Movies to Stoke the Revolutionary Spirit

I love movies about revolutionaries--people committed to change, a cause, a raison d'etre. These aren't war movies, although some revolutions may include armed combat. These are movies about undermining or defeating a status quo that harms a great many people, a society, a country. These could be acts of one person, a few, or many. Of course, many of these films could be considered left-wing--I don't know of too many films in which people go to bat to protect the rights of corporations and banks. If I've missed films like that, let me know. Needless to say, these are all terrific films and most are on my other list of Films I Watch Repeatedly. I've listed them alphabetically. Consider the list a work in progress. Enjoy & comment.
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The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A look at Germany's terrorist group, The Red Army Faction (RAF), which organized bombings, robberies, kidnappings and assassinations in the late 1960s and '70s. (150 mins.)
Director: Uli Edel
“ A German journalist with leftist leanings who regularly writes about the unfairnesses of a right wing or fascist, police-state society becomes involved with a local revolutionary group, sacrificing everything for the cause. What's terrific about this film is the story that shows how protest can grow into an insurgency that endangers and then is suppressed by the ruling class. It's also a thrilling personal story of a woman committed to ideals who suffers greatly in her fight for justice. ” - macktan894
Hunger (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Irish republican Bobby Sands leads the inmates of a Northern Irish prison in a hunger strike. (96 mins.)
Director: Steve McQueen
“ Director Steve McQueen creates an often shocking but beautiful film about the travails of the IRA, specifically the IRA members caught and sentenced to long prison terms under Margaret Thatcher's rule. Those prisoners continued their fight behind bars, for example going naked rather than wear criminal's garb in protest of their not being recognized as political prisoners. The state sanctioned savagery with which their protests were handled are both hard to watch and inspiring at the same time. Their ultimate protest--the hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands--is portrayed in a strikingly effective & original way by the director. ” - macktan894
Carlos (2010 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The story of Venezuelan revolutionary Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, who founded a worldwide terrorist organization and raided the 1975 OPEC meeting. (334 mins.)
“ You need to see the entire 5-hour film that showed on Sundance in 2010. Carlos the Jackal, his nom de guerre, came from an aristocratic Venezuelan family, was highly educated, and attracted to the revolution. The film follows his first leadership roles when he is based in Paris by the PLA, with whom he trained. His revolutionary zeal is international and includes working with Germans, Japanese, Mideasterners, Spanish.... This is a thrilling movie that focuses on Carlos's many revolutionary acts, many of which were questionable. He had a big ego and morphed into a cause-less mercenary, hunted down by govts until he was finally captured. Today he sits in a Parisian prison for the rest of his life. ” - macktan894
V for Vendetta (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
In a future British tyranny, a shadowy freedom fighter, known only by the alias of "V", plots to overthrow it with the help of a young woman. (132 mins.)
Director: James McTeigue
“ "People should not be afraid of their govts; govts should be afraid of their people." V for Vendetta is closely associated with the Occupy movement and Anonymous. V, the hero revolutionary, wears a Guy Fawkes mask to honor the revolutionary who died on Nov 5th in England for his fight against oppression. V's mask also covers a debilitating injury that he unjustly received at the hand of the state who used people like lab rats. He takes his revenge and tries to awaken the consciousness of the country and persuade them to fight back. He mentors a unwilling pupil, EV. Fun, suspenseful, & ultimately uplifting. ” - macktan894
Reds (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A radical American journalist becomes involved with the Communist revolution in Russia and hopes to bring its spirit and idealism to the United States. (195 mins.)
Director: Warren Beatty
“ Warren Beatty is John Reed, rising star of the Communist Party in the U.S. and 1000% committed to the goals of the revolution. Reed is immersed in this revolution and every act in his life to dedicated to achieving that. Diane Keaton plays his lover who supports him in his views although she comes second. Jack Nicholson is great as the surly Eugene O'Neill who seduces his friend's lover. The scope of this film is vast and it does a great job of showing this political world in the 30's both in the U.S. and in Russia. Great intrigue, subplots, action, and pathos. ” - macktan894
Army of Shadows (1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
An account of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France. (145 mins.)
