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Ten Movies Every Libertarian Should Watch

Film is a powerful medium. It can be used as a tool for propaganda, a storytelling experiment, or purely to entertain. However, it is most commonly used for sharing thought-provoking ideas and raising questions. Some movies achieve this better than others, and can be a valuable tool for better understanding the political and economic issues that our world faces.

In this piece, we have aimed to cover works from various eras, taking into account not only each movie’s entertainment value, but also their ability to convey an interesting message in terms of pro-liberty ideas. As such, you can enjoy watching some of these on Sunday evenings while also starting an engaging discussion about the core values behind freedom and prosperity.

1. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith (2005)

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot Summary:

In Revenge of the Sith, set three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku and the Separatists. As Obi-Wan Kenobi pursues a new threat, Anakin Skywalker acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine, being lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy.

Why should you watch it:

Probably the most political of all the Star Wars movies, Revenge of the Sith shows the outcome of Palpetine’s scheming and plotting, completing his transformation from a seemingly ordinary politician to Supreme Chancellor, and eventually Emperor. During this process, he enjoys the support of the political institutions.

Being democratically elected to each of his positions, Palpatine distorts the legal system to obtain emergency powers. He plays the game of becoming a democratically elected dictator step by step. In doing so, he blatantly portrays the dangers of expanding government power and voting without consciously assessing the consequences, allowing liberty to die “with thunderous applause”.

2. The Hunger Games (2012)

Director: Gary Ross

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks

Plot Summary:

Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death.

Why should you watch it:

The plot here follows the traditional futuristic dystopian oppressive regime cliche. A powerful, overarching government with its crony supporters on one end, and an almost enslaved population on the other. The scary element is the true purpose of the games.

More than just a commentary on reality television, the games are the instrument of power for the government. Relying only on herself, Katniss Everdeen shows true individualism and remarkable strength of character in her fight against an unjust system.

3. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn

Plot Summary:

In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is diagnosed with the disease.

Why should you watch it:

This movie presents a particularly compelling libertarian message. FDA regulations are preventing terminally ill patients from gaining access to life-saving drugs. Ron’s actions are challenging the FDA’s authority while making the protagonist question his own homophobic attitudes. Dallas Buyers Club shows us how unhindered entrepreneurship can help to both save lives and create a more tolerant society.

4. Ghostbusters (1984)

Director: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis

Plot Summary:

Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.

Why should you watch it:

Is there any more classic an example of government overreach than a bureaucrat enacting his personal vendetta while using the law as a weapon? This goofy classic gives us, besides the memorable soundtrack, an important reason to restrain government power.

In an apocalyptic finale, New York would almost certainly be destroyed if the Ghostbusters were not allowed to step in and save the day. However, from their very first attempts to help prevent a potential disaster, state institutions try to either dismiss or completely ban their work.

5. Loving (2016)

Director: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton, Terri Abney, Alano Miller

Plot Summary:

The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose arrest for interracial marriage in 1960s Virginia sparked a legal battle that would ultimately result in the Supreme Court’s historic 1967 decision.

Why should you watch it:

It is horrible when laws prevent economic freedom, freedom of speech, or freedom of movement, but it is devastating on a different level when they are standing in a way of true love. Thanks to Richard and Mildred’s struggle, interracial marriage was finally permitted in the state of Virginia. This drama presents the compelling story of the horrors of government interference in deeply personal matters.

6. Amazing Grace (2006)

Director: Michael Apted

Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones

Plot Summary:

Set in the early nineteenth century, Amazing Grace follows the story of William Wilberforce (Gruffudd), a celebrated abolitionist, as he maneuvers his way through Parliament, determined to bring an end to the British transatlantic slave trade.

Why should you watch it:

Serving as a chronicle of a one man’s struggle against a much larger and stronger adversary, this movie also highlights the importance of standing up for freedom. It might take a lifetime of struggle against both outer and inner demons, illness, and despair, yet the underlying cause makes it all worthwhile.

7. Das Experiment (2001)

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Starring:  Moritz Bleibtreu, Christian Berkel, Oliver Stokowski, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Stephan Szasz

Plot Summary:

For two weeks, 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards in a prison. The “prisoners” have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the “guards” are told to maintain order without using physical violence.

Why should you watch it:

In 1971, Stanford University conducted an experiment in a mock prison situation to study the psychological effects of imprisonment. In this fictionalized version of the true events, the academic oversight is removed and we can see the truly devastating nature of power at play. It doesn’t take long for the “guards” to become too aggressive and for “prisoners” to become too afraid to revolt. Das Experiment serves as a grim illustration of the famous saying, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

8. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

Director: Michael Radford

Starring: John Hurt, Richard Burton Suzanna Hamilton, Cyril Cusack, Roger Lloyd Pack

Plot Summary:

In a totalitarian future society, a man, whose daily work consists of rewriting history, attempts to rebel by falling in love.

Why should you watch it:

Probably one of the best known classics in modern literature, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a chilling story of a totalitarian society in a perpetual war with imaginary enemies. The powers of propaganda are developed to a level so advanced that only a strike of a pen is needed to erase someone from history and memories. In a society faced with starvation, brainwashing, and constant surveillance, one man shows how little is needed to fight back, and how little is needed to become an agent of the system.

9. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack, Anton Diffring, Jeremy Spenser

Plot Summary:

Set in an oppressive future society, Fahrenheit 451 tells the story a fireman whose duty is to destroy all books beginning to question his task.

Why should you watch it:

Another adaptation of a classic dystopian novel, this time written by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 addresses one of the scariest ideals – that of complete equality. The idea here being that if there are no different ideas, there will be no friction, and therefore peace will reign. However, the human mind can only be without ideas for so long. This movie depicts a unique story of resistance to an oppressive government, preservation of knowledge, and promotion of free expression.

10. The Man In The White Suit (1951)

Director: Alexander Mackendrick

Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough, Ernest Thesiger

Plot Summary:

Sidney Stratton, a humble inventor, develops a fabric that never gets dirty or wears out. This would seem to be a boon for mankind, but the established garment manufacturers don’t see it that way; they try to suppress it.

Why should you watch it:

As it so very often happens, both in fiction and reality, progress is forced to a halt by those who benefit from the status quo. The established manufacturers join hands with labor unions to block the production of the fabric, as its success will mean their downfall. The Man In The White Suit serves as a metaphoric example of what happens when innovation is stifled by regulations and protectionism.

If you are interested in learning more about the ideas of liberty, you can check out our upcoming online events, as well as recordings of past events, by clicking on the button below.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.


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