The All-Time Greatest Conservative Films: Introduction & Rules
Hollywood is not a monolithic entity.
It’s a fact that, sadly, so many Conservatives online seem to ignore. How often have we seen calls for, yes, an all-encompassing, en masse boycott of “Hollywierd”—as if it’s all Leftist, and irredeemable, and the enemy?
These calls, as I’ve so often made clear, tragically ignore the “good guys” in Tinseltown—those filmmakers, writers, actors and actresses, and so on who at the very least make it a point to respect those of us who happen to vote Right. In fact, some of these celebrities, like Jamie Foxx, have insulted us in the past—only to later redeem themselves.
Now, of course, the Left does indeed rule the Hollywood establishment, where Conservatives often fear “coming out”, lest they damage their careers. Still, bit by bit we’ve seen cracks in that iron grip—issue by issue, we are winning the Culture War, even in Hollywood. More and more A-Listers are openly pro-gun, for example—see Chris Pratt, Brad Pitt, and Samuel L. Jackson.
But in the meantime, you’re still more likely to see celebrities spew Leftist dogma than express any kind of support for our side. Much more likely. And that’s putting aside, of course, all the fundraising for Democrats. Never mind how the Democrat-filled-to-the-brim California state government completely screwed up the state’s economy…to the point that Hollywood can’t even make movies on the studio backlot anymore, taxes make it so expensive! Jerry Brown bears more blame for the suffering amid the drought than anyone…and yet somehow, he’s still hailed as a superstar of the Party.
But I digress.
All of that aside, art is art. As the great Andrew Klavan, quoting Hippocrates, tells us, “Life is short, but art is long.” And oftentimes—many times—as Leftist-ruled as Hollywood is, the movies they give us actually turn out to be films that we, as Conservatives, can actually enjoy without checking our principles at the door.
This happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the filmmakers really are Conservative, like the mighty Clint Eastwood—and manage to “get away with” letting that shine through in their films because they’re so dang good at what they do. Sometimes, as that reason implies, it’s purely for profit—they’ll churn out some Conservative-friendly blockbuster to “pay for” whatever Lefty/PC/SJW flick they truly want to make. And sometimes, it’s even by accident—as the great Bill Whittle points out, much as those snide little Lefties like to claim Conservatives “just aren’t creative”…the truth is, story itself is, by default, Conservative. As Bill notes, what’s the basic “action-adventure” storyline?
“A man alone—with a gun (or sword, or whatever weapon on hand)—fights a faceless enemy to save a beautiful woman.”
“A man alone”—rugged individualism. “With a gun/sword/whatever”—Second Amendment, baby! “Fights a faceless enemy”—good as good, and evil as evil, not to be “understood” or sympathized with. “To save a beautiful woman”—basic, classical masculinity and femininity, where “men are men” and “women are women”.
Now—all that being said…
Keep In Mind…
There’s a big difference between a “conservative” (small “c”), or “Conservative-friendly”, film and an actual, true-blue, honest-to-goodness “Conservative” (big “C”) film. It’s an important difference, folks—and something we’ve often missed, whenever a list like this has come up. Over the past several years, we’ve seen a lot of lists of “Greatest Conservative Films”…and I’ll be perfectly honest, a lot of them are deeply flawed. These flaws often have the result of drawing Lefties to the comments section of those articles—to mock how “desperate” Conservatives are, “reaching” and so on.
And to be honest, dear readers, those folks are half-right. Oftentimes, those lists, from National Review’s to Hot-Air’s, while good, are filled with “conservative” (small “c”) films that anyone, Left or Right, would accept just as readily.
And so, with all that in mind, today I am kicking off, not a list, but a series of weekly articles, one every weekend…each one on a different movie—a different Conservative (big “C”) film. I’ll explain the criteria in a bit; don’t worry. For now…
Many of these films you may know and love—yes, there will be superhero films. A lot of them you may know about, but you never checked them out for yourself. Some of these may be gems you’re never even heard of! If so, I hope you’ll give them a look. See, the main purpose of all this is to encourage all of us, as a movement—Conservatives and Libertarians—to participate in the cultural discussion, and maybe even inspire some to truly “get involved”, themselves….