“ A great film about the French Resistance that's stood the test of time because of it's mesmerizing style. It grabs you from the first scenes when a seemingly ordinary man is being taken to a bleak prison for internment. These resisters were called an army of shadows because for the most part they were unknown and unacknowledged and fought their battles in the shadows. What they often had to do to accomplish their objectives could be seen as morally ambiguous, often dangerous and painful, but necessary in their view of themselves as soldiers fighting injustice. An engrossing and memorable film. ” - macktan894
Flame and Citron (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A drama centered on two fighters in the Holger Danske World War II resistance group. (130 mins.)
“ A resistance film that focuses on the fight of the Danish against the Nazi occupation. Flame & Citron are two hit men for the resistance, charged with killing Nazis. Flame is distinguished by his bright red hair which makes him easily identifiable. He is young, only in his 20s, but absolutely committed to his task and strong willed. But his youth makes him vulnerable. Citron, his older partner, is a tragic figure who's given up everything--love, his family, his ability to take care of them, for a cause he believes is most important for his country. Flame & Citron work together, but do they really know who they are working for...and why? Both thrilling and heartbreaking. ” - macktan894
Malcolm X (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam. (202 mins.)
Director: Spike Lee
“ Denzel Washington looks nothing like Malcom X but he captured the man perfectly. This fascinating biopic covers Malcom's personal evolution, concentrating on his early life as a criminal and into his conversion to Islam and rise in the Black Muslim organization. His refusal to be act like a slave and obey racist dogma make him into a powerful leader, creating enemies in the process both in govt and in his own religion. He breaks with Elijah Mohammed eventually and the rest is history. The story of this man's life is absolutely remarkable and unique. Spike Lee directed and I think this is his best film. ” - macktan894
Bloody Sunday (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A dramatization of the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops on January 30, 1972. (107 mins.)
Director: Paul Greengrass
“ Irish Catholics led by an Irish member of Parliament (James Nesbitt) try to emulate Martin Luther King and have a peaceful march for civil rights in their own country. But the English riot police think there's no such thing as peaceful when any Irish march, be they IRA or otherwise, and so they plan for a riot. And the IRA warned the local Irish pol that the English would fire on them and that's just what happened. Although no one fired on the English police and no English police were killed, the Irish lost over 30 lives with many many more wounded. Children and seniors were among the victims. When the English couldn't find any weapons among the Irish, they just made stuff up to justify their murderous rampage. They were not only excused, they were honored by the Queen! A true story. And it goes to show you how things just never change when it comes to power and money and exploitation. Rights always have to be fought for--always. A riveting film directed by Paul Greengrass. ” - macktan894
Gandhi (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is able to drive the British out of the subcontinent. And the stubborn nature of Jinnah and his commitment towards Pakistan is portrayed. (191 mins.)
“ The British Empire loved India because the Indians could be enslaved for cheap labor and exploited for profit. In their own country, Indians were treated like dirt, prohibited from assembling, and forced to order all commands. Gandhi thought that was preposterous. An educated, upper class Indian, he put aside his class privileges, what few he actually had given his color, and fought for the rights of his people to rule their own country and drive the British out. His method of civil disobedience has become the template for most civil rights struggles all over the world, adopted by MLK and now the OccupyWallStrs. This film is superb. ” - macktan894
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, two brothers fight a guerrilla war against British forces. (127 mins.)
Director: Ken Loach
“ Another of my favorite Irish liberation films. Its themes are many. For one, it shows that you occupy a country brutally, treat its citizens like slaves and terrorize them, deny them opportunity and a secure life, and you're going to get it back. But it also shows how difficult it is to make a transition from revolution to governance and how many can't stop fighting if there's a dispute about the goals. There's excellent commentary by a historian who grounds the incidents in this film with actual documentation of the times and events. Inspiring and heartbreaking. One of Gillian Murphy's best films. ” - macktan894
Boycott (2001 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Black Americans boycott the public buses during the 1950s civil rights movement. (118 mins.)
