Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning director has always been known as a person who can raise eyebrows, make viewers think, and cause riots. Well, almost. In a career that spans almost 40 years, this filmmaker has become one of the most powerful advocates for rethinking capitalism, globalization and rethinking the once-so-powerful American Dream.
What makes Moore stand out, and often face criticism, is his satirical approach to things. He is not as beloved as Meryl Streep, nor does he host prime-time shows. Perhaps that is a good thing, because he gets to address things directly, sometimes even with a childish naïveté. Love him or hate him, adore his movies or think they are full of rhetorical flaws, you can’t deny his fingers measure the societal pulse of America with surprising precision.
In a country that is always open to establishing new prisons to fight crime, creating gating neighborhoods for the wealthy, and developing more medicines to fight diseases caused by the American Dream, Moore is regularly the only one who has the guts to say the king is naked. We rounded up some of Michael Moore’s best movies and the messages they convey.
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Bowling for Columbine (2022)
Bowling for Columbine (2022) was a tough chew for many. In it, Moore questions the policies that don’t allow Americans at the age of 18 to buy a beer, but let them go to war and own a gun. While conservative America fights gambling,it lets obsession with guns, fear and killing slip right through its fingers.
Inspired by the Columbine High School massacre, Moore questions the nation’s passion for guns that led to the sad event. The director wonders whether America is “nuts about arms” or “just nuts”, and reflects on the complete misunderstanding of how accessible weapons are, and what that might cause. Although this documentary won’t make you laugh, it will make you angry, surprised, and most importantly, think.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
This is the highest non-fiction movie ever, and one of the very few documentaries to receive the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It is definitely a piece defined by its time and a piece that defined the time of its release.
The documentary contemplates the aftermath of 9/11, an event that changed the course not only of American politics but history as well. To understand the satire of Fahrenheit 9/11, it is important to understand the social atmosphere of the era. It was a time when Dixie Chicks got cancelled for speaking against George W. Bush, 73% of all adult Americans supported the military action in Iraq, the commencement of an eight-year conflict that led to the loss of over 4,000 U.S. service members and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
In such serious circumstances, the American King of Satire makes the president the butt of the joke and questions whether he is the one responsible for what happened to the Twin Towers.
Driven by Moore’s undeniable humanism, Sicko (2007) raised many important questions before the pandemic showcased all the downsides of the American health system. The numbers the director mentions in the documentary are simply devastating.
At the time of filming:
- 50 million Americans had no health insurance;
- 18,000 of them die every year because of lack of proper and available healthcare;
- 250 million Americans have health insurance, but most of them don’t cover all the needs of their users (e.g. birth).
As shocking as they might be, the numbers don’t display the horror of the American healthcare system in all its glory, but Moore does. He gathers the first responders of 9/11, all of whom suffer health issues caused by their heroic actions. Moore puts them on a boat and sets sail to Cuba. The communist country that was often considered to be the public enemy No. 1, or as the director jokingly says “where the devil lives” and “the most evil nation ever created”, treats people American authorities forgot even existed. The 20 minutes of heartbreak will be engraved in your mind forever.
Roger & Me (1989)
Roger & Me (1989) made Michael Moore a household name. In a decade when greed was, as a matter of fact, good, a friendly guy with a baseball cap tackled some of the most controversial topics:
- The role of blue-collar workers in American society;
- Outsourcing industry to Third-world countries for profit;
- Disappearance of rural towns and smaller communities.
Although Moore adds a healthy dose of humor and satire, the smiles are bittersweet, as the entire story about General Motors and rural towns has a personal meaning for him. As it turns out, the director ended up being a prophet in his own village, as the same destiny soon caught up with many other small towns. In 2013, the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress described Roger & Me as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”, and added it to its preservation collection.