Wednesday, July 4, 2012

TOP 10 Movies of ALL TIME About FREEDOM

Today mark's America's annual festival of freedom to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Not just a federal holiday, today is THE National Holiday of our country. As a people, generations of Americans have gone on to define freedom in its many forms and fight in defense of it.  The Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776 was the groundwork for our Constitution and Bill of Rights, defining our freedoms of speech, assembly, press, religion and right to bear arms.  Today, many minorities and social classes in all ends of the Earth strive to attain equality still.  Film is one of the highest art forms of our Brave New World.  As a special 4th of July post, here are 10 Movies which celebrate Freedom in one capacity or another...

10.  Braveheart
(Directed by Mel Gibson / 1995)

A staple of war cinema, this three hour plethora of brutal medieval warfare (backed by a passionate love story) follows the struggle of the legendary William Wallace attempt to liberate Scotland from British Rule in the 13th Century.  The tale of his rebellion won the film five Academy Awards including Best Picture and a Best Director Oscar for Mel Gibson, who also starred in the leading role. The script which told the story of Wallace and the Scotts' conquest for freedom was written by Randall Wallace, a descendant of the revolutionary warrior himself.  Gibson also wins the award for best delivery of an epic single-word line, "Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedooooooooooooooom!"  This sweeping epic conquers all war movies based around the struggle for freedom from suppression by tyrannical rule.  Honorary Mention contenders who practically tie with this spot are The Patriot and Spartacus.

09.  Hairspray
(Directed by John Waters / 1988)

The character of Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake,) is the most unlikely character you'd find to convey a commentary on race relations in the United States.  This thick white girl gets her groove on and shakes a leg with whoever she wants to, regardless of the color of their skin.  Tracy  flaunts her freedom of choice to the entire broadcast audience of a local TV dance show, raising eyebrows and raising plenty of questions.  Based in 1963, the flamboyant director John Waters gives a tongue-in-cheek commentary on segregation which has inspired spin-off plays and even a remake of the film itself.  Hairspray was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and is is a cult classic standing the test of time.

08.  The Matrix
(Directed by The Wachowski Brothers / 1999)

Neo (Keanu Reeves) is awakened to a living nightmare where computerized machines rule the Earth having driven the survivors of the human race underground. Having blackened out the sun, the race of self-sufficient machines harvest humans to be used as batteries, supplying power to their empire of rule.  The world as we know it is an illusion as most are not free, only being fed a stream of fantasy through virtual reality as their life energy is drained to serve humanity's suppressor (or so it seems as it is up for debate which side began the oppression.)  This film can be taken into so many metaphorical contexts withing our topic today.   Freedom is the ultimate theme as a band of rebels attempt to regain their place in the world as the human race, which has been plugged up, sucked in and literally absorbed into machinery.  This commentary (and perhaps Asimovian warning) on artificial intelligence won four Academy Awards for sound and visual effects. 

07.  Schindler's List
(Directed by Steven Speilberg / 1993)

In this misty-eyed and delicately arranged film, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) develops a conscious which carries him above the greed of his German business ties as he takes up a secret call to help over 1,000 Jewish prisoners escape their fate of certain death at Auschwitz (a concentration camp) during World War II.  Here we're told a story of the value of freedom and the last scenes of the movie bring the horrendous reality of placing value on human life to surface.  The most expensive (and highest grossing) black and white film ever produced, this brutal portrait of the Holocaust won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.  Steven Speilberg also took home the Best Director Oscar after refusing a salary to serve as chief architect of this masterpiece.

06.  THX 1138
(Directed by George Lucas / 1971)

In the 25th century, a dystopian world has emerged in the vein of Orwellian lore, where humans live under the surface of the Earth.  THX (Robert Duvall) is destined to resist conformity and give in to his human urges and emotions.  Much like Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World, society in this film is controlled by mind-altering drugs and sex is illegal.    Worker bees are kept in their hive, deprived of the spectrum of emotion which makes humans human.  This suppression of nature is confronted when THX rebels and stops taking his medicine, lifting the veil to realize his indentured state of being.  George Lucas adapted this full-length feature from a short film he produced as a student, which ends with a slightly more optimistic ending than George Orwell's 1984.  In the same dystopian vein, see Terry Gilliam's Brazil for a zanier take on the same concept.

