Best Conservative Movies

by John Holbo on February 15, 2009

Link.

It needs a comment box.

{ 61 comments }

1

Dave Maier 02.15.09 at 5:04 am

I like this line, from the encomium to #15: “The essence of timelessness is more than beauty. It’s also truth […].” I don’t think I could add anything to that.

2

Righteous Bubba 02.15.09 at 5:22 am

Brazil’s got the real headscratcher:

Terrorist bombings, national-security scares, universal police surveillance, bureaucratic arrogance, a callous elite, perversion of science, and government use of torture evoke the worst aspects of the modern megastate.

3

Ryan 02.15.09 at 5:26 am

From #22, Brazil:

“Terrorist bombings, national-security scares, universal police surveillance, bureaucratic arrogance, a callous elite, perversion of science, and government use of torture evoke the worst aspects of the modern megastate. “

I think the contributor for that entry may have misinterpreted NRO’s intent.

4

salient 02.15.09 at 5:29 am

I think it’s fun that on #24, I was reading along and thinking, “how in the hell did Brian Anderson happen to be familiar with the work of George Grosz? And how is Dadaism even remotely a fair comparison to South Park fartsmithery?”

And then I think like he’d think …and I go google “conservative satire artist” …and what’s the first name-of-a-person I see, link #6? The Satirical Art of George Grosz on Project MUSE.

Wow.

5

Doctor Science 02.15.09 at 6:05 am

“Groundhog Day”? Really? I guess it surprises me because just today I read Angela Zito’s Buddhist analysis of GD, and I can’t figure out if that makes Jonah Goldberg almost look smart … nah.

6

J. Michael Neal 02.15.09 at 6:19 am

Quite aside from the fact that they whiff on a bunch of these (Brazil, conservative? In the age of enhanced interrogation techniques?), any list in which Forrest Gump and 300 come in as the 4th and 5th best movies in any time period is pretty seriously flawed. I liked both of them more than most people I know, but I don’t think either one of them was in the top five movies of their year.

7

Doctor Science 02.15.09 at 6:37 am

I’m actually surprised that no paen to manly violence made it into the top 4, because that’s certainly, as Larison points out, the theme of the rest of the list.

I’m also surprised that nothing more explicitly religious than “Groundhog Day” made the list.

8

Michael Drake 02.15.09 at 7:20 am

Guess they weren’t feeling The Passion.

9

Ben 02.15.09 at 7:25 am

(On Pursuit of Happiness) “…this film provides the perfect antidote to Wall Street and other Hollywood diatribes depicting the world of finance as filled with nothing but greed.”

Except for the part where he probably could have gotten a fast food job or something and actually had money to keep his kid off the street, but he didn’t because he was feverishly pursuing a job that he had no interest in except it made him rich. Pointing out that people on Wall Street are in the game first and foremost to make themselves a lot of money, and their customer’s interests come second.

10

chuk 02.15.09 at 7:51 am

Maybe there really is only one America. Most of the movies on that list are great!

(Maybe not top 25, but still good enough that an equally poorly constructed top 25 leftist list could include a couple of them)

11

Belle Waring 02.15.09 at 10:08 am

one of K-lo’s correspondents has already complained about the omission of Passion.

12

Chris Bertram 02.15.09 at 10:31 am

Of course the great irony of picking The Lives of Others at #1 is that the playwright and his wife are, in most respects, exactly the kind of libruls whose corrosive effect on the moral fibre of the nation the NRO obsesses about. In fact, shouldn’t law enforcement by keeping a close eye on those people …..

13

ejh 02.15.09 at 11:01 am

What’s Three Kings doing there?