Here’s How It All Works:
You may have noticed that I don’t have a set number of films in the title, like “The Top 25…” or “The 50 Greatest…” etc. That’s intentional, dear readers: I don’t have a set number. All that does is risk weeding out some excellent films we therefore wouldn’t have the chance to look at in detail!
Another reason for no numbers is: I want YOU to contribute! I want you, dear readers, to post your suggestions and ideas, below. I’ll keep linking to this introduction, as the series goes on. This will be your series, as much as mine. (Cue the occasional smart-donkey proposing the original Birth of a Nation, or Triumph of the Will. *sigh*)
For those “in the know”, yes, this was inspired by the great John Nolte’s 2010-2011 series on Big Hollywood, “The Top 25 Left-Wing Films”. I highly recommend giving that series a look—it’s a brilliant, well-crafted, and intricate look at high-quality cinema classics that happen to promote a specifically Left-wing point of view.
(I should note that I disagree with him on one thing: I happen to believe Apocalypse Now is actually quite Conservative. Maybe I’ll write about it, in this series? Well, we’ll see. I digress.)
To that, end, I’m patterning the template after his own—to his considerable credit, I can’t think of a better method:
Every article will have a section on “Why it’s a Great film”, and a section on “Why it’s a Conservative film”. And when the situation calls for it, I’ll include, as Nolte sometimes did, an addendum about a film that doesn’t make the list, and why.
And on that note:
Here’s The Rules….
We all have to keep in mind, again, that there’s a difference between films that are “small-c conservative” and films that are “big-C Conservative”. Let’s take a cue again, from Mr. Nolte:
One key distinction here — and this is important — is the difference between “liberal” and “left-wing.” Liberals champion free speech; left-wingers champion a bit of fascism we call political correctness. Liberals believe in a colorblind society; left-wingers believe in multiculturalism. Liberals oppose anti-Semitism; leftists either practice or tolerate it. You get the point. So you’re not going to see “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Gentleman’s Agreement,” or the work of the great Stanley Kramer on this list. This is an accounting of “left-wing” films; rabidly anti-American, anti-military, anti-human, anti-religious, anti-capitalism, anti-progress, anti-liberty or pro-some obnoxious backwards agenda, such as the benefits of extreme environmentalism or the benevolent beauty of a bigger federal government.
With that in mind, here are the things to keep firmly grounded in our heads:
FIRST: No films whose only claim to be “Conservative” is a theme of “good vs. evil”.
This is a very common mistake made by a lot of these lists. “It has a clear-cut moral universe, so it’s must be Conservative”. Actually, this is a major example of “small-c”, as opposed to “big-C”—and it’s the one thing those Lefty commenters mock said lists the most about. And sadly, they have a point.
We have to keep this in mind, dear readers: Leftists believe in “good vs. evil”, too. We see proof of this, every single election cycle—they proclaim, and they believe with every fiber of their being, that they are good, noble, pure-hearted “heroes”—and we are evil, greedy, selfish “villains”. All their cries of “racist-sexist-bigot-homophobe-transphobe-Islamophobe-xenophobe-germaphobe” speak to their own belief in morality, in their own twisted sort of way. They identify with “good guys” too, and cheer at the destruction of the “bad guys”.
“But they believe in moral relativism—!”
Because they believe “tolerance” is a moral…absolute. Yeah, they’re hypocrites on that, but facts are facts.
See, what we’re looking for, here, are films that affirm Conservative values as opposed to Leftist values. So when considering a “battle between good and evil” film, you have to ask yourself what is shown as “good”, and what is shown as “evil”. If there’s nothing specifically social-political about it, I apologize…but great as the film may be, it’s “small-c”, not “big-C”.
To that end, don’t expect to see the Narnia films on this list. I love them, deeply, but do they really take a political side on something? I know—they’re against “tyranny”. But that’s kinda vague, and it brings me to the next rule….
SECOND: A theme of “Fighting against tyranny” does not make a film “Conservative” in itself.
This is another common mistake. Keep in mind, dear readers: Communists have been fighting against “tyranny” from the beginning—they just set up their own, “good” tyranny afterwards. Che Guevara, the Bolsheviks, the socialists of the Spanish Civil War…and all the way back to the French Revolution. Fighters against “tyranny”, all. Far Leftists, all.
The issue, then, is not “What are they fighting against?” Instead, the litmus test for such “revolution” films is “What are they fighting for?”
So, then, apologies to Narnia—and also, to The Lord of the Rings. I love those films, too—I love them a lot! But again, it’s “good vs. evil” and “fighting against tyranny”…and in the end, the heroes set up a “good” kingdom. With monarchs who “rule justly”.
Incidentally, the great Ben Shapiro insists that Lord of the Rings should be counted as Conservative mainly because of Aragorn’s “Men of the West” speech. Apologies to Ben, but, um…while I appreciate the pun as much as the next, the “West” Aragorn talks about is not the Unites States, Britain, Canada, Western Europe, etc.—it’s Gondor, Rohan, Rivendell, The Shire, etc. And Tolkien himself made clear, his epic is not a political allegory. And even if the “West” pun were intentional…
THIRD: A “patriotic” or “pro-America” film is not necessarily “Conservative”.
This may be hard to swallow…but think about it. Just look at The American President for a classic example. Honestly, pretty much anything written or spearheaded by Aaron Sorkin proves my point: A Few Good Men, The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Newsroom…there you go. No one can deny that Aaron Sorkin deeply loves America…and the federal government…and the press…and even the military (though the jury’s out on the Marines at Gitmo).
But no one’s going to say with a straight face that his work is in any way Conservative. Sorkin’s a passionate patriot—and one of the most talented screenwriters of today. He’s also a quintessential Left-wing hack—and I hope to heaven, if he is brought on to write for the DC movie universe, he’s kept away from The Question. If he takes the famously Conservative/Libertarian Vic Sage and makes him another allegedly-Right-but-actually-Left Will McAvoy, I will flip my lid. But I digress.
The point is, don’t ever assume that a patriotic film equals a Conservative film as opposed to a Leftist film. There are a lot of movies where the hero’s a noble, pure-hearted patriot…who’s taking on evil corporations, or evil gun lobbyists, or whatever. Scrutinize the film, and look at who/what is “heroic”, and who/what is “the villain”.
FOURTH: A “pro-military” war film is not necessarily “Conservative”.
To be clear, an anti-military film can pretty much get a “Lefty” label stuck on it, no problem. But so can an anti-America flick—and that doesn’t mean the reverse is Conservative. See: above.
Mind you, an “Our soldiers are the good guys” film could be Conservative—especially if the war in question is a war the Left loves to hate, like Vietnam or Iraq. Or else it could take a specifically Conservative stance on a position over what’s “necessary”, and so on. But that brings me to my general point: The movies in this series must be Conservative as opposed to Leftist, in some way. As such, Saving Private Ryan isn’t Conservative, per se. Patriotic? Sure. Pro-troops? Absolutely. But it isn’t ideological, except for maybe “anti-Nazi”. But then, Lefties hate Nazis, too. They tell us so, every opportunity.
Ditto for Civil War films. They’ll be the first to verbally laud the war that ended slavery…despite the Democrat Party’s heritage, let alone the modern plantation of the Welfare State. Seriously, just think of how often Lefties claim with a straight face that “Lincoln was one of us!” And of course, they hate the Confederate flag with a passion…. Well, now they do, anyway.
So…what about the Revolution? Is The Patriot Conservative, per se?
Well, you may have a case, as long as the principles of the Founding are emphasized. But let’s be honest: Would any Leftist, if asked, support the British over the Americans when watching such a film? Again, a film may be very patriotic, and still be Left-wing.
FIFTH: No documentaries.
Please, don’t. If I were to allow documentaries, that’s the first thing everyone will reach for. It’s a given that Conservatives do documentaries well, because they’re based on argument and fact. But to be blunt, I can’t tell you how often my heart’s sunk at the knowledge that a group of Conservatives have set up a new movie studio…and they’re just making documentaries.
I like Dinesh D’Souza’s films, and might allow for exceptions to this rule, eventually. But please don’t take that for granted.
So, what are we looking for, in this series?
SIXTH: A “Conservative” film takes a specifically Conservative position on an issue or subject matter, as opposed to a Leftist stance.
A Film Studies professor of mine said it best: What does the film affirm, and what does it (directly, or by implication) critique or oppose?
If it specifically affirms an element of Conservatism—that is not shared by Leftists…and/or it specifically opposes an element of Leftism—that is not shared by Conservatism…then you have a Conservative film. It can do one and not the other…but if it doesn’t do either, then alas…“moral universe” or no, “patriotic” or no, “pro-military” or no, you don’t have a Conservative film, per se.
Now, don’t worry. That doesn’t limit the variety, too much. You’d be surprised how many films still fit the criteria. We’re looking for films that are: anti-big-government…pro-business/capitalism…pro-life…pro-masculinity & femininity, anti-third-wave-feminism…pro-traditional family…pro-individualism, anti-collectivism…pro-CIA (as in, “we need our intelligence agencies”)…anti-socialist…pro-liberty (and what the word actually means)…anti-Islamist—the list goes on and on.
And it doesn’t even have to be the main “point”. Just as Lefties often “sneak” their agenda in through subplots or backstories, the same goes for our side, too. A recent example involved Antonio Banderas’s character in The Expendables 3, traumatized by his experience in Benghazi, leading to his covering up with his crazy “goofball” act.
As The Don would say, “Believe me…it’s gonna be yuuuuuge.”
SEVENTH: The filmmakers don’t have to be Conservative, themselves.
The classic example is Joss Whedon, who is as vehemently Left as one could possibly get, whenever he gets going…and yet, Firefly is a Libertarian masterpiece of the small screen. Keep in mind: Just because a writer/director/actor/actress donates to—or campaigns for—Democrats, doesn’t mean they don’t make art for our side. This is Bill Whittle’s point in effect—sometimes, the art conveys a truth the creators didn’t intend. Think about Archie Bunker, or Ron Swanson, or Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock.
We do have to be careful, though—and that’s the reason for all these rules. We cannot afford to “reach” or “stretch”, just because films can be Conservative without the creators knowing it. I, and many others, love to joke about The Matrix’s use of “the Red pill” and “the Blue pill”. Just like Aragorn’s “men of the West” speech, it’s a cute pun—but that doesn’t make the film Conservative in and of itself.
EIGHTH: The movie must be great.
It has to be a high-quality work that passes the “general quality” test. It has to be “great” even if you hadn’t noticed a Conservative theme.
Let’s clear this one out of the way, folks: An American Carol was…okay. It had some great moments—especially the hilarious early sequence focusing on Robert Davi’s Al-Qaeda cell, and a beautiful one-scene-wonder performance of John Voight as George Washington. Aside from that, it’s “fine” at best, “cringe-worthy” at worst. To be fair, though, most of what I cringed at involves the kind of nauseating repetition that ruined Airplane! for me…and apparently that one’s a classic. (“I just want you to know, good luck; we’re c—” I GET IT, ALREADY!!!) So, who knows? Maybe I’ll give that one a re-viewing, eventually….
On that note…I am willing to be convinced that films I’ve rejected might belong on this list, after all. Is there a case to be made for Lord of the Rings, after all? Make it—and who knows? I just might see your point.
(I highly recommend, for further reference, Andrew M. Price’s The Conservative Guide To Films. I’ll refer to that work, and others, as the situation calls for it.)
So—there’s the rules, folks! Post your suggestions, and your arguments for why they count. And remember…
Stay film-friendly, my friends.
The Series So Far:
Rio Bravo (1959)
Man of Steel (2013)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Fight Club (1999)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Apocalypse Now (1979/2001)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Dirty Harry (1971)
Source: George Hodan/PublicDomainPictures.net
License: Public domain
Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory. He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests. He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work. Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.
Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com. He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio. In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.
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