George Washington was born on February 22nd, 1732. Not only was he the first American action hero, he was the first person in history to turn down supreme power over most of a continent. At the end of the Revolutionary War, Washington was offered the opportunity to become king. In that pivotal moment, he took out something few had seen him wear, a pair of spectacles. “Gentlemen,” said Washington, “you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” By the time he was done making the point that he and and his staff had not spent their lives and fortunes to establish another monarchy, but to give a birth to freedom, those calling for his kingship were reduced to tears…and thus ended what would otherwise have been a coup d’tetat. He is celebrated in the documentary George Washington: The Man Who Wouldn’t Be King.
Need a romantic film to share with your libertarian sweetheart on a special evening? Look no further. Here are eight libertarian-themed films sure to set the mood for a libertarian date night. These are my top picks from the romance category of this website.
WINNER: TOP 25 LIBERTARIAN FILMS
When a rural farmer builds a new home as a kindness to his ailing wife, a government bureaucrat threatens to tear it down for building code violations. Based on a true story. [Dir: Michael McGowan/ James Cromwell, Ronan Rees, Geneviève Bujold/ 102 min/ Drama/ Anti-regulation, Individualism]
“Based on a true story, the film equates rugged individualism with a stand for personal dignity and control of one’s own destiny.”
–Chicago Sun Times
The flirtations of two unusual teenage boarding school students blossom into love despite difficult circumstances. [Dir: John Duigan/ Noah Taylor, Thandie Newton, Nicole Kidman/ 99 min/ Romance, Comedy/ Australia/ Individualism]
“This movie is joyous, wise and life-affirming, and certainly one of the year’s best films.”
“One of the psychological factors undermining personal independence is inordinate risk-aversion. So it’s nice to see a film that puts risk-taking in its proper place, as a necessary part of a worthwhile human existence. The film has a strong individualist undertone. Great film for a libertarian date night.”
WINNER: TOP 25 LIBERTARIAN FILMS
Posing as a useless dandy, an English gentleman — loathed by his wife for his foppish silliness — secretly risks all to save innocent lives from the guillotine of the French Revolution. Based on the Baroness Orczy novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel. [Dir: Harold Young/ Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, Raymond Massey, Nigel Bruce/ 98 min/ Action-Adventure, Romance/ Britain/ Democide]
“This film has a tremendous script, including some of the campiest lines ever written. These are delivered with flair by Leslie Howard, who shines in his dual roles of comedic fop and classy gallant. Likewise, Raymond Massey is superb as an almost vampire-like evil agent of ‘The Terror.’ Not a moment is wasted in this tightly directed classic film.”
A convicted mobster plots to return to his former glory by bringing back Prohibition, and the profitable criminal enterprises it spawned – but he will have to get past a WWII veteran to do it. Key Largo credits: [Dir: John Huston/ Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall / 100 min/ Drama, Romance/ Legalize Drugs]
“The entire series of events takes place in a hotel, a crucible as it were, in which ultimate good is pitted against ultimate evil, trapped together by a hurricane that howls violently outside and tears at the hotel, as though God himself were pitching in. And within this crucible is one of the finest casts ever assembled: Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, and Claire Trevor (who won for this Best Actress in a Supporting Role), all guided under the legendary hand of director John Huston.”
A married interracial couple’s determination to reside in their home state of Virginia, in violation of Virginia laws against interracial marriage, leads to the legal overturning of all such laws in sixteen states. Based on a true story. Loving credits: [Dir: Jeff Nichols/ Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton/ 123 min/ Drama, Romance/ Government as Bigot, Sexual Liberty, Social Tolerance]
“Loving captures at once the tension of man’s morally principled stand against the state, love’s intimacy and the immeasurable toll government control exacts upon the best people…It’s a hard, moving and elegiac movie and it ranks with Black or White and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner high among Hollywood’s greatest interracial-themed films.”
“Historical drama on interracial marriage is Oscarworthy.”
A young man’s romantic delusion renews his psychiatrist’s passion for life. [Dir: Jeremy Leven/ Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway/ 92 min/ Romance, Comedy/ Psychiatry & Force, Individualism]
“This is a romantic film in every sense of the word: it’s about love, about making an adventure of life, and about the liberating effect that such an imaginative attitude has on people. You’ll laugh, and be touched. Perfect for a libertarian date night.”
WINNER: TOP 25 LIBERTARIAN FILMS
When a talented renegade defies the authority of the Australian Dance Federation by dancing to his own steps, there’s only one thing it can do—stop him! [Dir: Baz Luhrmann/ Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter/ 94 min/ Musical-Dance, Comedy, Romance/ Australia/ Individualism]
“Ballroom dance might seem an unlikely subject for a film of interest to libertarians, but it’s just the backdrop here. Underneath is the story of an innovator’s rebellion, the innovator in this case being a talented young dancer who wants to ‘dance to his own steps.'”
ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE: BEST PICTURE
A stolid female Soviet agent is sent to Paris on business and is seduced by capitalist ways. [Dir: Ernst Lubitsch/ Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire/ 108 min/ Comedy, Romance/ Anti-Socialism]
“This delightful romantic comedy is listed in almost every reckoning of the greatest films, reflecting both its terrifically witty script and a wonderful performance by Greta Garbo as the grim unfeminine agent of the Soviet state. It is indeed a great film, one of those classic movies everyone should see. One of my favorite bits of dialogue occurs between Ninotchka and a porter at a train station:
Ninotchka: ‘Why do you want to carry my bags?’
Porter: ‘That is my business.’
Ninotchka: ‘That’s no business. That’s social injustice.’
Porter: ‘That depends on the tip.'”
