My Favorite Libertarian Movies

Captain Blood (1935)

Captain Blood stars Errol Flynn at his swashbuckling best. Flynn deservedly shot to stardom as Peter Blood, a 17th-century physician turned pirate after escaping unjust imprisonment for devoting his medical skills to rebels against the English tyrant King James.

Spirited action sequences, highly intellectual dialogue and skilled direction combine to make this film a delight.

Unlike the recent pirate films starring Marxist-Che Guevara sympathizer Johnny Depp, the art and charm of this movie lies in its well-selected background music and acting, not in special effects and buffoonery.

Radiant Olivia de Havilland is Flynn's ideally cast co-star and romantic interest.

Watch for Flynn's stirring and eloquent speeches to inspire his pirate crew. Flynn's superb diction and command of the English language alone are worth the price of admission.

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Filled with action, drama, passion, romance, and a story of heroic (and successful!) rebellion against tyranny, Captain Blood is a tale lovers of liberty will enjoy and treasure.

Talk of the Town (1942)

If you have not yet seen this film, you are in for a real treat…and then some. It is as witty, charming, and engaging as any libertarian – and any American – could hope for.

The moral background portrayed contrasts strongly with the profanity, violence and explicit sexual innuendo that have become standard in many of today’s films.

Cary Grant stars as Leopold Dilg, an outspoken civil libertarian, wrongly imprisoned for arson and murder. To avoid almost certain execution, Leopold breaks out of jail to gather evidence to prove his innocence.

The bad guys of the movie are a corrupt judge and mayor of a small New England town, who make Leopold the fall guy for their insurance scam.

During his escape, Leopold encounters legal scholar Michael Lightcap, played admirably and incomparably by Ronald Coleman in one of his finest roles. Their friendly intellectual exchanges on the nature of the law make the film especially worthy of attention. For example, Leopold says, "What is the law…it's a gun pointed in someone's face." Lines like that are seldom heard in current-day movies.

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The professor and the escapee team up with lovely and feisty local schoolteacher Nora Shelley (Jean Arthur) to find justice.

The academic theoretician becomes a man of action. In a dramatic and suspenseful courtroom scene, he demonstrates why the right to keep and bear arms is vitally important to the cause of justice. The corrupt politicians are indicted.

In the end, Nora gets her man, but which one? You will need to watch the film to the very end to discover the answer to that most intriguing question.

Unconquered (1947)

Legendary film magnate Cecil B. DeMille captures on the silver screen an important period in American history in this stirring tale of pre-Revolutionary settlers on the frontier.

Gary Cooper stars as peace-loving Chris Holden, a colonial militia Captain who buys and then frees beautiful indentured slave Abby Hale on their voyage to Virginia. Abby had been convicted in England for killing one of the King's men while successfully defending her honor from attempted outrage.

The action shifts to western Pennsylvania. Slave trader Garth, having failed to have a law passed in England to prohibit settlement west of the Allegheny mountains, ignites a battle between Indian tribes and a small outpost of brave settlers. The film is filled with libertarian nuggets. For example, when Abby (stunning natural redhead Paulette Goddard) is re-taken into slavery, she wistfully remarks, "You don't know what freedom's worth until you lose it."

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A first-rate historical drama, this film features Howard Da Silva as the treacherous villain Garth and Boris Karloff as the Indian chief Guyasuta. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Colonel George Washington are also included as the action unfolds.

Gary Cooper saves the fort, rescues the girl, and defeats the villain in the suspenseful final scene.

Watch for the Ben Franklin quote at the conclusion: Where liberty dwells there is my country.

Tailor of Panama (2001)

No review of libertarian movies would be complete without at least one that takes a skeptical view of misguided American foreign policy. The Tailor of Panama obliges.

Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) is the eponymous tailor of Panama. Born an Englishman, he is a former convict turned tailor to the rich and infamous in Panama. Harry is happily married to Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis), who happens to be the assistant to the Canal director.

Harry plies his trade as tailor with considerable success, notwithstanding the occasional harmless fabrication – for example, a 40-inch waist is recorded as a "36 plus," the plus being lunch.

Pierce Brosnan's Andy Oxnard is a dapper British spy, whose only character resemblance to James Bond is his penchant for the ladies. Having been discredited for his numerous indiscretions in Europe, he is exiled to Panama where it is thought by his superiors, that he can do little harm.

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Here is where their paths cross, or more accurately, double cross. Andy intimidates Harry to eavesdrop on the Canal director for whom he serves as tailor. Harry’s tales and whispers of an impending Chinese take over of the canal are gladly accepted.

Harry is a better tailor than investor. A thieving foreman and a crooked banker conspire to push his real estate investment into failure. Tempted by generous cash gifts from Andy, courtesy of British taxpayers, Harry spins fiction upon fiction. Andy soaks it up, passes it on to London, and keeps the money flowing.

When lack of substance or documentation threatens to end this lucrative scheme, Harry foolishly thinks he can bluff his way out of the deal.

Using this inaccurate and unconfirmed data, the Brits persuade the American military to send in the helicopters. The film clearly portrays the war-hungry Pentagon commanders as a group of inept, almost childish and certainly ludicrous, contemptible men.

Thankfully the combat mission they order is discontinued, but not before a bombardment of innocent civilians and peaceful Panamanian neighborhoods.

If you are looking for an entertaining venue to expose the incredible folly of a foreign policy of intervention by force of arms, this is the film for you.

December 9, 2009