In 2019, ten new libertarian films (six narrative films and four documentaries) were identified and are listed below. It’s noteworthy that these include Oscar-worthy Richard Jewell and the biggest-selling political documentary of the year, No Safe Spaces.
Criteria to be included in this list were: a) the film had to be described as a “2019” release according to Box Office Mojo, or be officially released in online streaming or DVD, b) content needed to be of significant interest to libertarians, as described here; and c) film quality needed to be sufficiently professional (a good article on this).
The near-term pipeline also looks good, with five additional libertarian films expected to be released in 2020: Balloon (about two East German families who escaped to the West via a hot air balloon), Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words (a new documentary about the Supreme Court Justice), A Hidden Life (about an Austrian draft resister who refused to fight for the National Socialists in World War II), Mr. Jones (about Gareth Jones, the journalist-hero who first tried to warn the world about communist atrocities), and A More or Less Perfect Union (a three-part television series on the Constitution).
This was a very good year for libertarian film but also a weird year in one particular respect: four of the ten libertarian films and documentaries identified for 2019 — nearly half — received threats of some kind. I can’t recall anywhere near this much incoming flak before.
When the producers of the stage play FBI Lovebirds announced it would be performed at the Mead Theater in Washington, D.C., the theater was promptly threatened with violence and had to cancel the performance. When the documentary No Safe Spaces was shown in La Habra, CA, masked men entered the theater, frightening attendees into leaving. Showings of the new documentary The Rise of Jordan Peterson in Toronto and Brooklyn were cancelled due to threats by leftists to “bring out the guillotine” if the film is shown. The outstanding new Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell hasn’t had to deal with violence (so far as I know), but it is being threatened with a major lawsuit for its unsympathetic portrayal of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs.
Of course, it’s not like anyone on the Left would ever carry out political violence, like beating up journalists in the street, attempting to assassinate elected officials, mobbing a free speech advocate, setting fire buildings to shut down a speaker, or using thugs to break up a political rally. After all, that’s the kind of stuff the Brownshirts did.
A Second Victory Worth Mentioning
Before getting to the top films of the year, listed below, it’s also worth mentioning the stirrings of a free speech cultural revolution taking place of perhaps even greater import than that of any individual film. The new politically correct climate has all but killed comedy, at least in the film industry. Per the Daily Telegraph, “US cinema box office figures show only eight per cent of revenue last year came from comedy movies, down from 25 per cent a decade ago.” It’s just difficult to walk on politically correct egg shells and be funny at the same time. Comedians bemoan the trend. But this year some comedians began to break ranks and cross the political picket line.
Most notably, Dave Chappelle performed in a decidedly un-PC comedy special, which the New York Post called “possibly the most politically incorrect 1 hour and 5 minutes on TV since the Archie Bunker era.” It earned a rare zero score on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, and a 99% score from audiences. He also won this year’s Mark Twain Award in defense of free speech. Chappelle commented: “The First Amendment is first for a reason. Second Amendment is just in case the First one doesn’t work out.”
In the UK, a comedy club called Comedy Unleashed has opened, featuring in many cases comedians who were getting shut out of other venues for their political views. “We host free-thinking comedians who leave their self-censorship button at the door, stand-up comedians who think outside the groupthink bubble and make us laugh.” The club is sometimes hosted by libertarian comedian Dominic Frisby.
There was also something of a boom in comedic short films and recorded skits, in which libertarian and conservative comedians who don’t follow the politically correct rules (and in some cases stomp on them) are producing some outstanding and persuasive work. A few 2019 libertarian short films worthy of note…
This bit from Alistair Williams has been viewed a quarter of a million times and helped to make laughable — and commonly laughed at — Parliament’s halfhearted and failed attempts at allegedly implementing Brexit, thereby helping to make Brexit reform the winning issue of the 2019 UK election.
Reason’s Remy has been on a roll this year with several good videos; this is my favorite of the bunch.
We the Internet TV continues to produce very professional political parodies like Woke Teacher, White Savior.
Even a hip-hop band (Bud Sugar) joined in to mock political correctness with its song Snowflake. They got slammed on social media for it and responded with this “apology.” Good for them.