14

Maurice Meilleur 02.15.09 at 12:38 pm

Besides what others noticed, one thing that stuck me about the list was how neatly it captured the lurching identity swings of movement conservatism. This movie is conservative because it celebrates the little guy (Gump), that movie is conservative because it celebrates the superheroism of the extraordinary (Incredibles). This movie is great because it glorifies the law (300), that movie is great because it tweaks the regulatory twerp (Ghostbusters). This movie (Narnia) is great because it opposes ‘the leftist dream of perfected man’s becoming an instrument for earthly utopia’, unlike those other movies that celebrate the superhero … um, like The Incredibles

By the way, Doctor Science, don’t let Tony Woodlief’s understatement about Narnia mislead you about the religious character of at least that movie on the list. ‘Underlying the narrative is the story of Christ’s rescuing man from sin …’, he writes, when the fact that Aslan is freakin’ Jesus is about as subtle as a 2 x 4 to the forehead, as ‘underlying’ as a sandbar in a shipping channel.

Oh, and here’s a great line, about The Pursuit of Happyness: ‘They’re black, but there’s no racial undertone or subtext.’

15

Maurice Meilleur 02.15.09 at 12:42 pm

Actually, now that I think of it, the reviewer is right: there is no ‘racial undertone or subtext’ to The Pursuit of Happynessbecause it’s right there on the surface.

16

Barry 02.15.09 at 1:04 pm

Some blog recently looked at that list, with the original reviews from the National Review accompanying it. Many of those tope 25 conservative movies of all time were panned as garbage by NR when they first came out.

17

novakant 02.15.09 at 1:28 pm

Anybody remember Don Camillo and Peppone? A catholic priest vs a communist mayor in postwar Italy, their conflicts generally being resolved via a dialectical process, the “Aufhebung” being a gentle humanism.

18

Henry 02.15.09 at 1:54 pm

“Three Kings” makes it because it supposedly shows that out intervention in Iraq (in this case, of course, a treasure hunt in the closing days of the first Gulf War) really was a humanitarian mission that was wholly successful. Plus our heroes killed a bunch of dirty Ba’athists.

There may be something to that. As much as I liked the movie when it came out, I have had a hard time watching it in rerun since 2003. It still has the sympathetic portrayal of Iraqis as humans (a revelation!!) but it also relies too much on the now-disproved notion that if we Americans just let our innate sense of right and wrong guide us everything will somehow work out and the Iraqis we save will be grateful. While that may not have been the screenwriters’ intent (our heroes were on a rogue mission, after all, and the brass had to be shamed into doing the right thing), certainly others could take that message from it.

What I like about the list is the fact that any movie that shows people acting decently (e.g., Groundhog Day) automatically becomes a conservative movie. Ask yourself: if Bill Murray’s original unreconstructed egotistical character worked as a news analyst on a major news channel, which one do you think it would be?

19

Ben Alpers 02.15.09 at 2:07 pm

Even the NRO couldn’t quite get themselves to put An American Carol on the list (though it makes the also-rans).

Somehow this was not quite as much fun as the Best Conservative Rock Songs. Has NRO’s Zhdanovian cultural criticism lost its edge?

20

novakant 02.15.09 at 2:59 pm

it also relies too much on the now-disproved notion that if we Americans just let our innate sense of right and wrong guide us everything will somehow work out and the Iraqis we save will be grateful.

I don’t think so. Rather the film is critical of Bush’s disastrous decision to tell the Shia to rise up against SH, implying that there would be US support for such actions and then leaving them to their own devices. Of course many Shia (like the Kurds) would have been grateful had the US removed SH, but the US didn’t. Also, there’s the largely sympathetic depiction of the Baathist soldier who tortures Wahlberg as a regular guy who is only doing his job defending his country and he’s not at all grateful that the US bombed the sh*t out of his family.

21

J— 02.15.09 at 3:00 pm

It needs a comment box.

That’s what Big Hollywood is for.

22

bert 02.15.09 at 3:04 pm

They include “Red Dawn”, which is the story of the Iraq insurgency with the Bushies as The Enemy. Yet they skip over “Starship Troopers”, which is the story of 9/11 with the Bushies as heroes.
Why have they given Verhoeven a bodyswerve?
Is he a suspected ironist and possible subversive?

23

bert 02.15.09 at 3:06 pm

I agree with them about “Braveheart”, though.
BosnianSerb-style ethnic nationalism = Cornerite gold.

24

salient 02.15.09 at 3:06 pm

Somehow this was not quite as much fun as the Best Conservative Rock Songs.

The spirit of which was perfectly summarized in their justification for #50:
Hillary trashed it — isn’t that enough?

25

Andy 02.15.09 at 3:13 pm

How come the earliest movie was made in 1984! What, no good conservative movies before this year?

26

Henry (not the famous one) 02.15.09 at 3:31 pm

Novakant–

All true and all reasons I liked the film when it came out. [Plus the sly visual pun about the relationship between the press and the military in an early scene, the explanation of what offensive epithets were okay to use, etc.)

But a cornerite will see the happy ending and ignore all that. And that’s why I have a hard time watching it now–at the end of the film the Iraqis are back to being grateful, passive “natives” rescued by can-do Americans with automatic weapons.

That doesn’t make it a bad film–Gunga Din was a good film too, in its own way–but the events of the last six years make it harder for me to enjoy it than when it came out.

27

CK Dexter 02.15.09 at 3:48 pm

To be fair, they do have a point that the deeper impulses of a lot of mainstream American culture are reactionary ones, revealing the more perversely and regressively conservative heart of the American psyche. Some of there picks are perfectly accurate. _The Incredibles_, for example, is fascist to its core, like a pixelated Ayn Rand reeducation camp. _The Lord of the Rings_, while a well-written book and above par cinematic art is so irresistable precisely because it appeals so strongly to our deep-seated Manichaeism, complete with the everyone-with-swarthy-skin-or-funny-talk-is-essentially-evil quality that we love in Star War movies. _The Dark Knight_ and all “dark” comic book films appeal to the same “Hey we’re all imperfect, so all bets are off” , loose-cannon, cowboy, go-it-alone mentality that makes it possible for a W. Bush elected twice. And _Brazil_, wonderful as it is in so many ways, does have the astonishingly regressive audacity to treat bureaucracy as an injustice morally equivalent to totalitarianism. Sure, they tortured him, but dear God, they also made him fill out paperwork!

28

J— 02.15.09 at 4:23 pm

How come the earliest movie was made in 1984! What, no good conservative movies before this year?

The list is from Red Dawn on. They seem to think it opened an era of some sort.

29

brian 02.15.09 at 4:47 pm

The funny thing is a thought a lot of the movies on the list were liberal ones, such as Groundhog Day, Juno, and the Dark Knight.

30

Righteous Bubba 02.15.09 at 4:58 pm

Some of there picks are perfectly accurate. The Incredibles, for example, is fascist to its core, like a pixelated Ayn Rand reeducation camp.

So you mean thoroughly socialist at its core. Thanks Maurice Meilleur!

31

notedscholar 02.15.09 at 5:19 pm

This list makes no sense at all! How can people who support the Patriot Act claim Braveheart, the last line of which is, “Freeeeeeeeeedooooooooooooooooooooom!” Ridiculous.

NS
http://sciencedefeated.wordpress.com/

32

Colin Danby 02.15.09 at 5:44 pm

I’m with Andy. The proper NRO response should be hmmph, it’s been downhill since Birth of a Nation.

33

roger 02.15.09 at 5:46 pm

I just don’t get how showgirls was left out of the mix. It has conservative values galore! A, as we now know from science and Dr. Helen Smith, truthful ook at women as they really are – on the one hand, cauldrons of lust, on the other hand, so pitieously in need of alpha male guidance; a Horatio Alger story; and a loving look at what you can get, if you are hardworking and wealthy, in America, unlike in some socialist country. Plus it was made by a European who had to flee here from the Soviet Republic of the Netherlands, as so many great anti-dhimmitude spokesmen and women have after him.

34

roger 02.15.09 at 5:47 pm

How’d those cross out lines get there?

35

fardels bear 02.15.09 at 5:49 pm

I think this is probably the greatest conservative film of all time:

http://www.archive.org/details/dw_griffith_birth_of_a_nation

36

Patrick 02.15.09 at 5:53 pm

Notice that they’re honest enough to admit that to be a great conservative movie, the film has to travesty the history. Facts are stupid things, indeed.

