One way of advocating for free speech and reaching a wide audience is through movies. At NordVPN, we strongly believe in free speech as a fundamental right and a cornerstone of democracy, as provided for in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and we are here to protect this human right. In this article, we gathered a list of movies that have inspired us to fight censorship, surveillance, and online restrictions. So take a look at our list of freedom of speech movies that depict the ongoing struggle to protect it and see if they strike a chord with you too.
The dramatic thriller The Fifth Estate is about the famous whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks and the people behind it. WikiLeaks undoubtedly changed the current media landscape and continues to challenge those in power. This movie depicts the evolution of the media organization, but it is not without controversy. The creators of the WikiLeaks platform criticized the movie by claiming that a lot of the information is incorrect. So, watch this film with a critical eye and see how certain biases can shape public opinion. Discover more about The Fifth Estate on IMDb.
The documentary Mediastan is, essentially, WikiLeaks’ answer to the Fifth Estate movie. Written by Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and Katerina Suvorova, this film shows how the mainstream media is unwilling to speak freely and objectively because of various external pressures. The movie reveals the connections between the media, the public, and the hidden powers that control them. Discover more about Mediatsan on IMDb.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is an adaptation of 1984, the classic dystopian political science fiction novel by George Orwell. It illustrates the horrors of secret surveillance, deception, and manipulation by totalitarian or authoritarian governments. Even though the movie depicts the horror of Soviet totalitarianism very accurately, it still remains a topical piece today. A lot of the world’s population still lives under non-democratic regimes with acute surveillance and suppression of personal freedom. Moreover, even some governments of democratic countries monitor us and occasionally violate our privacy. Discover more about Nineteen Eighty-Four on IMDb.
The documentary Shouting Fire deals with the First Amendment of the US Constitution. It shows how the protection and exercise of free speech has changed and how global politics influences these trends. The film analyzes various cases ranging from the Pentagon Papers to Ward Churchill’s controversial article about 9/11, which show how the free speech landscape in the US has changed. The documentary illustrates how vulnerable Americans’ First Amendment rights are. Discover more about Shouting Fire on IMDb.
At its core, The F Word is a movie about finding unconventional methods to fight back when someone is trying to silence you and, essentially, take away your right to free speech and expression. Joe Pace, a radio DJ whose program was shut down, sets off on a one-man march to prove his right to broadcast. The film is also notable for its experimental nature, combining documentary and fiction styles with a unique narrative flow. Discover more about The F Word on IMDb.
Featuring a stunning cast and brilliant acting, The Post depicts journalists’ attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers, which detail the US’s political and military involvement in Vietnam. Moreover, the film illustrates Katharine Graham’s struggles as the first female publisher in a male-dominated environment. The movie is set in the pre-internet early 70’s, offering a fascinating insight into whistleblowing and free speech efforts before the internet age. In a way, it shows an early precursor of WikiLeaks fighting for the freedom of press. Discover more about The Post on IMDb.
The movie No Safe Spaces examines how the suppression of free speech and identity politics is dividing America. This documentary is the brainchild of two authors standing on different sides of the political spectrum – conservative radio host Dennis Prager and liberal comic and media personality Adam Carolla. It also features a wide range of participants of diverse cultural and political backgrounds. No Safe Spaces examines the safe spaces in American universities, where marginalized individuals can share their experiences. It stresses the importance of free speech and the presence of different opinions on campuses. At the same time, it also criticizes the favoring of one opinion over another. While you may not necessarily agree with the viewpoints presented in this film, it is worth watching to familiarize yourself with the complexity of the issue and the different views on it. Discover more about No Safe Spaces on IMDb.
Razor’s Edge shows what happens when speaking freely online can be a matter of life and death. This movie deals with internet freedom in Bangladesh, where radical Islamist groups persecute and eventually kill secular bloggers. In 2013, extremists published a death list including 94 bloggers. Five of them were killed, while others were attacked or escaped the country. The government refused to act. Watching this documentary makes us realize how precious freedom of speech is and how internet privacy can help protect it.
A shorter version of the film is available on YouTube. The director did not make the full 65-minute version public, because it may still be dangerous to some of the people involved, because they are still being targeted by killers. Discover more about Razor’s Edge on IMDb.
Forbidden Voices is another documentary on activist blogging and the internet as a tool to spread political and social messages and initiate changes. It follows three female bloggers from China, Cuba, and Iran – all countries known for undemocratic regimes that suppress speech and exercise internet censorship. Governments treat the three protagonists as dissidents due to their courageous activism and constant fight for freedom. They are constantly monitored, censored, and blocked while facing harsh repressions. This disturbing documentary shows the ugliness of the apparatuses of repression and inspires us to fight them. Discover more about Forbidden Voices on IMDb.
The Burma VJ documentary shows how the Burmese people exercise their democratic voices and how media channels spread their messages, upholding the freedom of press and the right to free speech. The documentary displays the work of undercover video journalists who secretly filmed the Burmese anti-military Saffron Revolution. The peaceful protests were led by students, political activists, Buddhist monks, and other citizens. The regime met the protests with brutal opposition – thousands of people were arrested or sentenced and dozens of casualties were involved. Discover more about Burma VJ on its IMDb webpage.
The documentary We Are Legion takes us into the world of the hacktivist group Anonymous. It portrays the hacktivists as protectors of free speech and reveals how they can influence various social and geo-political events. It also demonstrates how much change a group of people can bring about from behind a computer screen. Discover more about We Are Legion on its IMDb webpage.
This biopic takes a different spin on freedom of speech by depicting Larry Flynt, the creator of Hustler magazine. The movie details his fight against the heavy censorship he had to endure during his career as a publisher of adult content. The focus of this controversial film is on defending the First Amendment rights enshrined in the American Constitution and the right to freedom of expression as Flynt fights for the right to publish sleazy magazines. Ironically, the poster of the film was also censored. Discover more about The People vs. Larry Flynt on its IMDb webpage.
Critically-acclaimed Citizenfour follows the life of the famous hacker and whistleblower Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. It can be a good companion to The Fifth Estate movie mentioned above, as it portrays the internet as a tool to disclose data hidden from the public – data that can change the course of history. The film received an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Discover more about Citizenfour on its IMDb webpage.
The Snowden biographical movie deals with the topics of freedom of expression and the fight against government surveillance. It tells the story of the former NSA employee Edward Snowden and his decision to release confidential files on mass surveillance to the press. It raises the question whether the attempt to protect citizens from foreign threats justifies the tracking of all forms of digital communication. Discover more about the movie Snowden on its IMDb webpage.
Is our list missing something? Let us know what censorship and/or surveillance films inspire you in the comments below.
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