrace their ideals. Note: the following responses either reflect the sources direct thoughts or were paraphrased from submitted material.
Filmmaker Ted Balaker (“Can We Take a Joke?”)
“The Barbarian Invasions” features a son returning to Canada to care for the terminally ill father he blames for breaking up the family. The film is not explicitly libertarian, and that helps explain why it’s so compelling. It leads with a great story, but viewers also witness the clash between the “capitalist” young son and his “socialist” father, the failings of a bureaucratic health care system and the human cost of drug prohibition.
“The Hunt” shows the dangers of groupthink and how quickly an innocent man can become a pariah. A brilliant film anchored by the brilliant Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.
Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
“Dallas Buyers Club” is a perfect example of the deadly consequences that arrogant, know it all bureaucrats have on people’s lives. It captures well how regulatory policies though the FDA and other agencies are commonly captured by the country’s most powerful interests.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” attacks the lame arguments that we should all be okay to have the NSA spy on us because it’s for our own protection.
“The Hunger Games” series is all all about fighting back, even when the odds of winning are small. It also shows the moral decay of the elite who feed off the system—they dressed better and wear their moral decadence on the outside unlike their counter-parts in Washington DC.
“Amazing Grace” gives me hope because it shows that there are always a few people who are willing to fight an oppressive system even if they are in the minority. The movie also reminds us why it’s worth fighting even if it seems politically impossible to win at the time. The battle of ideas takes time but freedom can prevail. Not fighting for freedom and individual rights and against injustice is simply not an option.
“McFarland USA” puts a face on the millions low-skill immigrants who come to this country to make a better life for themselves, the adults and the children in work their butt off (in this case picking fruits and vegetables) every day.
Shayne Madsen, lawyer
“Thelma and Louise” is the ultimate libertarian movie showing how criminal laws and police officers can follow the rules while destroying lives and character. Also “Philomena,” the story of closed adoption records and the Catholic Church destroying families and lives.
Sherrie Peif, Reporter for Complete Colorado
“The Blind Side” shows how an upper class family can help and under privileged child flourish and become successful because they chose to, not because they have it shoved down their throats. The bonus? It’s based on a true story!
Joshua Sharf, PERA administrator for the Independence Institute
“The Magnificent Seven” (1959 version) shows that in the absence of law, villagers voluntarily band together to protect their property and livelihoods.
Randal O’Toole, transportation expert for The Independence Institute
My favorite movie is “Serenity,” a classic tale of the fight between personal liberty and the greater social good. It tells the story of a group of people trying to live free on the edge of a bureaucratic empire. At the beginning, the hero is a man who has lost faith in the universe because the bureaucrats won’t leave him alone.
The bureaucracy has a goal of creating a “world without sin” and has experimented with putting chemicals in people’s water to make them peaceful. Of course, this backfires spectacularly. So the bureaucrats send a man to cover up the mistake by killing anyone—men, women, and children—who has been in contact with anyone who knows about the experiment.
By the end of the movie, the hero has come to believe so strongly in individual liberty that he is willing to die to preserve it. He gives a speech saying that the bureaucracy is based on “the belief that they can make people better. And I do not hold to that.” Whenever I show the movie to friends, when it reaches this point and they say, “So that’s why you like this movie.”
Tracy Smith, Graphic Designer
“The LEGO Movie” features President Business, a character who attempts to force residents to build approved LEGO structures only. No imagination is allowed. Any deviation from the rules is met with punishment. The movie has an overarching theme of conformity and control versus individuality and freedom.
Dennis Polhill, Independence Institute Senior Fellow in Public Infrastructure
Anything by Peter Sellers has a Libertarian angle. Plus, “Miracle” offers a Libertarian perspective on achievement. The retelling of the “Miracle on Ice” moment in the 1980 Winter Olympics features Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) say the following when confronted by higher ups about not choosing the elite talent.
“I don’t want the best players I want the right players.” He meant players with spirit, attitude and persistence are more important than raw ability. The real Brooks died in a car crash before the movie was released, so he never got to see it. Now that my son is a coach I tell him to make the movie a homework assignment for his teams … irrespective of the sport.
Jon Caldara, radio show host, Independence Institute President
“Gattaca” features a man who overcomes his “genetic” limitations and the futuristic society that has predetermined his limited fate.
Alex Hutton, Independence Institute
“Extraordinary Measures” showcases a man on the corporate fast-track who leaves this lifestyle behind when he discovers two of his children have a rare genetic disease. He combines with an eccentric doctor to come up with a cure, crowd-funding the effort and fighting against the medical and corporate establishment.
David Boaz, Cato Institute Executive Vice President
“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. This is a powerful movie about independence, self-reliance, individualism, and the horrors of war.
“Amistad” tells a fascinating story about a ship full of Africans who turned up in New England in 1839. The question: Under American law, are they slaves? A long legal battle ensues, one that goes all the way to the Supreme Court.
Libertarians like to joke about lawyers. Sometimes we even quote the Shakespeare line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” — not realizing that that line was said by a killer who understood that the law stands in the way of would-be tyrants.
“Amistad” gives us a picture of a society governed by law even the vile institution of slavery was subject to the rule of law. And when the former president, John Quincy Adams, makes his argument before the Supreme Court, it should inspire us all to appreciate the law that protects our freedom.