Director: Clark Johnson
“ In this 2001 TV movie, Jeffrey Wright plays Martin Luther King at the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was during this boycott that King, at first reluctantly, assumed leadership, both in the boycott and the civil rights movement. Wright plays him as thoughtful and increasingly determined to wage this fight and even willing to disengage himself from friends who might be used as a weapon against him. Bayard Rustin, played magnificently by Eric Dellums, was a celebrated intellectual and enthusiastically supportive of a movement he'd been promoting for years. But he was also a homosexual and communist sympathizer. He accepts his fate with elegance. Really good scenes of the actual boycott and the people charged with keeping it going and the consequences for those who participated. Underrated, underexposed film that usually gets play on MLK' holidays. ” - macktan894
In the Name of the Father (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A man's coerced confession to an IRA bombing he did not commit results in the imprisonment of his father as well. An English lawyer fights to free them. (133 mins.)
Director: Jim Sheridan
“ Based on a true story in which the principals are still living. A petty thief and n'ere do well from Belfast, Gerry Conlon, is arrested and framed for an IRA bombing he didn't do because the English need a conviction and any old Irish person will do. In quick haste, all of Conlon's friends and close family, including his elderly father, is arrested and convicted and sentenced to long terms. Shows how treating people despicably can radicalize them as Conlon grows from an irresponsible kid to a fighter who's forced to look after his dad and cell mate. You'll cheer the end and despise the system that permitted this to happen. ” - macktan894
Che: Part One (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
In 1956, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and a band of Castro-led Cuban exiles mobilize an army to topple the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista. (134 mins.)
“ Part one of Steven Soderberg's Che covers the origins of the Castro revolution and the rise of his top lieutenant Che Guevara. The planning, training & disciplining of the people's army, the determination and intensity are riveting. Benicio del Toro is excellent as Che who at first served as medical support but was then elevated to leadership when Castro found him smart tactically & reliable as a soldier. Part 2, equally good, covers Che's struggles to emulate the Cuban success and liberate Bolivia to become a Castro ruler himself in that country. ” - macktan894
The Insider (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a "60 Minutes" expose on Big Tobacco. (157 mins.)
Director: Michael Mann
“ Sometimes it only takes one brave person to make a dramatic change. Russell Crowe plays real life Jeffrey Wigand, a research vp who, after he's fired, decides to violate his confidentiality agreement and blow the whistle on his former employer, Brown & Root, big tobacco. His sacrifices are painful and he loses almost everything. Fascinating look at corporate malfeasance and also at how profit has destroyed mainstream investigative journalism. A suspenseful, thrilling, and inspiring film. One of Crowe's best roles. ” - macktan894
The Matrix (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. (136 mins.)
“ As an allegory, The Matrix effectively represents a view of the world where people are asleep and exploited and afraid to "unplug" themselves and fight back against mechanistic agents that guard the status quo. Morpheus, leader of a band of rebels who are unplugged and looking to take their world back, hunts for the One, a leader who is of both worlds and has the power and skills to change things. ” - macktan894
King (1978 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stretching from his days as a Southern Baptist minister up to his assassination in Memphis in 1968. (271 mins.)
Director: Abby Mann
“ This TV miniseries won an emmy for its portrayal of Martin Luther King (played magnificently by Paul Winfield; Coretta, Cicely Tyson). Covers his early days as a theological student, his meeting Coretta & marriage, his struggles with his father and of course his leadership of the civil rights movement. His last days, determined but also burdened with responsibility and fatique, are particularly poignant. ” - macktan894
The Vernon Johns Story (1994 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Vernon Johns, a brilliant man coupled with an eloquent speaker, upsets his community through his radical... (100 mins.)
Director: Kenneth Fink
“ James Earl Jones plays an erudite but eccentric preacher, one whose methods of resistance to racial discrimation, ultimately estrange him from his congregation. Vernon Johns pastored at the church that Martin Luther King was hired for in his wake. While the congregation didn't warm to Jones, they had their consciousness raised which made them more supportive of King when he followed in Johns' footsteps. ” - macktan894
Z (1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Following the murder of a prominent leftist, an investigator tries to uncover the truth while government officials attempt to cover up their roles. (127 mins.)
