Minority Report

Steven Spielberg

21 June 2002

Tom Cruise as John Anderton

Minority Report, directed by Steven Spielberg in 2002 and based on the short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick, is a libertarian cyberpunk thriller set in a dystopian District of Columbia in 2054.  It tied with Rabbit-Proof Fence to win the 2002 Miss Liberty Award for Best Libertarian Film.  According to Miss Liberty, “Libertarians liked ‘Minority Report’ for its implicit criticism of government invasion of privacy and for its portrayal of what can go wrong with an even well-intentioned mega-state.”

The film stars Tom Cruise as Chief John Anderton, an officer in the Department of Precrime.  Precrime is a governmental agency in D. C. charged with the duty of preventing murders before they occur.  In order to know who these would-be murderers are, the department forces three innocent psychics—called the precognitives or “Precogs”—into a dreamlike state; when the precognitives dream of the murders that will occur, the state uploads their visions and tracks down the would-be criminal.  Everything is going okay for Chief Anderton, until one day, the precognitive visions show Anderton himself to be a future murderer.

This film can be classed as a libertarian flick because of its focus on three themes that are of general importance to libertarians: individual free will, the danger of allowing the security state to erode away one’s civil liberties, and the right to not be enslaved.  As James Berardinelli writes in his film review, the film presents

moral and ethical considerations to explore.  Is the safety and security of the populace worth keeping three human beings enslaved?  And are people willing to give up a portion of their freedom in order to be safe from murderers?  And what about the system itself—is it truly infallible, or are innocent men being sent to jail?  (This goes back to the question about whether fate is fluid or static.)  In fact, aren’t all of these people innocent, because they are being captured and tried when no crime has (yet) been committed?  Admittedly, these are not real-world situations, but the underlying ideas resonate in the post-September 11 era, when the security/freedom tradeoff has become a often-discussed topic.

Department of Precrime logoContents

Determinism and Free Will

The Security State and Civil Liberties

Slavery and Natural Rights

Pragmatism versus Ethics

The Future of Advertising?

A Note on Faith

Plot Hole Paradox

Precrime in Today’s World

Excerpts From the Film

External Links

Is there a Minority Report?, or: What is Subjectivity? by Matthew Sharpe

January 2005 — Published in Other Voices 2, no. 3, this essay argues that the future is ontologically unknowable.

The Metaphysics of Minority Report by Vikas Singh

6 August 2002 — Published in The Times of India, this review compares Minority Report with the views of the philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Minority Report: A Film Review by James Berardinelli

2002 — This glowing review begs filmmakers to create more films with as much thought-provoking depth as Minority Report.  “Not since Memento has a movie twisted things this much.”

The Spielberg Ending: Minority Report by Sean Weitner

Date unknown — While most people interpret the ending to Minority Report as a happy one, Weitner offers an alternative take.  Although I do not agree with Weitner, his position is indeed worth taking into consideration.