For the most part, cinema celebrates capitalism. From the wild frontiers of the western genre, where it’s every man for himself, to James Bond saving the world from evil Soviet plots – not to mention all the movies celebrating the “magic” of Christmas: film is full of individualistic messages.
But not all movies ignore the existence of communist thinking entirely: there are plenty of on-screen characters wearing overalls and flat caps, and refusing to doff those caps to authority. One of the first films to portray workers rising up was Strike, a 1925 silent movie by Russian propagandist Sergei Eisenstein. From 1952, Salt of the Earth tells the true story of workers taking action against lower wages for Mexican workers, and was subsequently banned by a US government paranoid about communism. But even apolitical film-makers realise the dramatic potential of the weak rising up against the powerful. So picket lines, like wars and boxing matches, consistently make for great cinema – even when they’re not taking sides.
1) In I’m Alright, Jack, a militant shop steward uses a dopey young aristocrat as a pawn in his battle against the management.
2) Ken Loach portrays the exploitation of cleaners in Los Angeles in Bread and Roses.
3) Billy Elliot questions the solidarity of the union movement, since Billy’s dad, a striking miner, breaks the picket to fund his son’s dancing career.
4) Guy Debord’s first feature, The Society and the Spectacle, mixes archival images of the May 1968 strikes in Paris with his philosophical critique of modern societies.
5) Cheery gender inequality romp Made in Dagenham will cheer you up after Guy Debord’s dialectics.