Director: Costa-Gavras
“ Made in 1969, this movie still resonates with suspense and intrique and, of course, re-tells a familiar story of the extent to which the ruling class will go in order to protect its profitable existence. Why is it that with peaceful protesters the police are the ones out to inflict violence? ” - macktan894
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Footage shot by a group of Swedish journalists documenting the Black Power Movement in the United States is edited together by a contemporary Swedish filmmaker. (100 mins.)
“ The centerpiece of this film is the Angela Davis story, covering her Birmingham roots and exposure to racial injustice, her academic commitment to philosophy and her membership in the Communist party, her conflict with then Governor Ronald Reagan over her teaching position at UC Davis and of course her connection to a murder case, her flight from the law, capture and trial. Surrounding her story are details about the battle for black civil rights on various fronts both militant and peaceful and the leaders involved. Also looks at the consequences of racism on the black community. ” - macktan894
Matewan (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A labor union organizer comes to an embattled mining community brutally and violently dominated and harassed by the mining company. (135 mins.)
Director: John Sayles
“ A John Sayles film, Matewan is a powerful film covering the plight of Virginia coal miners to form a union and their fight with company owners who want to keep labor cheap and under their control. The story is based on true events and participants although there's been some artistic liberty here and there. As with most of these movies, the story told is eerily the same--profit & power leads to oppression and exploitation. Matewan plays out to this day all over the world. ” - macktan894
Silkwood (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The story of Karen Silkwood, a metallurgy worker at a plutonium processing plant who was purposefully contaminated, psychologically tortured and possibly murdered to prevent her from exposing blatant worker safety violations at the plant. (131 mins.)
Director: Mike Nichols
“ Karen Silkwood starts out as a free spirited, low pay worker in the nuclear industry that becomes motivated after being exposed to radiation and suspecting the plant's safety standards. Silkwood gets involved in the union and begins collecting evidence against her employers with the intention of exposing them. We all know too well that company profits just can't tolerate that. An excellent film with Meryl Streep as Silkwood, Cher as her lesbian roommate, and Kurt Russell as her boyfriend. ” - macktan894
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. (145 mins.)
Director: Oliver Stone
“ True story of Ron Kovic, an army veteran disabled in war, who finds himself and others like him ill-treated and neglected by the country he served. The abuse and indignities he suffers starts right away in the veterans hospital where they roughly prepare him for home life by with bad medical treatment and a wheelchair. This is among Tom Cruise's best films. He does an admirable job taking on Kovic's journey, from bitter, disabled, selfpitying veteran to activist for disability and pro-human rights. A wheelchair did not slow this man down. Inspiring, even astonishing. ” - macktan894
Norma Rae (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the problems and dangers involved. (114 mins.)
Director: Martin Ritt
“ Despite the saccharine cover art, this is a good film that Sally Field can always be proud of. And given the attack on unions, given the ever increasing economic disparity in this country, given the unemployment rate in this country, this film should re-resonate with viewers. Here we are, decades later, arguing about the same things. ” - macktan894
All the President's Men (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
"The Washington Post" reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon's resignation. (138 mins.)
Director: Alan J. Pakula
“ This was back when investigative journalism was actually practiced by the Fourth Estate, before it was purchased by Corporations who turned it into mainstream media propaganda machines. No way you would expect this kind of expos-ay to come from a Washington Post or New York Times. But I've listed it because it feeds into the current trends toward independent and citizen journalism, which can be a dangerous enterprise depending on what kind of information you're gathering. Take wikileaks, for example. ” - macktan894
The China Syndrome (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A reporter finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant. (122 mins.)
Director: James Bridges
“ A female TV reporter who's gotten ahead on her looks gets involved with a real story when she covers an accident at a nuclear reactor that she's visiting to file a puff PR piece. Her outrage at the cover up, perpetrated by the corporate owners as well as her employers, conflicts with her ambition and challenges her basic sense of integrity and commitment to truth telling. ” - macktan894