And Prager University’s Will Witt has been having something of a field day on university campuses, interviewing woke college students to hilarious effect. In this age of leftist violence, I give him extra points for courage.
I encourage readers to check out the bounty of what is now available in libertarian short films; some of these are astoundingly creative, entertaining, and informative.
The 2019 Libertarian Film List
And without further adieu, ten new releases made the 2019 libertarian film list, as given below.
2019 Libertarian Narrative Films
FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers
Two romantically-involved FBI agents assigned to “objectively and dispassionately” investigate possible crimes by the Trump presidency privately discuss their loathing of the president and his supporters. Based on their actual text messages. [ FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers credits: Dir: Richard Kuhlman/ 82 min/ Written by: Phelim McAleer/ Dean Cain, Kristy Swanson, Bruce Nozick, Christopher T. Wood/ Film (Stage Play)/ Abuse of Power/ 2019]
“What do you get when you take Dean Cain, an actor famous for playing Superman on TV, and Kristy Swanson, the actress who was the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and give them the chance to play a couple of adulterous, wildly partisan FBI agents working at the highest levels of the Mueller Russiagate probe? You get FBI Lovebirds, an outrageous play that had its conservative audience of 500 people howling at its premiere last Thursday at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Center.”
“FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers plays like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch, only every word is true and it’s actually funny.”
Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery, and despite all manner of threat, returns to slave-holding plantations to free her fellow slaves. Based on a true story. [ Harriet credits: Dir: Kasi Lemmons/ 125 min/ Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn/ Action, Biography, Drama/ Anti-Slavery, Libertarian Heroes/ 2019]
“This isn’t some storybook, timeworn Tubman. This is a portrait of the woman as a real-life action hero — the gun-wielding, butt-kicking sort.”
Virginia Walden Ford, a young mother, fights a pitched, ultimately victorious, battle with educational authorities to create the District of Columbia voucher program. Based on a true story. [ Miss Virginia credits: Dir: R.J. Daniel Hanna/ 102 min/ Vanessa Williams, Matthew Modine, Uzo Aduba/ Drama/ Government Schools/ 2019]
“The movie does not preach, it lets Walden Ford’s real-life story sear in its moral: parents need choice, and children cannot wait.”
A detective discovers a corrupt cabal behind New York City’s urban development that will let nothing get in its way…in the name of “progress.” [Dir: Edward Norton/ Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin/ 144 min/ Drama, Thriller/ Eminent Domain, Abuse of Power/ 2019]
“Motherless Brooklyn is a well-told story that sheds light on a dark part of U.S. urban policy. The movie might well contend for the most pro-liberty film to come out of Hollywood in 2019.”
Security guard Richard Jewell saves hundreds of lives from an exploding pipe bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, only to be railroaded as the prime suspect by an incompetent FBI and cynical press. Based on a true story. [ Richard Jewell credits: Dir: Clint Eastwood/ Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates, Sam Rockwell/ 131 min/ Drama/ Incompetent government, Government as bigot, Law & liberty, Working for government/ 2019]
“Richard Jewell is a study, not a diatribe, about runaway media and FBI agents victimizing an innocent man. Paul Walter Hauser commands the screen as the security guard falsely accused of the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta.”
“Yes, this is a great movie, and a magnificent centerpiece performance by an unknown actor named Paul Walter Hauser in the title role is a major reason it is so unforgettable.”
The White Crow
Rudolf Nureyev risks all to defect to the West. Based on a true story. [ The White Crow credits: Dir: Ralph Fiennes/ Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann/ 127 min/ Biography, Drama/ Escape from Socialism/ 2019]
“A taut dramatic thriller that is as much about overcoming adversity and the drive of an artist to be free, as it is about Nureyev, the Cold War or ballet.”
–We Are Movie Geeks
2019 Libertarian Documentaries
Kolyma: The Home of Our Fear
Russia YouTube star Yury Dud offers a candid look at Stalin’s Great Terror…for a younger generation of Russians who have been told almost nothing about it. [Dir: Yury Dud/ 70 min/ Documentary/ Anti-Socialism, Democide/ 2019]
“Dud intersperses breathtaking footage of endless inhospitable land with interviews with the descendants of the victims of Stalin’s Great Terror.”
