Left-Wing Films

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you lots of ideas for films to show at cell meetings, for public events, or as a means to brainwash conservative youth that you kidnapped from Boy Scout outings. Of course, any film can be watched and deconstructed for its lessons about race, class, gender and power, but these films make those discussions a little easier. Showing films can be a great way to have political discussions at the same time you are having fun. You can even use them as fund-raising events, since most only cost $10 to $20 a piece. (You aren't suppose to charge people to see movies you rent from a store.)

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10 Rillington Place - True drama of a British murder case that led to the abolition of the death penalty. John Hurt stars as a man sentenced to die for the murder of his family, a crime he didn't commit.(111 min.)

1984 - The 1984 production with the Eurhythmics soundtrack and Richard Burton as the party official. (115m)

Arise, My Love (Mitchell Leisen, 1940) Claudette Colbert is a journalist who, in trying to demonstrate that women can take on non-fluff assignments, rescues Ray Milland from a Franco firing squad. Together they attempt to get the U.S. out of its isolationist complacency. (Steve Press)

The Bad Sleep Well (directed by Kurosawa, 1960) Kurosawa's hero attempts to avenge his dead father. The protagonist goes up against his father's business associates, respected powerful men of a large Japanese corporation.

Blade Runner - The plight of enslaved cyborgs and our corporate-dominated future through eyes ofa sympathetic cop. (113m)

The Blue Kite (1993, Tian Zhuang- zhuang) A boy, born in Beijing in 1954, grows up amid the political upheaval and zealotry of the Cultural Revolution. One day his father's library co-workers meet to practice "self-criticism" and to identify reactionaries in their midst. When the boy's father returns from the toilet, all eyes are on him: He has been selected as the reactionary, and that is his death sentence. The mother remarries twice seeking stability, unsuccessfully. It's a remarkable portrait of a society victimized by ideology." Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam) In a dystopian vision, Gilliam takes what Kafka started to operatic heights in a film that is fantastic but not, finally, unrealistic." Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947) Burt Lancaster and Charles Bickford are leaders of two gangs of inmates in a prison. They form a united front to effect a break-out, as the sadistic captain of the guards (Hume Cronyn) stages a coup d'etat and overthrows the more humane, but impotent warden. While the film is an obvious metaphoric depiction of fascism, it is also a statement of existential despair: no one ever escapes. (Steve Press)

Burnt by the Sun (1994, Nikita Mikhalkov) A lament for the loss of idealism. A populist Red general and eccentrics holed up in an artists' retreat are the last to get the news of Stalin's purges. The director and his own daughter play the leads. " Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Catch 22 - A brilliant dark comedy about mercantilism and the military.

Clockwork Orange - An argument against involuntary behavior modification that portrays the beauty of stylish rapes and beatings along the way.

The Fallen Sparrow (Richard Wallace, 1943). John Garfield plays a Spanish Civil War veteran who is haunted by his experiences of torture at the hands of Franco's army, and who is being pursued by Fascists in New York. (Steve Press)

Farewell My Concubine Chen Kaige's beautiful and achingly sad portrayal of a doomed love triangle between two Chinese opera stars, and a former prostitute. Following the protagonists from the '49 revolution through the Cultural Revolution, portrays the horror of Maoist totalitarianism.

Fatherland In this HBO special, it is 1964 in an alternative history. The Normandy invasion failed. Germany conquered Europe. Russian Communist guerrillas continue a defensive fight against occupying Germany. Dignitaries gather in Berlin, the capitol of European Germania, to celebrate the Fuhrer's 75th birthday. The focal point is the scheduled meeting between Hitler and U.S. President Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., which may bring an end to U.S. aid to the Russian guerrillas. But a German police officer and a visiting American journalist discover evidence of the completely covered-up Holocaust, and race to deliver it to the American delegation to prevent detente.

