This site is a collection of films and documentaries of particular interest to libertarians (and those interested in libertarianism). It began as a book, Miss Liberty’s Guide to Film: Movies for the Libertarian Millennium, where many of the recommended films were first reviewed. The current collection has grown to now more than double the number in that original list, and it’s growing still.
What is libertarianism?
“Live and let live,” “that government is best which governs least,” — it’s been said in many ways. Fundamentally, libertarians seek a world in which people interact peacefully, voluntarily, without force or fraud.
Of course, most human interaction is peaceful and voluntary. But the large and ever expanding exception to this rule is government. Some government is necessary to secure peace and liberty, but it’s safe to say that in many areas government has well-exceeded that mandate. So, one of the primary activities of libertarians is finding ways to roll back the State in favor of a more voluntary society.
At the same time, at a personal level libertarians advocate “self-government,” i.e., personal responsibility and social tolerance. Self-government essentially means taking care of yourself (so others don’t have to) and tolerating differences in others (so conflicts between people are minimized). The more self-government we do, the less others’ government we’ll have to put up with.
“Self-government is the combination of personal responsibility and tolerance. Responsibility means you govern yourself. Tolerance means you don’t force your values on peaceful, honest people.” —Advocates for Self-Government
What makes a film libertarian?
In the course of assembling this collection, I received literally hundreds of suggestions for films likely to be of interest to libertarians. Patterns in these suggestions revealed certain predominant themes. In that sense, the determination of what it means for a film to be libertarian has been organic—an evolving selection of modern film based on libertarian interests and sensibilities. Broadly speaking, the films on this website fall into two categories: the political and the philosophical.
Libertarianism is, of course, first and foremost a political idea based on respect for liberty and (therefore) opposition to the initiation of force. Since nowadays government is the chief initiator of force—mandating, prohibiting, taxing, censoring, and in general intimidating and controlling at will—libertarians are united in the desire to restrict government power. This desire is manifested here in cinematic themes paralleling the wide scope of conflict between government and the individual. A few examples of some commonly suggested libertarian political films (and their associated themes) are: Harry’s War (Anti-Tax), 1984 (Anti-Socialism), Waco: Rules of Engagement (Democide), Fahrenheit 451 (Freedom of Speech), and Whose Life is it Anyway? (Right to Die).
At the same time, libertarians embrace a variety of values and interests associated with our foundational philosophical cultures. As legend has it, the modern libertarian movement was born out of a melding of the “Jeffersonian Right” (small-government advocates who were driven out of the Republican Party in the 1960s), the “Randians” (fans and followers of novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand), the “Civil Liberty Radicals” (antiwar, antidraft, drug legalization crusaders), and the “New Economists” (late-twentieth century economists tutored in the now-better-understood workings of the free market).
That these values and interests have become solidly integrated into libertarian culture is underscored by the frequency with which certain nonpolitical films have been suggested to me for this collection. A few examples of some commonly suggested libertarian philosophical films (and their themes) are: The Fountainhead (Creator as Hero, Individualism), Cash McCall (Creator as Hero), To Kill A Mockingbird (Social Tolerance), Freeloaders (Personal Responsibility), and An Enemy of the People (Individualism).
An index of libertarian film themes is available in the “Theme” tag cloud on the right-hand bar of this page. Under each heading is a list of the films reviewed in this guide that illustrate the respective theme. Likewise, films may be selected by genre—”comedy,” “thriller,” etc.—in the “Genre/Categories” tag cloud also on the right-hand bar.
It should be noted as well that there are two categories of film I did not attempt to include in this collection, despite repeated suggestions that I do so. In both cases this was simply because the category was too large. First, the “private detective” genre, while an often satisfying example of private initiative, encompasses hundreds, perhaps thousands of films. Second, the theme of “heroism,” sometimes suggested by Randians, is likewise enormous. Suffice it to say that these are additional categories of possible interest.
How do I know if I’m a libertarian?
To start with, try taking “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz.” For just ten questions, it’s a terrific indicator of political leaning. For more information and to get a fuller flavor of what libertarianism is all about, try checking the libertarian links.
Links about libertarianism
Advocates for Self-Government
Institute for Humane Studies
–Book: Libertarian-ism: A Primer
–Book: The LIBERTARIAN READER: Classic & Contemporary Writings from Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman
–Book: Free to Choose: A Personal Statement
–Book: For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
–Book: The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents–(The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2)
–Book: Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto