Of the nearly three hundred libertarian films and documentaries identified and reviewed on this site, we picked just 10 (and then got excited and added two more as bonus) 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 alphabetical 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/Selena Gomez 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
In this film the viewer gets an extended first-hand look at the working lives of ordinary police. What gradually becomes apparent in this cinematic ride-along is that the strong-arm methods they are being trained in, the military-grade equipment they are being given, the high-tech tools they use to get past individual privacy, and even the SWAT outfits they wear, are in many cases creating a culture and a capacity for potential abuse of power. Demonstrating that point is the greatest strength of Do Not Resist. You see the humanity and ordinariness of both the people behind the badge and the people they harry and arrest. Indeed, it’s the very ordinariness and best of intentions that makes what is witnessed so worrisome. No one seems to think anything is wrong with blitzkrieg-style tactics being used in the name of minor offenses, nor is anyone concerned about what that means for the Citizen-State relationship.
“When it was over, I had to force myself to exhale. What makes this movie so powerful is its terrifying portrayal of the mundanities of modern policing.”
So what do you do when your mother — a committed socialist — sees the liberation of Berlin, has a stroke, and the doctors warn you that in her now very fragile state the slightest shock – including news of the fall of socialism — could kill her. Well, of course you hide news of recent events, recreate East Germany in her convalescent room, and keep it going for as long as you can. The lengths her son goes to in order to provide her now abandoned inferior socialist consumer goods, fake communist-style news casts for her to watch on video, and to persuade others to join in the charade, is the core of the film’s comedy; and because he is doing all this out of love — also its heart. This thoroughly enjoyable film is also a sweet and honest one, that works in every respect (it won a slew of European film awards).
“The cockamamie way foreign language films are chosen for Oscar consideration is evident in the fact that Good Bye, Lenin wasn’t even nominated. I don’t claim to have seen every entry from around the world, but it’s hard to imagine five better than this deliciously offbeat comedy, as wildly inventive as anything Billy Wilder ever conceived.”
Pity the college-bound young people of today. They face not just the usual challenges of college life–being away from home for the first time, learning independence, and long hours of rigorous coursework. No, this generation must also endure a politically one-sided and aggressively-PC university system that demands from its young charges intellectual conformity, and backs those demands with threats of social and physical intimidation, “psychological counseling,” and ultimately career-shattering dismissal. It can’t be that bad, you say? Watch Indoctrinate U.
“Few know little about the rot on many college campuses. Indoctrinate U is a recently released documentary, written and directed by Evan Coyne Maloney, that captures the tip of a disgusting iceberg.”
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
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.”
So what does a Mom do if her son’s public high school is a crap institution that can’t even keep him safe let alone teach anything? Well, if she’s Virginia Walden Ford she kicks bureaucratic ass. Miss Virginia tells the true story of a Mom who fought a pitched, ultimately victorious, battle with educational authorities to create the District of Columbia voucher program — and save her son.
“A heartfelt ode to an important historical figure.”
“Miss Virginia gives a voice to the voiceless children who would otherwise remain a part of the system. Five-star film.”
–Black Girl Nerds
Freedom of speech is under siege on college campuses, and threats to First Amendment rights are spreading — as demonstrated in this provocative documentary. No Safe Spaces was the #1 political documentary of 2019 in terms of box office sales, despite repeated threats including thugs entering theaters and intimidating moviegoers. Some people really did not want others to see this film. It won the Grand Prize at the Anthem Film Festival.
“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.”
American’s founders were old rich guys with powdered wigs, right? No, not at all. At the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Alexander Hamilton was just 21. James Madison was 25. John Paul Jones was 28. Most were under 40. And far from being dry intellectuals, they were the cool crowd of their time, men of intellect and action. In that sense, this is actually a truer picture than you get from more staid accounts. Sons of Liberty breathes new life into the story of the Revolution, by dramatizing it in terms not just accessible but engaging, even one might say sexy. Who knew Sam Adams was a daring heartthrob? This is just good storytelling; you feel for the rebels, you understand what they are fighting for, and you admire them for the heroes they were. The ending scene of the film, when the Founders are signing the Declaration of Independence, and full-on war finally breaks out, is particularly touching. Cinematography is also superior, at times even artistic.
“Sons of Liberty rips the powdered wigs off America’s founding fathers. In a good way.”
–New York Daily News
College socialists love to point to the “Nordic model” as a working example of the socialist ideal. Yes, socialism failed in Russia, China, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania, Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, the Congo, Ethiopia, Grenada, Kampuchea, Mongolia, Mozambique, Somalia, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos, Cuba, Venezuela, and so on (of course, that wasn’t real socialism), but it has succeeded in Scandinavia. And if it has even that one win, then it’s clearly a go! But what if Sweden isn’t an argument for socialism – but an argument for capitalism? That’s the question Swedish economist Johan Norberg asks in this persuasive documentary.
“Debunks outdated myths about the Scandinavian nation.”
The following were previously on the Top 10 list of movies for students but were displaced by newly-discovered films that better represented the objectives of this list. These are nonetheless top notch films worthy of libertarian attention.
Free to Choose
In this landmark Free to Choose series, Nobel-Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman guides the viewer through eleven documentaries on the workings of the market and its relation to human liberty. Topics: Econ 101 | Libertarian Heroes
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