Good Will Hunting - Makes reference to Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Completely trashes U.S. Intelligence agencies and their questionable practices. - Steve Press

Hangmen Also Die (Fritz Lang, 1943) Brian Donlevy assassinates Nazi butcher Reinhard Heydrich in occupied Czechoslavakia. (Steve Press)

Harakiri (directed by Kobayashi, 1962) Extraordinary samurai film. Every bit as good as Seven Samurai. A brave and principled samurai learns that the word "honor" is just a fig leaf for knavery when power and wealth are at risk. - Terry Gaines

Heatwave (Phillip Noyce, 1983, Australia) Judy Davis plays an activist fighting the demolition and replacement of homes in a low-income neighborhood with high end housing. The film, which is based on real events, depicts a shadowy relationship between legitimate developers and organized crime. Based on the same events,  The Killing of Angel Street (Donald Crombie, 1981, Australia)  further explores corrupt official involvement, from the local police all the way up to the highest levels of government. (Steve Press)

Hey, Babu Riba (Gala Videnovic, 1986, Yugoslavia) Coming of age film set in Yugoslavia just after Tito broke with Stalin. (Steve Press)

In the Name of the Father (1993, Jim Sheridan) A "paddy thief" is swept into the black hole of the Irish-British conflict. Sheridan presents his main characters as unwilling pawns, then uses them to flush out the bigger players."Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956) Can be taken as red scare propaganda or as a warning against the authoritarianism and mind-numbing conformity of the McCarthy era. In Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Phil Kaufman, 1978), the first remake, global pollution is the enemy. In The Body Snatchers (Abel Ferrara, 1993), the second remake, the military is the enemy. (Steve Press)

The Kiss of the Spiderwoman - A radical activist imprisoned by a Latin dictatorship in the same cell with a romantic homosexual, discovers their solidarity against oppression.

The Last Supper (1996) -  a group of liberal grad students take it upon themselves to rid the world of future right-wing extremists (abortion doctor killers, anti-feminists, homophobics, book banners) by inviting them over for Sunday dinner and poisoning them....if their minds can't be changed. A lovely little dark comedy!

Lord of the Flies - Classic, chilling tale of British schoolboys stranded on a remote island without adults, and their homemade society's slide into savagery. (90 min.)

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media - A documentary about Noam Chomsky. - Steve Press

Mephisto (1981, Istvan Szabo) "Klaus Maria Brandauer, in one of the best performances I've ever seen, plays a German actor who is, at first, a socialist and the proud lover of a black woman--but by the end has found that his beliefs were a pose, and happily discards them to gain success under Hitler. As he climbs to the top of the Nazi propaganda structure and the bottom of his own soul, the movie is both merciless and understanding. This is a weak and shameful man, the film seems to say--but then it cautions us against throwing the first stone."Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Metropolis - Robot chick leads the oppressed workers in revolt.

Modern Times - Worker guy, Charlie Chaplin, caught in the cogs of the industrial wheel.

Mother Night - This is the film version of another Kurt Vonnegut novel. Among other things, it pokes fun at white-supremacist groups. - Steve Press

Nasty Girl, The - German woman gets in big trouble when she starts investigating her town's collaboration with the Third Reich.

Not Without My Daughter - True story of an American woman who risked life and veil to rescue her daughter from Islamic fundamentalist Iran.

The Official Story - (1985, Luis Puenzo) The adoptive parents of children whose parents were disappeared by the Argentine junta.The emotional fallout of Argentina's "dirty war," starring a terrific Norma Aleandro. Posits that political awareness is a responsibility, not an option." Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996"

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) - A rebellious mental patient challenges institution, gets fried, inspires native American to seek freedom.

People Under the Stairs - Courageous African-American houseburglar liberates tongueless zombies from the basement of Ron and Nancy Reagan's prison-America.

The Rapture - Woman confronts God, the ultimate dictator, after she kills her daughter in a religious frenzy.

Romero - The life and death of El Salvador's martyred social justice Bishop.

Seven Samurai, The - Kurosawa's masterpiece, about seven samurai who train a village in armed self-defense, helping them defeat marauding bandits. The depiction of class and caste is raw and riveting.

Schindler's List (1993, Steven Spielberg) The story of a flawed and complex man who decides, while working for the Nazi war machine, to shelter some 1,000 Jews. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) begins by sucking up to the Nazis, but some deep chord in his soul is struck, and he begins to cheat them of money, work, and lives. It's a rare blending of superb Hollywood artistry and deeply felt emotional and political content."Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Shoah (1985, Claude Lanzmann) This nine-hour film is one of the most remarkable documents imaginable about the Holocaust. Without using documentary footage from the war, Lanzmann relies on eyewitnesses, narration, and the eerie remains of the death camps to investigate a chapter of human horror. His film is patient: He listens to his subjects as they run through their rehearsed feelings about events that occurred 40 years earlier, and we watch them reveal the lessons they've absorbed into their very beings."Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Slaughterhouse-Five - This is the film version of Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel. Many references to the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany during the second World War.- Steve Press

Sleeper - Woody Allen, refugee from the 20th century, becomes leader of the revolt against a future oppressive regime.

Sleeping Dogs (1977)...Recluse Smith (Sam Neill) is drawn into a revolutionary struggle between guerillas and right-wingers in New Zealand. Implicated in a murder and framed as a revolutionary conspirator, Smith tries to maintain an attitude of non-violence while caught between warring factions.

Sneakers (1992) A group of security analysts, including Robert Redford, Dan Akroyd, and Sidney Poitier, are offered a job by the CIA and when they are reluctant, pressure is brought to bear by the threat to disclose the identity of their leader, a 60s radical with outstanding warrants. A chip exists that will allow any computer to be cracked, and organized crime will soon control it, though sudden changes in their police records suggest that it is already operational.

Spartacus (1960) - Classic story of Roman slave revolt leader. Watch for the homoerotic "do you like snails?" master-slave scene that was expurgated by the censors, but added back in re-release.

The Story of Qiu Ju - The beautiful Gong Li in a film about a pregnant rural woman's search for justice through the Chinese legal system. Her husband was kicked by the village headman and she wants an apology.

Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press (documentary) The story of a true American hero. A journalistic giant. George Seldes was hated and despised by all the best people. He was threatened by the Bolsheviks, by Mussolini and by Franco. J. Edgar Hoover read his mail to try and shut him up. Despised by fascists everywhere he was one of the working people's best friends till his death in 1995 at the age of 104. - terrill gaines

Terminator, Terminator 2 - Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a lot of radical films, such as the Terminator movies, for the Republican bimbo that he is. In the Terminator films, the military-industrial complexes computers have become sentient, and carried out their anti-human programming. In T1, the future robot empire sends a cyborg back in time to kill the mother of the future leader of the human resistance. In T2, a suspence-action classic, this same mother is a hardened guerrilla who mid-way through the movie blows up a central military-industrial research facility.

They Live - A homeless drifter discovers that yuppies and the Republican elite of the U.S. have been bought out by ugly aliens, who are beaming obedience messages at us from billboards, newspapers and TV. Problem is you can't see that they're aliens unless you're wearing these special sunglasses, so people get a little upset when he starts blowing the yuppie alien heads off.

THX-113 - More horrific than 1984, George Lucas' first film, produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Robert Duvall as the worker drone awakening to the need for freedom in a subterranean, post-individualist society.

Tin Drum, The - Midget with a drum terrorizes the Third Reich.

Tito and Me (Goran Markovic, 1992, Yugoslavia) A young boy causes delightfully anarchic chaos during a party-sponsored "march around Tito's homeland" (i.e., Croatia). - Steve Press

The White Rose - German film with sub-titles, about a group of young Germans resisting the Nazis during WWII - a tragic ending

Wisdom - Emilio Estevez stars as a chronically unemployed ex-con who sets himself up as a modern day Robin Hood, knocking over banks to destroy mortgages and help the poor. (109 min.)

Yellow Submarine - The struggle against the Blue Meanies by the boys from Liverpool is a brilliant allegory for world uprising against the Bad guys.

Z - A gripping true-life Greek drama about the assassination and cover-up of a leader of the resistance movement in Greece. This is an exciting film by Costa-Gavras. Dubbed in English. (127 min.)