The movie industry as a whole may be boringly left-wing, but occasionally a conservative message breaks through, sometimes intentionally and sometimes accidentally or because filmmakers simply applied themselves to telling the truth. Here are ten films that brought conservative concepts to the multiplex in 2018, ranked according to conservative firepower:
10. Mary Poppins Returns (in theaters). Yes, like the original, the movie features a (brief) nod to liberal social-justice movements in England. But the film’s aesthetics are proudly conservative; there’s no attempt whatsoever to make this long-aborning sequel contemporary, hip, or in touch with the (alleged) fixations of today’s youth. It’s a children’s movie for old people, as is only right: Children should learn from the old rather than the other way around. And as Sonny Bunch points out, it also defends the old British class system by portraying the working-class lamplighters and nannies as loyal allies to the upper-class layabouts who employ them.
9. The Final Year (0n HBO Now/HBO Go). Conceived as hagiography, this film stumbled into indictment. Obama-worshipping filmmakers earned extraordinary access to high-level officials such as Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, and John Kerry, but what their cameras turned up makes the Obama foreign-policy pros look arrogant, incompetent, and clueless. The scene in which Power, grandstanding in Africa, learns that her motorcade killed an actual African is a painful synopsis of the Obama approach, which combined much windy declaration of principle with abysmal or counterproductive actions. Also, the footage taken at Power’s Hillary Clinton victory party in 2016 is pretty funny.
8. Black Panther (on Netflix). The new Black Panther is a rebuke to the old Black Panthers: As played by Chadwick Boseman in Ryan Coogler’s terrifically entertaining and smart blockbuster, the titular superhero personifies a vision in which black people work peacefully alongside others to achieve mutual goals. It’s the villain of the piece, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, who advocates a sinister combination of African separatism and burn-it-down, Year One utopianism with chilling echoes of Pol Pot.
7. Vox Lux (in theaters). One of the year’s most unexpected and wickedest satires, this Natalie Portman film about a school-shooting survivor who becomes a pop star took on a different meaning in the wake of the David Hogg phenomenon. Portman’s character, in the opening scenes a sweet little girl who survives a massacre in part because of her serene Christian faith, becomes world-famous after singing a beautiful, heartfelt song at a memorial service. But as an adult pop star, she turns into a monstrous, blaspheming egomaniac suggesting Lady Gaga and Madonna. “I used to believe in God, too,” says the superstar singer. “And, if they ever come to their senses like I did and want to believe in something else, they can believe in me. I am the New Testament.” Brady Corbet’s potent film is a genuinely unsettling and provocative consideration of where fame comes from and what it leads to.
6. The Death of Stalin (on Showtime). This comedy about the jockeying for power after the death of the dictator didn’t always work, but though it came from the ardently left-wing Scottish writer-director Armando Iannucci, it’s one of only a handful of films ever to explore the internal depravity and absurdity of the Soviet Union, and it does so to devastating effect.
5. First Reformed (on Amazon Prime Video). A despairing Protestant minister whose church is steadily dying in a small upstate New York town finds renewed purpose pursuing his own insanity in Paul Schrader’s incendiary drama. Like a Travis Bickle facing down climate change instead of punks, Ethan Hawke’s Ernst Toller loses his way, picks up a bottle, and becomes an environmentalist jihadist, a servant of death instead of life. Schrader’s film is a reflection on the desperate scramble for false gods that happens in a rudderless post-Christian culture.
4. Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The initial media blackout on the story of the abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abattoir, which major news organizations practically ignored until conservative media shamed them into taking minimal notice, was predictably followed up by a near-total refusal to cover Nick Searcy’s film about the case, which starred Dean Cain and Janine Turner. Nevertheless, Gosnell earned more at the box office than a pro-abortion comedy called Obvious Child that received blanket adoration from the media. George Will called it a “gripping true-crime courtroom drama,” noting that much of the dialogue came from court transcripts and police records.
3. Little Pink House (for rent via video-on-demand, also on Hoopla and Kanopy). If high-school students were required to see this film in classrooms, libertarianism would become as popular as Barack Obama. Catherine Keener creates a screen version of Susette Kelo, the New London, Conn., citizen who didn’t want to relinquish her lovingly painted house to the grasping hands of a government that had decided a property developer should get to bulldoze it. As Antonin Scalia memorably put it when Kelo’s case reached the Supreme Court, the government’s absurd position was that “you can take from A to give to B if B pays more taxes.” It would be hard to name a better cinematic illustration of the importance of property rights.
2. Halloween (for rent via video-on-demand). Judy Greer’s character expertly and hilariously trolls the Left when she says her mom, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is wrong to arm herself and prepare for the worst because, “The world is not a dark and evil place. It’s full of love and understanding!” The importance of armed individual self-defense, the fallen nature of man, the incompetence of state authorities, the necessity of capital punishment for evildoers, and even the vapidity of liberal true-crime podcasters all get ingeniously dramatized as Michael Myers goes on yet another rampage.
1. Chappaquiddick (on Netflix). The facts about what happened when Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and left Mary Jo Kopechne to die in 1969 are so shocking, gruesome, and devastating to the Kennedy image that simply presenting them in a sober, methodical fashion makes for one of the year’s best films. Ted Kennedy is gone but his reputation as a noble crusader lives on. Destroying that utterly unearned eminence will be the work of years if not decades, but this film, in which the Australian actor Jason Clarke nails Kennedy’s combination of entitlement, narcissism, cowardice, and cluelessness, is an important step in the right direction.