Communism, a political theory derived by Karl Marx, advocates a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs. Adapting Marxists’ influential philosophies in movies has been a common theme since ages now. Marxists criticized capitalism by associating it with unequal distribution of wealth, development of Oligopoly markets and also the exploitation of the economy and its underlying culture. The unsustainability of capitalism and how it impacts the lives of normal people have been discussed in various movies. Karl Marx’s philosophies and ideologies were later explored and worked upon by other revolutionary philosophers like Che Guevara and Rosa Luxemburg and films about them have also been made. These great figures had a common ideology — communism is the key to releasing all humanity from the slavery of the mind and soul. But in order to achieve this, the upper industrial class must fall down and the lower industrial class must rise to come on par with them.
If you look back at the history of cinema, some of the best movies revolve around the socialist philosophies and their impact. The diversity of these movies shows the dimensions to which these philosophies have spread their roots into. So, let’s dwell into some of these great films that make you perceive communism from the unique point of view of different directors. You can watch several of these communism movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. Keep in mind that most of these films may not be directly about communism but speak about its philosophies in some way or the other.
16. Fight Club (1999)
‘Fight Club‘ immensely emphasized on the consumerist culture of today’s society and how it is responsible for the feminization of today’s men. The film revolves around the life of a man who is done with his capitalistic life. That’s when he decides to build a life outside his white collar by starting a fight club with a stranger he meets on a flight named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who is the ideal example of an alpha male according to him. But Tyler has bigger plans with the members of the Fight Club that go way beyond underground fights and soap making business. The Narrator (Edward Norton) later discovers the true identity of Tyler Durden which may be too hard for him to digest and also gives him a shocking reflection of his own deepest ideologies.
15. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ touches the theme of fascism all throughout the movie, which may not be too evident if you watch it with a not so open mind. From the outside, it’s just another ‘Narnia’ where a little girl is guided by fauns and fairies and has to prove her loyalty as a princess. But the film often parallels between reality and fantasy. In the real world, the girl’s stepfather complaints about his war against the communists and how “the reds” have been polluting the world. In the parallel fantasy, every monster the girl meets is more or less a different representation of fascism. The monsters do look terrifying but none of them are as terrifying as her real life that is dominated by her anti-communist father. This movie is pure art with its metaphoric representations of fascism and how it subtly relies on fantasy to make you understand more about the fascists in Spain back in 1944.
14. V For Vendetta (2005)
The character V from ‘V for Vendetta’ is ruled by a sense of socialist idealism wherein he is determined to tear apart the existing totalitarian British government. But V goes a little overboard with the destruction which contradicts the fact that he could be political. All of this puts him more on the insane spectrum. His ideologies keep drifting between right and left wing socialism from his ideas of violence (right wing) but also his support towards gay rights (left wing). The ideas of socialism in this one can be rather confusing but that’s the beauty of this film. It makes you think whether or not V is a hero or a criminal who just preaches about fascism.
13. Persepolis (2007)
This film portrays the life of a young girl at the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. Satrapi grows from a child into a punk-loving adult who grows up in the stressful political climate of the Iran war during the 70s and 80s. The movie focuses on how the Iranians threw over the corrupt Shah regime in its attempt to portray liberation but the movie still misses out on the cultural and economic inequalities that were responsible for the rise of the capitalists against the system. The film has a very unique style of animation and can get really visually pleasing at times, but its attempt to portray a political standpoint isn’t too successful.
12. I, Daniel Blake (2016)
‘I, Daniel Blake’ dwells into the flawed reforms that the government promises with respect to the welfare of the people. The main character Blake is asked not to return to work after an almost fatal heart attack. But his appeal is dismissed and forced to get back. Blake’s kind and honest character is the ideal portrayal of someone who falls prey to capitalism. Welfare reforms have impacted the lives of many and this film will be like a deja vu for them. With its accurate portrayal of the suffering of a common man to get the justice that he deserves, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ will surely win your heart.
11. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
This film dwells into Che Guevara’s past and all the events that led him to become the revolutionist he later became. The film narrates the story through the diary entries written by Guevara himself as he embarks on a journey through South America with his friend and starts to notice the world around him. The poverty of the state makes him realize the extent to which the lives of people have been affected by capitalism. His journey towards “consciousness” led him to understand and adopt Karl Marx’s lessons about the dominance of the rich in society. All this started to build up and later led him to wage a war against the upper middle class. This film tells you all about the origins of the revolution created by Che Guevara.
