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McLibel (2005)

 -  Documentary  -  20 May 2005 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 1,854 users   Metascore: 81/100
Reviews: 20 user | 15 critic | 4 from

McLibel is the story of two ordinary people who humiliated McDonald's in the biggest corporate PR disaster in history.

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Complete credited cast:
Helen Steel ...
Dave Morris ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Bruce Alexander ...
Anita Anand ...
Voiceover (voice)
Peter Armstrong ...
Voiceover (voice)
Chris Brierley ...
Voiceover (voice)
Rhona Cameron ...
Voiceover (voice)
T. Colin Campbell ...
Himself (as Professor Campbell)
Sue Dibb ...
Herself - The Food Commission
Pip Donaghy ...
Ian Flintoff ...
Dan Gallin ...
Himself - Intl Union of Food Workers
Stephen Gardner ...
Himself - Assistant Attorney General (as Stephen Gardener)
Himself (as Geoff Guiliano)


McDonald's loved using the UK libel laws to suppress criticism. Major media organisations like the BBC and The Guardian crumbled and apologised. But then they sued gardener Helen Steel and postman Dave Morris. In the longest trial in English legal history, the "McLibel Two" represented themselves against McDonald's £10 million legal team. Every aspect of the corporation's business was cross-examined: from junk food and McJobs, to animal cruelty, environmental damage and advertising to children. Outside the courtroom, Dave brought up his young son alone and Helen supported herself working nights in a bar. McDonald's tried every trick in the book against them. Legal manoeuvres. A visit from Ronald McDonald. Top executives flying to London for secret settlement negotiations. Even spies. Seven years later, in February 2005, the marathon legal battle finally concluded at the European Court of Human Rights. And the result took everyone by surprise - especially the British Government. ... Written by Lizzie Gillet

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The postman and the gardener who took on McDonald's





Official Sites:



Release Date:

20 May 2005 (USA)  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$1,821 (USA) (10 June 2005)


$4,337 (USA) (24 June 2005)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Originally released as a 52 film on TV and video in 1997; this extended 85 version came out in theaters in 2005 after the case had gone to the European Courts. See more »


Edited from McLibel: Two Worlds Collide (1998) See more »


The Real Thing
Written, performed & produced by The Band of Holy Joy
See more »

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User Reviews

Poorly-made, boring rant against McDonald's
4 July 2007 | by (San Antonio, TX) – See all my reviews

I would describe myself as an ultraliberal. I am certainly no fan of McDonald's. I never eat there, and I don't own any stock. The fact that a company like McDonald's exists makes me cringe.

Honestly, I feel this documentary was poorly made, and that most reasonable people who are truly interested in the famous McLibel trial would be better off reading about the McLibel trial than wasting time viewing this film. I feel that many viewers of this film feel that society would be a better place if more people watch this film and as a result are giving this unjustifiably good reviews. In truth, this is a really bad documentary. Even though it is less than 90 minutes long, it is extremely boring and frustratingly uninformative.

I feel the McLibel case made the McDonald's Corporation look pretty silly. I really wanted an informative documentary that was going to present the facts surrounding the trial and the events leading up to the trial, possibly make me laugh, and explain what exactly it is about British law that made this sort of lawsuit seem viable to the McDonald's lawyers. Instead, I was presented, for the most part, with an uninformed and naive, one-sided, boring rant against the McDonald's Corporation for its business practices, primarily from the point of view two unlikeable, self-righteous, and naive characters.

My first main complaint is that the title is a bit misleading. This is more a polemic against the McDonald's Corporation and its business practices than it is a documentary about the McLibel case per se. If the parts that weren't actually about the trial were cut out, I'd estimate this film would've been maybe about 30 minutes long. And there is hardly anything here about the pro-plaintiff British libel laws that made this kind of suit seem feasible for McDonald's to pursue in the first place (but only in the UK)--which really would have been the most interesting subject to talk about, in my view.

It is as if the filmmaker wanted some excuse to make a film to educate us all about how bad McDonald's is and viewed the McLibel trial as a perfect excuse. As if any reasonable viewer doesn't already know that McDonald's food tends to be unhealthy, or that McDonald's workers get paid very low wages, or that millions of chickens are slaughtered to make Chicken McNuggets! Who doesn't know this? Well, if you didn't already know it, you will have definitely learned it by the time this film is done, because it will have been repeatedly beaten into your brain, unless, of course, you fall asleep first.

My second main complaint is that the two principle characters, the defendants in the McLibel case, come off as self-righteous and just kind of silly, naive, twittering dingbats. For example, they and some other characters that talk in the film repeatedly express dismay at the notion that a multinational corporation such as McDonald's actually cares only about profits and not really about its workers or its consumers as people (except to the extent caring about us translates into profits of course). But these complaints are naive. You can't complain that vociferously about a multinational corporation wanting to maximize profits--their shareholders could sue them if they do anything less--the complaint needs to be directed more at the relevant law that allows and encourages this kind of corporate behavior, the people that support these laws, and, to some extent, at the consumers that support McDonald's and the workers that won't unionize and that accept such low wages. It's one thing to state the facts about McDonald's dispassionately and let the viewer decide for him- or herself whether to support McDonald's with his/her wallet, or to state the facts dispassionately and then go on to explain not only the situation the workers and consumers find themselves in relative to McDonald's, but also the situation that the McDonald's Corporation finds itself in relative to its stockholders, but it's another thing to one-sidedly skewer the McDonald's Corporation for the entire situation when the workers themselves, the consumers themselves, and the legal systems controlling the countries in which McDonald's operates and the people controlling those legal systems all share the blame.

My third main complaint is that the film is not well-organized. It's just kind of all over the place, and presented in a random haphazard manner.

My fourth and most important complaint is that the film is boring, thanks in no small part to the fact that the two main characters, the defendants in the McLibel case, are boring and unsympathetic characters.

The best documentaries are those that either neutrally present facts about events, or present the best of all sides of whatever issue is being discussed from the points of views of well-informed and intelligent people, and that do so in an interesting manner. That does not in any way describe this documentary. I give it a 2 out of 10, because there are actually some parts of this film here and there that do actually talk a bit about the trial, but, really, I feel that's a pretty generous rating.

If you want to be beaten over the head with an anti-McDonald's rant, see this film. If you want to learn about the McLibel trial, do yourself a favor and ignore the other reviewers and go read about it instead. It's a fascinating trial. This is a dumb film that tangentially touches on that fascinating trial to a small extent between rants about how evil McDonald's is.

11 of 34 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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