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The best revolutionary films? September 18, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

Johnny Flynn has a review here on Independent Left. But this raises a question, what is or are the best revolutionary film or films?


1. Michael Pidgeon (@Pidge) - September 18, 2020

Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom is brilliant.

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Alibaba - September 18, 2020

I’ve seen nothing to beat Land and Freedom. Yes, brilliant for its techniques, its special effects and for giving you an intense feel for what it was really like to be involved in struggles during the Spanish Civil War. It comes from a director who not only knows his stuff, but brings a passionate punch to its delivery. 


2. eoghan - September 18, 2020

A Bug’s Life, a class allegory where the ants (the working class) collect grain for the grasshoppers (capitalists) until they eventually realise that they outnumber the grasshoppers (achieve class consciousness) and rise up and drive them away for good so they no longer have to collect grain for them (seize the means of production).

Some quotes:
The Queen Ant, near beginning of movie: “It’s the same every year, [the grasshoppers] come, they eat, they leave; that’s our lot in life. It’s not a lot, but it’s our life.”

Hopper after Flik the ant stands up to him: “You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up. Those puny little ants outnumber us 100 to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life! It’s not about food. It’s about keeping those ants in line.”

During the movie’s climax:
Hopper: “Let this be a lesson to all you ants! Ideas are very dangerous things! You are mindless, soil-shoving losers, put on this Earth to serve us!”
Flik: “You’re wrong, Hopper. Ants are not meant to serve grasshoppers. I’ve seen these ants do great things, and year after year they somehow manage to pick food for themselves *and* you. So who is the weaker species? Ants don’t serve grasshoppers! It’s *you* who need *us*! We’re a lot stronger than you say we are… And you know it, don’t you?”

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3. NFB - September 18, 2020

Star Wars! (IV-VI obs)

Michael Collins is a good look at how revolution can change after its apparent success.

Hamilton (the Disney+ film I mean) for a similar, if more artistic look.


4. Joe - September 18, 2020

Is there a film of ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’ or similar?
Or a film of the French Revolution?
Surely the best films would be the ones made about the best revolutions. Maybe throw up another thread asking us what we think were the best revolutions, WBS?
Also, what’s a revolution? Was the Irish War of Independence a revolution? Wars of ‘national liberation’ are one thing. Revolutions are another…

Not a film buff myself at all but the only revolutionary film that springs to mind is Les Misérables.


Alibaba - September 18, 2020

You probably refer to the film called Reds about John Reed the journalist who wrote about the Russian Revolution in a book entitled ‘Ten Days That Shook the World’. Reds was a great work co-written, produced and directed by Warren Beatty.

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Joe - September 22, 2020

Thanks, yes. Reds. Didn’t see it but saw reviews of it. From those, I think it was a story of the author’s life with the Russian Revolution central to it.

I’ll have to start watching movies.
Is there a red version of Netflix out there?


5. CL - September 18, 2020

“If it had not been for these things, I might have live out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man’s understanding of man as we now do by accident. Our words—our lives—our pains—nothing! The taking of our lives—lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler—all! That last moment belongs to us—that agony is our triumph.”

One of the actors is the grandfather of a rising star on the Irish political scene.


6. alanmyler - September 18, 2020

I think Novecento is probably my favourite. It’s not revolutionary in as much as the revolution doesn’t ultimately happen, but it captures the period in Italy before during and immediately after fascism as seen through the lives of communist peasants. A really impressive film.


7. rockroots - September 18, 2020

Animal Farm. Okay, so it’s a book primarily, but the animated film I’d argue is even more successful in winning the sympathy of the viewer for the plight of the permanently oppressed. A CGI remake has long been in the works courtesy of one-time SWP activist Andy Serkis.

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8. Laochra Uladh - September 18, 2020

Matewan (dir by John Sayles) about the IWW and american Coal Wars of the 30’s. Really left an impression on me about the power of organizing over violent reaction as a political force. Chris Cooper played an especially memorable tough-guy-pacifist who unionizes the workers. It also shows the roots of a lot of labor issues that are still with us, like right-to-work-laws.

