10 Best Anti-Fascist Movies to Watch

10 Best Anti-Fascist Movies to Watch

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Long after the fall of Nazis and Francoists in the 20th century, right-wing organizations, authoritarian regimes, and just generally racist views continue to threaten democracies to this day. Fascism is far from over, but that also means that the sentiment against it is just as strong as ever. 

Whether you’re looking for a refresher on the past or a sample of how the movement works today, we bring you the best anti-fascist films you can watch right now. In their own artful and moving ways, the movies below exhibit the immediate dangers of intolerance and the urgent things that can be done to fight against them.

10. Land and Freedom (1995)

7.0

Country

France, Germany, Italy

Director

Ken Loach

Actors

Eoin McCarthy, Francesc Orella, Frédéric Pierrot, Ian Hart

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Instructive, Thought-provoking

Stereotypically made to look like one-note villains in many other films, the kinds of characters who lead Land and Freedom are rightfully depicted as people acting out of a desire for something constructive and good. Through director Ken Loach’s trademark approach to no-frills storytelling, the complex ideologies motivating each of these factions against the common enemy (and against each other) are laid out with crystal clarity. In fact, the most exciting confrontations in the film aren’t the skirmishes between the fascists and the revolutionary militias, but the debates held between allies, as they figure out the next best steps forward for every liberated person involved.

9. The Kingmaker (2019)

7.5

Country

Denmark, Philippines, United States of America

Director

Female director, Lauren Greenfield

Actors

Andres D. Bautista, Benigno Aquino III, Bongbong Marcos, Etta Rosales

Moods

Discussion-sparking, True-story-based

There is no shortage of resources—be it books, films, articles, or interviews—about the atrocities Ferdinand Marcos unleashed on the Philippines. And yet, in the years since his exile and eventual death, his family has returned to power in the country, winning the hearts and (manipulated) minds of the masses.

In The Kingmaker, director Lauren Greenfield (who earlier directed the equally revealing The Queen of Versailles) exposes how this came to be, with a focus on the titular kingmaker herself, Imelda Marcos. It’s chilling how much of Imelda’s stated goals in this documentary, which spans five years, have come true. History repeats itself, and Greenfield skillfully and delicately captures the delusion, irony, and blatant corruption of a family dead set on owning a country, as if it were another luxury to purchase (or in the case of the Marcoses, pocket). 

8. The White Ribbon (2009)

7.5

Country

Austria, Canada, France

Director

Michael Haneke

Actors

Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Birgit Minichmayr, Branko Samarovski

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Dramatic

This 2009 Palme d’Or winner is filmed beautifully in black and white by Michael Haneke. In equal parts mysterious and disturbing, it is set in a northern German village in between 1913 and 1914 where strange events start to happen seemingly on their own. The people of the village, who feel as if they were punished, try to investigate it as the events start affecting them one by one. As they speculate on who is behind the acts that never stop, the film unfolds its slow but captivating plot. A brilliant and unique movie.

7. Under the Sun (2015)

7.6

Country

Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia

Director

Vitaliy Manskiy, Vitaly Mansky

Actors

Hye-Yong, Kim Jong-un, Lee Zin-Mi, Oh-Gyong

Moods

Instructive, Mind-blowing, Thought-provoking

When Russian director Vitaly Mansky is commissioned by the North Korean government to make a documentary about an average Pyongyang child, he follows their every guideline. Except the end result, Under The Sun, is the complete opposite of what they had intended. For example starting every take earlier than they thought, he makes the documentary about the watchdogs around the child and other mechanisms of propaganda. He uses quiet storytelling to expose how brainwashing in a fascist regime takes place, and how the people caught in it function. May just be the smartest, most important film you can watch on North Korea.

6. Porco Rosso (1992)

7.9

Country

Japan

Director

Hayao Miyazaki

Actors

Akemi Okamura, Akio Otsuka, Bunshi Katsura Vi, Hiroko Seki

As impressive as Studio Ghibli’s collection of films are, I am still stubborn to believe that Porco Rosso is its most underrated film. Porco Rosso, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is the story of a World War military aviator-turned-bounty hunter who has mysteriously been transformed into a pig. 

