Nineteen Eighty-Four

Michael Radford

10 October 1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Michael Radford’s 1984 film adaptation of George Orwell’s classic dystopia 1984, is a movie about the a man living in an extremely collectivist and hierarchical society, under a brutal and totalitarian state.  This man, Winston Smith, is a rebel, and his primary act of rebellion is to think independently.  He has sex, he falls in love, he eats foods reserved for a different class of citizens, he reads banned literature, he buys a few pieces of private property without the permission of the state, and most importantly, he quietly questions authority.  For all of this, but particularly for his independence in thought, he is brutally attacked by the state’s henchmen.

Smith is the libertarian hero of the film, choosing to disregard the tyrannical establishment surrounding him and to live his own life how he wants to live it for as long as he is able to get away with his victimless “crimes.”  Eventually, the state unfortunately does obliterate his individuality, using torture in order to condition Smith into accepting his subjugation.  Thus, Dr. Christopher Falzon has aptly described Nineteen Eighty-Four as a movie about the “peculiar horror of individuality being swallowed up in some faceless social whole.”*  But, in addition to that, Nineteen Eighty-Four—like the book upon which it was based—is a warning.  It is a warning to be weary of ideologies that claim that the individual is worth nothing alone.  It is a warning to mistrust any person or organisation—even the government itself—that claims it has some sort of legitimate authority to infringe upon your natural rights to life, liberty, and justly-acquired property.  And, it is a warning to always remember Lord Acton’s famous maxim that power tends to corrupt and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.



Libertarian Themes

A Comment on the Music

The Trailer

The Feature Film

See Also

1984 (1949) by George Orwell

Studio One: 1984 (1953), directed by Paul Nickell

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954), directed by Rudolph Cartier

1984 (1956), directed by Michael Anderson

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) en Español

“Me and the Big Guy” (1999), directed by Matt Nix


* Christopher Falzon, Philosophy Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Philosophy (London: Routledge), p. 119.