37

quesaisje 02.15.09 at 6:59 pm

I was originally appalled to find the movie Serenity in the also-rans, but upon reflection it appeared pretty obvious why this movie would appeal to the conservative mind set. The notion of a rural, culturally oppressed minority on the losing side of a civil war goes straight to the roots of the modern conservative victim-hood. An all-powerful government engaging in disastrous experiments with human minds and society is another conservative bogeyman. My appreciation of the movie and the original Firefly series is, nonetheless, enriched.

38

yabonn 02.15.09 at 7:27 pm

Master and Commander is great because is shows “the […] Surprise as a coherent society in which stability is underwritten by custom and every man knows his duty and his place.”

… and don’t you go getting funny ideas. Refreshingly honest.

39

CK Dexter 02.15.09 at 7:46 pm

“How come the earliest movie was made in 1984!”

I think this is, in part, because these people are convinced that the novel of the same name was an anti-socialist classic. They, like Righteous Bubba, apparently, are not able to comprehend the possibility that a political system can in principle (even hypothetically granting the naive “practical” arguments of anarchists and libertarians) be established in service of its people rather than against them. They are also, apparently, immune to the stain of historical knowledge — whether the knowledge of Orwell’s politics or the knowledge of anything that happened before the 80’s. Such as, say, FDR.

40

Lee A. Arnold 02.15.09 at 8:59 pm

Their entry on Lord of the Rings ignores the fact that Tolkien hated the modern industrial destruction of forest and wildlands — a major message which the film preserved lucidly, and that conservatives have gone on at length to deny as important.

Their entry on Braveheart advises us to “Forget the travesty this soaring action film makes of the historical record.” Enough said!

41

Jared 02.15.09 at 9:14 pm

“[Forrest Gump] won an Oscar for best picture — beating Pulp Fiction, a movie that’s far more expressive of Hollywood’s worldview. “

Amazing how many great conservative movies somehow get made and celebrated by evil Hollywood libruls. How is that possible?

42

rm 02.15.09 at 10:36 pm

This is not as risible as I had hoped. More than half of it is ridiculous, but some of it is thoughtful and there may be a few good points in there. Darn.

Do they do this regularly? ‘Cause I remember that decades ago, before the Internet and before I was obsessed with politics, some magazine did a similar list that was much more risible. Though we had to ridicule it in dorms and apartments instead of here in public.

Anyway, it argued that Bicycle Thief was conservative because it showed the value of private property. This supports the thesis that conservatives do not perceive irony, especially in their own writing. That thesis, if true, would explain how they can see all representations of oppressive governments as products of liberal utopian schemes after eight years of Bush. The removal of the irony circuit allows the psyche to demonstrate perfect projection.

43

Righteous Bubba 02.16.09 at 12:26 am

They, like Righteous Bubba, apparently, are not able to comprehend the possibility

There was irony there, signalled by my reference to Maurice’s comment noting that there isn’t much consistency in whatever the NR thinks conservatism is.

Your fault entirely for the misread of course.

44

CK Dexter 02.16.09 at 12:29 am

“Your fault entirely for the misread of course.”

Of course not. Supercilious smirks can’t be read on the internet.

45

Righteous Bubba 02.16.09 at 12:32 am

They can when they’re footnoted, Mr. Attentive.

46

Nabakov 02.16.09 at 1:48 am

300 – Isn’t that the film where a feudal theocrat-ridden culture mounts a suicide mission against an invading technologically-superior multinational taskforce?

47

dr 02.16.09 at 2:45 am

Heartbreak Ridge: “A welcome glorification of Reagan’s decision to liberate Grenada in 1983…”

48

dilbert dogbert 02.16.09 at 4:30 am

Master and Commander: Not to slam a naval action movie I would like to see but as Winston Churchill said: The Royal Navy is sustained by Grog and Buggery.
We Were Solders: I don’t think the authors of the book the movie was adapted from would fit with the world view of the NRO.

49

Nich Hills 02.16.09 at 7:23 am

Master and Commander is a great conservative film because in the movie – unlike the book – the French and not the Americans are the bad guys.

