You Want A Revolution?

Every November 5th for Guy Fawkes day (or for, you know, an intense U.S. election) I start feeling a little wily and dream about starting a revolution. Not a violent one or even one that involves transfers of power or me taking office of some kind, but a revolution centered around free pancakes for all or the consolidation of all student debt. You know, the big things.

Normally when my revolution bug gets bitey I watch “V For Vendetta” and get weird with it, but I think I’ve officially watched that one too many times since I have the moments where the actors breathe memorized. So, this year I went on a hunt for some new movies about the people rising up and speaking truth to power. Sadly, there are no movies about the dream of free pancakes, but here are a few revolutionary movies I found instead.

“They Live” (1988)

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Starring the immortal Rowdy Roddy Piper, “They Live” shows alien conquerors who took over Earth without ever firing a shot. They run the media and just about everything else, so it takes a homeless drifter already removed from society to begin the revolution. Thirty years since its release, this movie is more relevant than ever as there become newer and more insidious ways for those in power to try and get us to obey.

Classic Line: “They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.”

“Battleship Potemkin” (1925)

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When the already poorly treated crew of the Battleship Potemkin are served rotten borscht for dinner, they start a mutiny and overthrow their superiors. Easily one of the top 50 movies ever made and still visually breathtaking after almost 100 years, “Potemkin” changed the way cinema was crafted forever. The 2005 restoration must be seen by anyone in love with film and in the mood to get fired up over historical injustices.

Classic Line: “Smash the dragons!”

“The Blue Kite” (1993)

Banned in China still to this day, “The Blue Kite” focuses on a young boy growing up during the Anti-Rightest Campaign and the Cultural Revolution in the 1950s and 1960s. By showing the culture of fear and paranoia rampant at the time, the film breaks down ideological excess in a way that’s universal for any political party to understand and hopefully empathize with. A depressing, somber and entirely unforgettably essential film.

Classic Line: “Who is this Stalin person?”

“Sunshine” (1999)

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Starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, “Sunshine” follows five generations of a Hungarian Jewish family from the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the 1956 revolution, all the way to the end of communism in Hungary in 1989. This under-seen masterpiece contextualizes historical trauma in a way I’d never considered before and should be devoured by fans of “The English Patient.”

Classic Line: “Politics has made a mess of our lives.”

“The Battle of Algiers (1966)

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Focused on The Algerian War of Independence, this massive feat of Italian Neorealism is still one of the finest war films ever made. The focus on urban guerrilla warfare combined with the documentary feel of the filmmaking makes this an intense and harrowing film still to this day. The Criterion Collection restoration and release from 2004 makes the film look like it could have come out yesterday.

Classic Line “It’s hard to start a revolution. Even harder to continue it. And hardest of all to win it. But, it’s only afterwards, when we have won, that the true difficulties begin.”

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