05.  Network
(Directed by Sidney Lumet / 1976)

Howard Beale (Peter Finch,) is a news anchor for UBS.  He's also mad as Hell and he's not going to take it any more.  There are several films which address the Constitutional Rights of the Media but this visual tirade tackles Freedom of the Press from Itself as a corporate entity.  The foreboding message of Network raises the bar on the role of journalism coming from the all-speaking all-knowing indoctrinating television.  Over three decades later, its message still haunts as we live in a society consumed with pop culture news and a media almost exclusively reliant on regurgitating press releases.  Reporting often finds itself censored by the special interests of companies funding their programming.  The Academy held this movie in the same high regard, awarding it four Oscars including a posthumous Best Actor award for Peter Finch who passed away after the film's completion.  His final role defined captivation and carries this staple of 70's cinema.

04.  The People vs. Larry Flynt
(Directed by Milos Forman / 1996)

In the 1970's, pornography publisher Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson) was forced to defend himself in several courtroom wars against his publication, Hustler.  Flynt's brainchild gained infamy as the first magazine to feature explicit pictures of a woman's genitalia.  Milos Forman's movie tells the tale of the rise of Hustler and XXX pornography in America.  Flynt suffered from a gunshot wound outside a courtroom in Georgia at one decency hearing in 1978, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.  Few things bring to mind such exemplification of freedom of speech and expression more intensely than the pornographer arriving to the courtroom wearing an American Flag as a diaper in his wheel chair.  An anti-hero for the ages, he fought vehemently for the First Amendment and won.  Harrelson was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal and Milos Forman was nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards.

03.  In the Name of the Father
(Directed by Jim Sheridan / 1993)

Based on a true story, this tale set in London centers around citizens being robbed of 15 years of their freedom after police brutally coerce confessions from them for a terrorist bombing which they didn't commit.  There are so many films based around the theme of wrongful imprisonment yet this one cuts deep, defining due process and the corruption of a government seeking patsies to satisfy the public's blood lust for revenge.  Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite weave heartbreaking portraits as the imprisoned father and son, leading the film to be nominated for seven Academy Awards.  The characters fought for years after their imprisonment to clear their family name.  The subject of wrongful imprisonment surfaces in many other films including these which were in the running for this list including Hitchock's The Wrong Man, The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains and The Shawshank Redemption.

 02.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
(Directed by Milos Forman / 1975)

Randall McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) hopes to become a free man by slyly acting crazy in order to get transferred from prison to an insane asylum.  When this volatile character invades the world of the mentally ill, he quickly finds his unconventional behavior and ideas will keep him confined to a sentence far beyond what he expected.  In the process of defining what is and isn't insane.  Our anti-hero helps those committed around him to find their own personal freedoms through laughter, mischief and simple joys of life.  Adapted from the Ken Kesey masterpiece and subsequent Broadway play, Milos Forman's sharp adaptation of McMurphy's story liberates our ideas of conventional sanity and conformity.  Though many characters evolve in the presence of McMurphy, the character of Chief Bromden (Will Sampson) lands the movie on this list with his "escape" to freedom at the end of the film and his quiet embodiment of the narrator from the novel inspiring this classic film.

01. A Clockwork Orange
(Directed by Stanley Kubrick / 1971)

Oh the sweet ultraviolence... where is its place in human nature and how do we define freedom of choice?  Alex and his Droogies rage their own breed of terror in futuristic London, shocking audiences world-wide when their story was brought to the big screen.  Kubrick's symphony of detestable violence was adapted from Anthony Burgess's novel by the same name.  In the preface of his masterpiece, the author states "It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.  The important thing is moral choice.  Evil has to exist along with good, so that moral choice may operate."    Burgess goes on to explain that a totally good or totally evil being would simply be a tool, though still a beautiful and perfect organism such as an orange, they would only serve as a clockwork toy to be wound up by their masters.  Alex faces such a fate when he is subjected to his reprogramming after capture by the authorities.  Both the film and novel explore the many shades of grey within the spectrum between our inherent freedom of choice and the standards society sets on human behavior.  What part of violence is natural and can it be suppressed or even eliminated from man's genes?

Hungry for more Movie Knowledge? 


  1. What films bring the subject of FREEDOM to mind for you?

  2. You forgot one of my favs. Equilibrium. Love your work man!

    1. It was in the running for sure; it just didn't quite make the cut. Great film inspired by Fahrenheit 451!


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