10. Pride (2014)
Pride merges the idea of capitalism defiance and homosexual uprisings that together worked against a common evil — Margaret Thatcher and the police force. This true story shows how two different groups managed to come together by chance and managed to overthrow a corrupt entity that governed them. The historical accuracy of this movie is beyond perfect as confirmed by the ones who were involved in the actual events. The film makes you laugh, cry and will entertain you though out with its political ideas. It’s really inspiring to see a bunch of ordinary citizens from two opposite sides of the spectrum standing together on a common ground.
9. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
‘I am Not Your Negro’ is a story narrated by James Baldwin about racism in modern America from his own incomplete novel. Baldwin died before he could complete this novel, but the 30 pages he wrote were enough for Filmmaker Raoul Peck to give him a voice that’ll echo for ages. This film covers the more black history and their struggle against racism more than any history books out there. It recounts Baldwin’s meetings with Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Edgar Evans. The movie stitches together historical footages in the most brilliant way with amazing cinematography. This historical masterpiece is something you shouldn’t miss out on.
8. Office Space (1999)
‘Office Space’ takes a more comic approach towards capitalism where Peter along with two of his colleagues are tired of their jobs and completely despise. The trio decides to go against the norms and plant a virus in the system of their own company. But something goes terribly wrong and the three must now find a way to reverse the blunder they’ve committed to stand against the conformities of their work life before they get fired and are sent to prison. Those who work at an office and know about “the grind” that goes in one, will find this one hilarious and almost everything in this film will be relatable for them. The film has a light-hearted tone and yet it explores the subject really well.
7. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
This film portrays a very complex situation of “cognitive dissonance” where two brothers who fight together for the freedom of their country find themselves pitted against each other by the British because of the treaty which not only tests their loyalty towards each other but also their loyalty towards their own social beliefs; they only get to choose one of the two. This is not your typical blockbuster type film that glamorizes the actors. Instead, this film educates you about the history of events that had unfolded during that time and how it created an impact on the lives of those who were a part of it. With some really graphic scenes of war and stunningly raw performances, ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a must watch.
6. Rosa Luxemburg (1986)
Rosa Luxemburg is another revolutionary figure known to be a dedicated Marxist who was arrested for her political activities in the year 1905. Being a pacifist, she stuck to spreading her principles only through speeches and protests and kept getting convicted. Her final actions during her last few years very questionable and she was eventually arrested again and shot on the spot. This film remains, sadly, unknown to most people and it’s an insult to the emotional value it holds. Only some are fortunate enough to have seen this classic. If you haven’t, then you should watch this historic socialist classic as soon as you can.
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5. Modern Times (1936)
You must be wondering how a Charlie Chaplin movie ended up on this list. Chaplin had always been sensitive towards social issues in a country where social issues have always been prevalent. ‘Modern Times’ dwells around the cliched theme of how the industrialized world is not for a man who wishes to be set free deep inside. The film takes into account and explains what we call a social vindication, but it still is the very basis of Karl Marx’s philosophies.
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4. Elysium (2013)
‘Elysium’ is an extreme exaggeration of a futuristic science fiction world where capitalism has augmented to an extent where the rich live on an entirely different space station while the poor rot on the surface of a polluted world. A man named Max (Matt Damon) takes up the dangerous mission to go to the space station ruled by the rich and defy the norms set by them to save his own life, after an incident during his proletariat lifestyle on earth questions his intentions for living the way he lives. The proletariat struggles of the super-exploited working class on the earth are clear in this film. This movie can be a great watch if you manage to gain the right perspective and may even remind you of the immigration struggles of Mexico and America.
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3. Les Miserables (2012)
‘Les Miserables’ is a musical with a heart and soul that stars the biggest names of the industry including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway. The story focuses on three major social problems of our century which include the “destruction of man through poverty, corruption of women through hunger and crippling of children by the denial of light”. This social critique received a lot of mixed reviews although many of them consider it to be exceptionally good. Be your own judge and watch this one.
2. Trainspotting (1996)
‘Trainspotting’ in itself is a revolutionary film and gained massive popularity after its release amongst the rural youth of England. The movie portrays how the poor youth of London struggles to be not labeled as proletariats while they drown themselves in the world of drugs to escape their depressing communist lives. They even make an attempt to turn things around by robbing a bank but things don’t work out the way they expect them to.
1. Che: Part One (2008)
The film portrays how a doctor turned revolutionary lands in Mexico and over the years overthrows the Batista regime in Cuba and establishes the island as an independent state. You may have mixed political views about Che but you should surely watch this one for its historical accuracy and also an insight into the mind of the revolutionary. The only flaw with this film is that it goes a little overboard with its portrayal of war and loses track from its biopic base, but it still is worth watching.
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