Undefended: Hot Button Issue Movies

This week, five films that deal well with hot button issues. Five films that aren’t preachy, and yet treat on contemporary social and political issues with a light touch. For each film, please put in parentheses that subject you believe the film does well with.


Remy Wilkins

1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (One of the most horrifying films I have ever seen, so much so that I cannot recommend it. It is a devastating depiction of an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania. Though it was too subtle for the critics, it is decisively anti-abortion.)

2. There Will Be Blood / The Master (An unflinching look at America in microcosm. An expose on the Cardinal Sins as manifested in the life of Daniel Plainview and Freddie Quell)

3. Happy-Go-Lucky (An exercise in the treatment of the disenfranchised, the poor, the socially unacceptable and the general unloveliness of humanity)

4. A Separation (Divorce and particularly the erosion of belief and the undermining of vows)


5. A Scanner Darkly (The loss of identity in drug culture and the human inability to find it. A much needed salve to the idea of discovering yourself and a hint, in the title, to its divine solution)


Thomas Banks


1.The Insider (power of corporations, press ethics)

2.Dead Man Walking (death penalty)

3.Driving Miss Daisy (race relations/civil rights)

4.Thelma and Louise (feminism)

5.Unfaithful (adultery in the suburbs-though here I must plead guilty to using the word “issue” very loosely)


Elizabeth Stinnette

1. The Truman Show (right to privacy)

2. The Duchess (adultery)

3. Shattered Glass (plagiarism in the press)


4. The Elephant Man (taking advantage of disabled persons, voyeurism, human rights)

5. Miss Evers’ Boys (human experimentation, civil rights)


Brian Murnion: OMG, Remy. You took all the best films.


Justin Spencer

1. Philadelphia (homosexuality/HIV/AIDS)

2. Away from Her (elderly care/end of life)

3. Des Hommes et Des Dieux (Islam and Christianity)


4. Babel (cultural intersections)

5. To the Wonder (adultery/love/forgiveness)


Timothy Lawrence


1. Elephant (school shootings)

2. Calvary (role of the church in modern society)

3. Birdman (relationship between the artist and the public)

4. Doubt (pedophilia in the church)

5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (celebrity culture)


Brian Murnion

Francisco Rabal and Silvia Pinal in Luis Buñuel's VIRIDIANA.  Cr

1. Viridiana (1961) (admonition of Christianity)

2. Autumn Sonata (1978) (abortion)

3. La Cage aux Folles (1978) (sexual identity)

4. The Fire Within (1963) (suicide)

5. Silent Light (2007) (fidelity)



James Banks

1. Taxi Driver (origins of totalitarianism)

2. Zero Dark Thirty (torture) – stretches “light touch” a bit, but people on both sides of the issue site the move to back up their position

3. Jurassic Park (scientific utopianism)

4. Traffic (the war on drugs)


5. All the King’s Men (1949-Cult of personality)


Joshua Gibbs

1. Bulworth (politics; a fine sacrilege of politics all-around)

2. Dr. Strangelove (nuclear war)


3. The Reader/Munich (war crimes, retributive justice)

4. Love With the Proper Stranger (abortion)

5. Wendy and Lucy (poverty)

Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches great books, collects records and jogs to work. He and his wife have two children, both of whom have seven names. He tweets at @joshgibbs and blogs for the CiRCE Institute.

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