Disclaimer: I do not claim that the movies listed below are the most libertarian movies released in 2014, as I have not even seen every movie released in 2014. However, I have seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
On a scale of one to Hayek, if libertarians could make the final vote based on the films nominated by the Academy, the results would go like this. . .
Whiplash tells the story of a driven student musician at a music conservatory, and his tough, asshole teacher. Personally, I loved this movie and would recommend you see it if you get the chance. That being said, it over romanticizes the idea that the ends justify the means to the point that it’s decidedly un-libertarian. The message seems to be that if someone has good intentions, but their methods are questionable, it’s OK. This is a mantra we often see in government. Yet, in life and in government, good intentions don’t always cut it.
On a scale of one to Hayek: Vladimir Putin.
Boyhood is a unique film shot over an 11 year period. It features the growth of a boy, Mason, as he journeys through adolescence. While Mason grows up to be somewhat libertarian, he’s more of that conspiracy theorist type that no one takes seriously. He doesn’t make any libertarian points that would make an audience say “huh, I never thought of it that way. Government is the worst.” His father is also a hardcore anti-Bush guy, and there’s even a scene of he and the kids putting up Obama signs. Since most libertarians have a lot of problems with both Bush and Obama, the film ends in a draw in terms of any libertarian message.
On a scale of one to Hayek: A Prius with an Obama ’12 and an anti-war bumper sticker.
6. American Sniper
Given its prominent displays of war, violence, and American nationalism, American Sniper is undoubtedly controversial. I think any political message a viewer takes away from this film has more to do with their own ideology than the movie itself. As a libertarian, I came out of the theater rather disturbed, which is a good thing because war is disturbing and a good war movie reminds us of that. However, the reasons and validity of the war taking place is never questioned. Chris Kyle’s motives for becoming a sniper are never questioned, and neither is his status as a hero (is he really a hero?). Moreover, if you’re an advocate for “the War on Terror,” this movie isn’t going to make you rethink your position.
On a scale of one to Hayek: That kid in your class who hates Ayn Rand but can’t articulate why. He or she has also never read Ayn Rand.
5. The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything is a romantic, biographical film based on the great Stephen Hawking. In this movie, there’s no portrayal of government or anything symbolic of government, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s nice to see Stephen Hawking overcome adversity and to see other characters help him voluntarily, outside of government (a subtle step in a libertarian direction). However, no one walking out of the theater is going to think “Man, that’s so great he did all that without the government’s help!” For that reason, some other nominees have been placed above The Theory of Everything in my list.
On a scale of one to Hayek: That kid in your class that hates the government but can’t articulate why.
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel is another knockout from Wes Anderson featuring unique cinematography and eccentric characters. The heroes spend a good portion of this movie flouting government authority, which is a good start. That being said, it’s usually for selfish reasons. There’s no moment where the main character, M. Gustave, stands up for the greater good or makes a point about how society in general would be better off if government had less power. Instead it’s “I want something, the government’s in my way, screw the government.” Sure there are some libertarian themes you could draw from the turmoil of war in the background of the film, but it isn’t overt. This places The Grand Budapest Hotel in the middle of the pack.
On a scale of one to Hayek: Actually exercising your 4th Amendment Rights when the police stop you.
It’s difficult to pull a political message out of Birdman without using some high school-English-teacher level bullshit. Luckily, I’m competent in this artform. In Birdman, Riggan Thompson struggles between two identities; his former identity as a superhero and his current identity as a hasbeen who can barely keep the play he’s producing in production. If we’re reaching, this could symbolize the dichotomy between the idealized view government has of itself and the hot mess government actually is. The message is that we should all strive to do what we want, even when it’s not easy and even when it’s not what the masses would prefer. In that regard, Thompson reminds me of heroes like those Ayn Rand would write, which makes him OK in my book.
On a scale of one to Hayek: Using Uber as your only means of transportation.
Of all the nominees, Selma is the most political, as it’s actually about a conflict between political activists and government. It portrays the importance of equality, civil rights, and anti-racism, as well as the use of non-violent means to effect change in government. One of the great thing about Selma is that it serves as a lesson on how to make other libertarian dreams come true. To the conservatives refusing to see it because Oprah was involved, go read what Glenn Beck had to say about it. Selma could have easily been my number one in previous years, but in 2014 there was one other movie that edged it out.
On a scale of one to Hayek: That kid in your class who hates the government, CAN articulate why, and is capable of convincing the rest of the class to agree with him (so basically, all you SFL activists).
1. The Imitation Game
Set during World War II, The Imitation Game follows the story of Alan Turing, a cryptanalyist who helped solve the Enigma Code. By the end of this movie, the audience is mad at Nazis, Soviets, and the Brits. It wins libertarian movie of the year because it makes a statement about how all government has its dark side, rather than a statement about one specific government that’s wrong on one specific issue, as Selma does. It may be a war movie, but unlike American Sniper, there’s a strong emphasis on ending the war once and for all. It also emphasizes that the way to win a war is not to simply be more violent than the other side, but to outsmart them. The Imitation Game also touches on the stupidity of the lesser-of-two-evils foreign policy seen through comparisons of Germany, The U.S.S.R., and Britain. There’s also an overt push for LGBT equality and gender equality present in the film. No other Best Picture nominee has a major female character that isn’t 1) related to a central male character or 2) the love interest of a central male character. (Selma‘s portrayal of Annie Lee Cooper probably comes closest, but she doesn’t get enough screentime to qualify as a major character). Further, the film touches on issues of LGBT rights given that Alan Turning is prosecuted for homosexuality. By talking about the various social injustices of this time period, the horrors of war, and non-violent methods of ending a war, The Imitation Game earns my vote for most libertarian Best Picture nominee at the Oscars.
On a scale of one to Hayek: Same-sex married couples growing their own cannabis and defending it with guns they bought with Bitcoin.