Michael Apted — born February 10th, 1941 — was a British television and film director and producer. He directed four films of libertarian interest, including one of this website’s top 25 list of most important libertarian films of all time.
In 1992, Apted released the documentary Incident at Oglala, an inquiry into the alleged framing of AIM member Leonard Peltier by the FBI. During the 1970s, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was organized to reform and resist the reservation system that had been imposed on Native Americans over the previous centuries. Two FBI agents were killed in a conflict with AIM, and the film suggests the agency framed Peltier to settle the score and pacify the movement.
This was followed in the same year by Thunderheart, a fictionalized thriller inspired by the Leonard Peltier case, in which a part-Sioux FBI agent turns against his superiors after discovering a deadly operation by his agency to squelch Native American resistance to government control. Newsweek said about the film: “Stylishly balancing thrills, mysticism and political outrage, Director Michael Apted has produced his most absorbing movie since Coal Miner’s Daughter.” The film succeeds as both semi-factual expose and fictional whodunit.
Two years later, in 1994, Apted released the documentary Moving the Mountain, which tells the story of a few of the Tiananmen protestors who escaped—sometimes, ironically, because they were identified from wanted posters by ordinary people who helped them instead of turning them in. These escapees, interviewed here, tell their tales of courage, hope, and pain. Curiously, no trailer for this film is available online and it is not available on Amazon streaming or even DVD.
Finally, in 2006, Michael Apted released his greatest libertarian film, Amazing Grace, a terrific telling of the story of William Wilberforce, a British member of Parliament who led an arduous but ultimately victorious life-long battle to abolish the slave trade. Wilberforce’s story is faithfully and warmly told here. Ioan Gruffudd (a.k.a. Horatio Hornblower) gives a fine performance in the leading role, and is supported by (at the time this film was made the little-known actor) Benedict Cumberbatch, as William Pitt.
Michael Apted died in 2021, at age 79. National Review noted in its tribute to him that he was “a director who is interested in learning rather than imposing his pre-decided views on the material” and that he “had the discipline not to impose liberal ideology on his films.” In other words, he was that rare thing in the film industry: an honest person.
ANTHEM FILM FESTIVAL WINNER: GRAND PRIZE
A documentary examination of historical events in Klondyke, AZ, where a family was killed by law enforcement agents for draft evasion after refusing to participate in WWI. [ Power’s War credits: Dir: Cameron Trejo/ 70 min/ Documentary, History/ Anti-Draft]
“Separated from the rest of the world, the Powers family was dimly aware of The Great War, which they, like many Americans, viewed as none of their business…But on June 5th, 1917, all American men between 21 and 31 were ordered to register for the draft, and the aggressively patriotic set out to arrest ‘slackers’ who ignored the law…leading to the bloodbath…Trejo’s film, Power’s War, is both a labor of love and a triumph of creative documentary filmmaking.”
–Henry’s Western Round-Up
“On February 10, 1918, lawmen looking for the draft dodgers surrounded the Power cabin. The resulting shootout, the largest in Arizona history, has been largely forgotten. The complete story will not be told in this review. That would take away from the need to watch this excellent documentary.”
“Trejo spent more than three years researching and filming Power’s War, which includes interviews with several living descendents of those involved as well as authors and historians, including Thomas Cobb, who wrote the fiction book based on the shootout, With Blood in their Eyes, and Heidi Osselaer, an Arizona State University faculty associate who served as the film’s historical consultant.”
–Eastern Arizona Courier
How to See It
Ayn Rand was born on February 2nd, 1905. Novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter — Rand did what no one had done before: she took the ideas of classical liberalism into the world of stories and dreams, portraying the entrepreneurial heroes of our unprecedented prosperity as just that, and to the absolute horror of enemies of freedom. Decades after her death, Ayn Rand is still called “the most dangerous woman in America.” So strong is her influence in libertarian film that she has her own category on this website.
The best film resulting from her works is We the Living. It’s a fitting tribute to the universally anti-authoritarian nature of her ideas that this film — first produced in fascist Italy as an attack on communism — was then banned at the angry insistence of the Nazis, who considered it antifascist. They were both right.
The hijab is compulsory by law for all Iranian women. In 2017, the online group My Stealthy Freedom was formed to reverse this legislation and allow women choice in how they dress. It’s part of a broader simmering of discontent with the government’s authoritarian rule that has spilled out into anti-government protests. Gutsy Iranian women have been removing their hijabs in total defiance and in the name of freedom, at terrible personal risk. Here are some noteworthy examples of these heroic people.
In one of the first such acts of civil rebellion, on December 27, 2017, a young woman in Iran openly removed her hijab and stood boldly on a platform for all to see. It was a personal declaration of independence and an incredible act of courage, given that such protests are subject to penalties as severe as death. She became known as the “Girl of Enghelab Street,” and has since been identified as Vida Movahed. If ever there was a moment worthy of a statue, this is it. She was arrested, but is believed to have been released under international pressure.
It’s a simple thing. This young woman is just walking down the street without a headscarf, but the risk is enormous. Such small moments of bravery are important — fear is contagious, but so is courage.
It’s not just the police that these Iranian women have to worry about, but any busybody who happens to see them.
Warning: This is a tough one to watch. This woman describes her prison sentence for not wearing the hijab. She was repeatedly beaten and raped, and left with a hideous wound on her leg, which she shows.
When this Iranian woman without headscarf is assaulted by a morality policewoman, she gives it right back, and finishes with a delightful kick.
Meanwhile in the West, left-wing women donned hijabs for #WorldHijabDay and took selfies to post to the Internet. So brave! So edgy! This video was shot in Stockholm. There’s a reason why it’s called “Stockholm Syndrome.”