Of the nearly three hundred libertarian films and documentaries identified and reviewed on this site, we picked just 10 as the best of the best movies for students. Evaluations were based primarily on libertarian content and likely student interests, but entertainment value and production quality were also important considerations. Additionally, an effort was made to balance subject matter so that no one topic was disproportionately covered.
The top 10 are listed here in reverse-chronological order. This list will evolve as additional libertarian movies are noted and reviewed. Here are the best of the best…
Up until a few years ago, you might have thought your guilty late-night searches for Justin Bieber/Amber Heard pics were between you and Google; but now, thanks to Edward Snowden, we all know we are being watched, constantly watched, “for our own good.” As much thriller as documentary, Citizenfour tells the story of how Edward Snowden revealed for the first time bombshell proof that the U.S. government is routinely and secretly engaged in domestic spying. This is one of the very few films on this website to earn this site’s highest score in both libertarian content and production quality. This film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
“Riveting, as well as the most indispensable documentary of the year.”
Having your medications controlled by an all-powerful regulatory agency is great, because you can never be too careful. Oh wait you can be too careful, like when you are *dying* and the agency won’t allow you have access to experimental meds because…safety first. That was the situation in 1988, when thousands of AIDs victims were being eaten alive by a hellish virus and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied them access to life-saving medications. Fortunately, the world has heroes; in this case, the hero was AIDs patient Ron Woodruf, an ordinary man turned outlaw angel, who defied the FDA to smuggle unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into the U.S. in order to treat fellow victims of HIV. This film won three Academy Awards and was nominated as well for Best Picture.
Libertarian activist Derrick J. Freeman chronicles his arrest and incarceration for five “crimes” — videoing police, dancing in a public place, smoking cannabis, wearing a hat in court, and riding a bike — in a civil disobedience spree that demonstrates just how petty and dangerous is our ever-expanding body of law. Although not a major studio production, this film gets points for its gutsy young star who demonstrates unequivocally that government is force…and who paid with months in prison to bring that point to film. This is one of the most popular libertarian movies for students on this list.
“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll be outraged at the people who made a ‘criminal’ out of one of the most peaceful people you would ever meet.”
–Free Press Publications
You know that cool Mao t-shirt your friend bought at the bookstore? You might want to tell him to return it. Fearless Leader was responsible for the single biggest holocaust in human history (a death toll of 45 million), also known as “Mao’s Great Famine,” which happens to be the title of this French-made documentary on the subject. By the way, the same thing goes for that Fidel Castro t-shirt.
“The three-year famine is one of the major human tragedies during the reign of Mao. This film not only provides a real historical picture, it also brings a wider lens to the period of time until 1976, the end of the Cultural Revolution. The film is recommended to be used as a supplemental teaching material for college history and political science classes.”
–Educational Media Reviews Online
“Between 1958 and 1962, economic policy advocated by Mao resulted in the death of some 50 million people. Archive pictures and testimonials in support, this documentary unveils this dark episode in the history of modern China.”
If you’re wondering how it’s possible that so many of your fellow students in twelve years of public school could have learned so little by the end, this riveting and comprehensive documentary explains it. Reporter Bob Bowdon investigates corruption, waste, and intimidation in U.S. public schools…and finds plenty.
“Brisk, incisive and mind-boggling…”
–Los Angeles Times
Not quite sure what all this college “microaggression” and “safe space” stuff is about? No problem. The film “Indoctrinate U” will bring you up to speed in no time. This humorous and hard-hitting documentary examines politically correct campus speech codes and the ‘thought police’ who enforce them.
“’Indoctrinate U’…captures the tip of a disgusting iceberg.”
When an airport attempts to “compulsorily acquire” a home in its vicinity through the use of eminent domain, the quirky homeowner it intends to evict fights back. This upbeat, humorous film has been a crowd-pleaser at numerous film festivals, and it just happens to pack a solid libertarian message about the crony capitalism use of eminent domain.
“The Castle reminds us of the value of small gestures, assuming the best in people, picking your fights and being fiercely loyal to those you love. When offered a tidy packet to sell his home, Darryl responds with a line that distills the film’s emotional essence: ‘You can’t buy what I’ve got.'”
“A nice defense of private property, and very funny to boot.”
–David Boaz, Cato Institute
Projected here is a future “Progressive” America, in which all exceptional human intelligence and achievement has been fully stamped out in order to eliminate the destructive consequences of envy. For a cinematic attack on enforced equality, you could hardly do better than this wonderful film. It fully articulates the price of enforced equality, in terms of both lost liberty and of those accomplishments that inequitably great people make possible. Based on a Kurt Vonnegut story, it has an imaginative and thought-provoking quality. This is a moving and stimulating experience, and one of the most dead-on libertarian films ever made.
“Harrison Bergeron is a real gem.”
–Sci-Fi Movie Page
This is the single most comprehensive series on economic liberty ever made, and although now decades old it’s still firing on all pistons and is available free online. In this series, Milton Friedman guides the viewer through ten documentary-style lectures on the workings of the market and its relation to human liberty. This is a persuasive and entertaining exposition of libertarian ideas, and it’s a pleasure to see them presented with such clarity and charm. It’s a testament to the power of Friedman’s “radical” proposals—and perhaps this series itself—that some have already been implemented and others have become common subjects for discussion.
“We’ve all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal. So, we must burn the books.” Thus is explained the government’s antibook rationale in the future world projected here. Fortunately, a secret underground is at work preserving the world’s literature. But will they be stopped? This is a wonderful Ray Bradbury story, and its antiauthoritarian content will make it of very strong interest to libertarians. Truffaut’s telling of this story is Hitchcockian at times, and seems all the more so supported, as it is, by an excellent Bernard Hermann musical score. In the end, one is left with the disturbing impression that such a society could actually be brought about.
More Information on Libertarian Movies for Students
–Libertarian Film Facebook Group
–Anthem (Libertarian) Film Festival
–Links on filmmaking, libertarian awards, internships and festivals
–Libertarian Films on Netflix (either streaming or DVD)
–Libertarian Film Shorts