50

juju 02.16.09 at 9:00 am

#37: “I was originally appalled to find the movie Serenity in the also-rans”

for a second I misread that as “Serendipity” and I was thoroughly confused!

Come on, someone comment on “Metropolitan,” please!

51

Deliasmith 02.16.09 at 11:45 am

All new movies.

What about this?

</object

Gary Cooper’s robot-staccato – is this a hidden message? “Help, I am a prisoner in a homily factory”

52

Deliasmith 02.16.09 at 11:47 am

Embed didn’t work – here:

53

CK Dexter 02.16.09 at 12:56 pm

“Come on, someone comment on “Metropolitan,” please!”

I’d like to see someone comment it, too. I think this is another spot-on one. The movie is deeply rooted in its appeal to class resentment and envy, which is the engine of reactionary politics: hate your betters, then vote to give them tax cuts because: a) you’re one of them, even though you’re not and b) one day you’ll be one of them, even though you never will (I’m looking at you, Joe the Plumber). It also tends to equate wealth and culture, which is a common error I’d associate with the same strand (class resentment) of conservatism. (I’m also reminded of the director’s other film, Barcelona, with it’s tired “foreigners are anti-American” jag.)

54

Nabakov 02.16.09 at 1:21 pm

Master and Commander- Isn’t that the film where the final battle was won by trained military pretending to be non-combatants?

Metropolitan – Isn’t that the film where most of the characters are scandalised by a couple of people choosing to act as individuals.

Forrest Gump – Isn’t that the film where unthinking responses to fate always lead to money and fame.

55

Nabakov 02.16.09 at 1:25 pm

Here’s some spare question marks (??). Sprinkle ’em on my previous comment.

56

Nabakov 02.16.09 at 1:33 pm

We Were Solders – Isn’t that the film where the final line makes it clear the North Vietnamese will win because they are willing to die harder for their patriotism than the Americans who bug out as soon as it gets really nasty?

57

Barry 02.16.09 at 2:24 pm

Rude Pundit has excerpts from some of the original Nat Rev reviews of these films here:

http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2009/02/national-review-s-list-of-best.html

58

Loyal Achates 02.16.09 at 4:15 pm

I quite liked ‘Metropolitan’ when I saw it…as actually so did most of my left-wing friends. Too bad NRO’s analysis of it is less than skin-deep.

I think ‘Metropolitan’ is unique because it’s the only classically conservative movie (as opposed to simply reactionary or neocon) on the list. I think the message has something less to do with class and more to do – when they show up at Von Slonakcer’s [sp] house, the value of shame and cultural mores. I still the exchange ‘Ah, I’m so embarassed’ ‘well some embarassement would do you good’.’

I also enjoyed their claims on Forrest Gump that Forrest follows a straight and morla path while Jenny is seduced by evil hippiedom. Gosh, I always thought that jenny’s desire for escape had something to do with the fact that she was sexually abused by her father as a little girl, but that’s just me.

59

CK Dexter 02.16.09 at 5:36 pm

“it’s the only classically conservative movie (as opposed to simply reactionary or neocon) on the list. I think the message has something less to do with class and more to do – when they show up at Von Slonakcer’s [sp] house, the value of shame and cultural mores.”

Fair enough, and it’s worth adding that it’s truly funny, as are his other films. But I think the message can be both, so this positive side (which is probably the more intentional message) can coexist with an unintended, regressive message (which seems to be a product of the way the filmmaker pictures their world, not part of the explicit narrative or themes).

Nabakov makes a nice point about Forest Gump. I wonder if it would have been practically possible to elect the real Gump, had we not been prepped by Hollywood first. There is no Hollywood fantasy, no matter how awful, that does not come true.

60

richard 02.16.09 at 6:47 pm

jenny’s desire for escape had something to do with the fact that she was sexually abused by her father

That’s what makes it conservative right?

61

Chris Baldwin 02.16.09 at 7:04 pm

What about Ma nuit chez Maud ?

Comments on this entry are closed.