No Safe Spaces
Comedian Adam Carolla and talk show host Dennis Prager examine the trend of political correctness and increasing controls on free speech on university campuses. [Dir: Justin Folk/ 95 min/ Documentary/ Freedom of Speech/ 2019]
“Should [free speech] be banned? A lot of us — most of us — would say no. So why are our campuses, which are supposed to be about the free exchange of ideas, saying yes? No Safe Spaces is a smart, vital, urgent, and provocative exploration of that question.”
One Child Nation
A retrospective documentary about China’s “one child policy” reveals the enduring price paid for it by those whose children were taken away and killed. [Dir: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang/ 88 min/ Documentary/ Anti-Socialism, Democide/ 2019]
“Using the aggressively bland term ‘one-child policy’ is a bit like saying that 1942 Germany had restrictions on Jews. You may never have thought much about how a huge nation enforces a limit of one baby per family, but the horrifying details of China’s Holocaust of children emerge in a powerful documentary told by a woman whose family was one of the countless millions who suffered.”
“Anyone drawn to the now-resurgent notion that collectivism is kind of cool would benefit from a viewing of One Child Nation, a documentary that demonstrates what can happen when state bureaucrats are allowed to fundamentally re-order their country’s most intimate cultural customs…By the end I felt that my heart was ready to burst from my chest and leap to its death down on the floor.”
The Rise of Jordan Peterson
An introduction to Canadian professor of psychology Jordan Peterson, whose brilliantly-reasoned views on personal responsibility and free speech are challenging left-wing advocates of political correctness on their most holy ground. [Dir: Patricia Marcoccia/ 112 min/ Individualism, Freedom of Speech/ Anti-war/ 2019]
“The best takeaway from The Rise of Jordan Peterson one can take is that more than anything, he’s just a person. He’s not the savior of western civilization. He’s not a messiah figure. He’s also not some malicious globalist figure attempting to control the minds of the youth. He’s a man who’s unique psychology, position, intelligence and willingness to put his freedom on the line thrust him into prominence.”
2019 All-Time Audience Favorite Awards
Another indicator of which films libertarians think are worth watching…is what libertarians are watching. Ranked in terms of 2019 downloads from this site, the following were the top 5 most popular libertarian films — not just of 2019 but of all time, the top 5 most popular libertarian documentaries, the top 5 short films (or short films collections), and the top 5 blog posts:
FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers
Liberty! The American Revolution
Mao’s Great Famine
Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism
Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam
Free to Choose
Iranian Women: Defying The Clerics And Winning Freedom
The Electoral College: Why It’s Brilliant in 5 Minutes
BBC: Organ Harvesting In China
John Locke: His Libertarian Philosophy In 5 Short Films
Bill of Rights (to the tune of “Shake it Off”)
Critics Versus Audiences: Movies We Disagree On
Ten Movie Ideas For Screenwriters
May 1: Victims of Communism Day | Ten Films to Honor the Dead
Jussie Smollett Is A Victim, Act II
Libertarian Comedians: A No Doubt Incomplete List
Opportunity for Libertarian Filmmakers
You would never have seen most of the films on this list 20 years ago. But three things have changed, and these have leveled the playing field, creating unprecedented opportunity for budding libertarian filmmakers.
First, libertarian creatives now have allies. The Moving Picture Institute and Taliesin Nexus are two organizations that promote libertarian films through training and funding, and they assisted some of the films in this year’s list. There is even a libertarian film festival, the Anthem Film Festival, held every year in Las Vegas. It is looking for new films right now.
Second, most of these films were produced on the thinnest of budgets. Inexpensive sophisticated software has put unprecedented creative power in the hands of new filmmakers. It just doesn’t cost that much to make a good film anymore (particularly shorts and documentaries).
And third, theater oligopolies no longer dominate film distribution. Last year, streaming film views substantially exceeded box office views for the first time. Most of the films in this list are primarily distributed online.
If you’ve ever thought about becoming a filmmaker, this is your moment.