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Fergal - September 18, 2020

Not revolutionary… but …
Harlan County, USA
Norma Rae
The Battle of Algiers
The Wind That Shakes The Barley


sonofstan - September 19, 2020

Also featuring a young Will Oldham, aka Bonnie Prince Billy. great movie.


Conor Kostick - September 19, 2020

Matewan for me too. Also a contender: Spartacus (Kirk Douglas).


9. lcox - September 18, 2020

“The take” (w/ Naomi Klein, about Argentinian factory occupations after the 2001 uprising) is one of the very best … because it manages to escape the logic whereby putting revolutions on the screen makes it all about the guns.

That focus is both the strength and the weakness of films like “Buongiorno, Notte” and even more so “Weather Underground”, both of which collapse a much bigger social conflict into small-group action (a much bigger travesty in the US than in Italy but that’s a different story). Still both are fantastically watchable.

As are those almost-parallel films, “Rome Open City” and “Casablanca” – both pushing dodgy political lines but still capturing something significant.

And, yes, Land and Freedom. Which is not quite the film version of Homage to Catalonia but basically the same analysis of the Spanish Civil War – and not too far from the reality.

I keep meaning to watch the whole of Peter Watkins’ “La Commune” (6 hours of experimental cinema!) but the snippets I’ve seen are very powerful. The short and remarkable 1914 movie of the same name assumes you know what happened … but is substantially shot in the same Paris and by people whose world was far closer to the Commune than ours.

Big Noise’s “Zapatista” is endlessly watchable, not least because of words by el Sup. “Winstanley” has the same strengths – it isn’t just a hard-core piece of historical recreation but the man himself wrote pamphlets which pretty much go “I said XXX to him, he said XXX to me” so you get much closer to the 17th century radicals than should be possible.

“Battleship Potemkin” though stands alone as an extraordinary piece of film-making, which never grows old.


Daniel Rayner O'Connor - September 18, 2020

Glad someone mentioned ‘Potemkin’. What about Eisenstein’s ‘October’ and Dubovkin (?)’s ‘End of St. Petersburg’? For the French Revolution Renoir’s ‘Le Marseillaise’. For a picture of how the enemy can subvert the struggle, ‘The Leopard’.

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terrymdunne - September 22, 2020

Never watched either ‘The Take’ or ‘La Commune’ – must do sometime, Watkins’ ‘Culloden’ is excellent. ‘Queimada’ and ‘A Bullet for the General’ should probably be mentioned, but it is years since I have watched them so I cannot really recommend them, I’d say they fall into the ‘all about the guns’ category though. There is a 1984 Brazilian movie – ‘Quilombo’ – about a community of escaped slaves (something which was a fairly extensive phenomenon in that country).


10. Phil - September 19, 2020

Winstanley is brilliant.

The greatest recent revolutionary film has to be Sorry To Bother You. I’ve also got a soft spot for If…. in this context – it takes the “idealistic young men against the world” framing of (e.g.) Les Mis and really runs with it.

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11. Pearse Monnet - September 20, 2020

A couple of suggestions for this post . . .

– A movie that made me want to join a revolution
This is “Two Days, One Night” (French title “Deux jours, une nuit”)

This 2014 film written and directed by the Dardenne brothers revolved around a worker returning from maternity leave played by Marion Cotillard. The insidiousness of the capitalist system is portrayed accurately. Jesus !

– A movie about a revolution (or referencing one)
This is the Bernardo Bertolucci film “The Dreamers”.
This 2003 coming-of-age movie starring Eva Green (later a Bond girl) is watchable. Once. An American university student (Michael Pitt) is in Paris for an academic year experiencing all that French university life has to offer against the backdrop of the deteriorating civil unrest.


12. gypsybhoy69 - September 24, 2020

Can’t go past The Battle of Algiers. One of my favourite movies of any genre.
Special mention though even if doesn’t totally fit the category to ‘The
Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ by Kim Bartley & Donnacha Ó Briain. The BBC used some of the footage in their recent crap Cuba documentary. Amazing film.

Liked by 1 person

13. Michael Carley - September 24, 2020

The Battle Of Chile, all three parts, is on YouTube.


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