Bright with humor, heart, and flight (Miyazaki is largely influenced and inspired by the art of aviation), Porco Rosso manages to also acknowledge and reckon with the horrors of war. It also boasts one of, if not the greatest, line in any Ghibli film: I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.

5. The Wolf House (2018)

7.9

Country

Chile, Germany

Director

Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña

Actors

Amalia Kassai, Natalia Geisse

Moods

Depressing, Original, Thought-provoking

This mortifying stop-motion fairy-tale is inspired by the very real horrors of Chile’s Colonia Dignidad: a cult colony turned torture camp under the Pinochet regime. Presented as colony propaganda, the tale tells the story of Maria, a girl who runs away from the safety of the colony into the forest and takes refuge in a house with two pigs. What transpires is a gut-wrenching allegory for the rise of fascism, colonialism, and white supremacy. 

The staggering animation which seamlessly shifts mediums from paper mâché to painted walls is a bewildering sight to witness. But it’s the synthesis of this boundary-pushing art and the underlying horrors it depicts, that make this stand as an unmissable cinematic event.

4. La Haine (1995)

best

8.1

Country

France

Director

Mathieu Kassovitz

Actors

Abdel Ahmed Ghili, Andrée Damant, Benoit Magimel, Bernie Bonvoisin

Moods

Intense, Mind-blowing, Original

At the risk of being cliché, I’m going to state that only the French could have made a movie about racial issues and the troubles of youngsters in the suburbs and still make it elegant. I’ve tried looking for other adjectives, but I couldn’t find one that better describes those long takes shot in a moody black and white. But despite the elegance of the footage, the power of the narrative and the acting makes the violence and hate realistic as hell, dragging you into the story and empathizing with the characters until you want to raise your arm and fight for your rights. Aside from this unusual combination of fine art and explicit violence, the most shocking thing about La Haine is how much the issues it addresses still make sense right now, even though the movie was released 20 years ago.

3. A Hidden Life (2019)

8.2

Country

Germany, Italy, United States of America

Director

Terrence Malick

Actors

Alexander Fehling, Alexander Radszun, August Diehl, Bernd Hölscher

Moods

Slow, True-story-based

Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) is back in full form with this three-hour movie based on a true story. His creation has one of the most beautiful depictions of happiness ever seen in film, portraying the simple yet joyous life of a farmer in the Austrian mountains. You’d have to see it for yourself to understand, but how Malick depicts this character’s love for his wife (and her love for him), their children, and even their farming rituals are nothing short of cinematic wizardry. 

This peaceful existence changes when World War 2 intensifies and this farmer is called to serve for the Nazis. He refuses to enroll out of principle and puts himself and his family at great danger and alienation from their village. The question at the center of the film is one that other villagers and the church ask him a lot: what good can his actions do? And the title of the movie is taken from A George Eliot quote: “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

2. The Believer (2001)

best

8.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Henry Bean

Actors

A.D. Miles, Billy Zane, Chuck Ardezzone, David Bailey

Moods

Challenging, Intense, Thought-provoking

Ryan Gosling plays a Jewish Neo-Nazi in this extremely riveting window into the definition of inner conflict. It is a prime example of how character development should be done and it put Gosling on the map for me. He starts out as an exemplary student in Hebrew school until he starts questioning his teachings and exploring alternative ideologies, leading him to the neo-Nazi movement. Won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance

1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

best

8.5

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Mark Herman

Actors

Amber Beattie, Asa Butterfield, Béla Fesztbaum, Cara Horgan

Moods

Depressing, Dramatic, Emotional

You’ve probably watched and heard about enough Holocaust films to expect a formula, but you might want to put all that aside going into The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Bruno, the son of a WWII Nazi commandant forms an unlikely friendship with a Jewish kid his age in his father’s concentration camp. The film is World War II told through Bruno’s eyes, and while you might not get why this movie is so highly praised in its first scenes, the twisting and profound second half will have you recommending it to everyone in need of a moving story well executed, or quite simply a good cry.

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