Films on Dictators

Films on Dictators include Military Dictatorships, and Life under Dictators



Films on CHINA

Films on RUSSIA



Films on CIA

The War on Democracy

Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 33m. Journalist and documentarian John Pilger focuses on the ambivalent role played by the United States in promoting Latin American democracy, suggesting that American leaders have often favored oppressive regimes over more democratic alternatives. Pilger outlines the last five decades of political manipulation by the CIA and other U.S. agencies, focusing in particular on recent efforts to unseat the populist Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. See Full Review

John Perkins: Speaking Freely Vol. 1

Lecture (2007) NR. Author and former economic consultant John Perkins takes aim at himself, confessing his shameful role in helping organizations such as World Bank and the IMF drive poor nations into crippling debt while enriching U.S. corporations. His social conscience awakened, Perkins finally got fed up and quit his job. Now, he runs a successful nonprofit group that works to help indigenous peoples protect and strengthen their environments and cultures. See Full Review

The Wave
(Die Welle)

Docudrama 2008 NR 1hr 47m. To give his students a real-world example of how dictatorships can grow powerful, a high school teacher in Germany conducts a social experiment. Based on an experiment that took place at a Palo Alto California high school in 1967 (albeit with a much less dramatic ending), this is a cautionary tale about the roots of fascism. Ron Jones, the teacher whose 1967 experiment “The Third Wave” on which the film was based, also attended the screening in San Francisco at the “Berlin and Beyond Film Festival” 2009 and answered questions following the viewing, which made the events that had taken place within the film all the more real and haunting. In the film instructor Rainer Wenger is unnable to reach his students through customary teaching methods, and decides on a controversial approach in teaching autocracy. Beginning with well-placed homilies about unity and cooperation, he suggests class uniforms and a group name. Some students switch to another class, disturbed by Wenger’s mode of instruction, while some of those remaining take the lessons to heart in increasingly disturbing ways. What develops is a heightening conflict which finally erupts with surprising and memorable results. At its core this film is about the need to belong and serves as a chilling allegory of fascism. Like the students in the film I started out thinking ‘This could never happen today’. But the way that it was presented, I totally understood why something like this could happen. A must see!   (In the earlier 1981 film version and its novelization, the action takes place in 1969 in the fictitious Gordon High School, which is based on a real series of events at a school in Palo Alto, California.)

The Great Dictator

Comedy 1940 G 126 minutes. In this prescient twist on the immortal prince-and-the-pauper tale, Charlie Chaplin plays polar-opposite dual roles: look-alikes Adenoid Hynkel — Tomania’s anti-Semitic ruler — and an amnesiac Jewish barber. After 20 years in a hospital, the barber goes home, oblivious to the plight of Tomania’s Jews. Soon, Hynkel cracks down on them, but a case of mistaken identity gives the unassuming barber a chance to make an impassioned plea for democracy.



As of 2007 Kim Jong-Il, North Korea. While North Korea is a communist state, Kim’s family follows the highly centralized, patriarchal ruling model of Confucianism. His citizens are more shut off from the world than those of any other nation.

Inside North Korea

Documentary National Geographic 2006 TV-PG 50m. Disguised as a medical coordinator, National Geographic correspondent Lisa Ling gains access into North Korea and gives viewers a powerful glimpse inside one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Through personal accounts and exclusive footage, Ling exposes the difficulties North Koreans face while living in such an oppressive regime, coping with poverty, hunger and the lack of civil liberties. See Full Review

Secret State of North Korea

Documentary Frontline 2012 Jan14. In Secret State of North Korea, Frontline shines a light on the hidden world of the North Korean people, drawing on undercover footage from inside the country as well as interviews with defectors—including a former top official—who are working to try to chisel away at the regime’s influence. Intelligence officials know even less about North Korea’s new ruler than they did about his enigmatic father. North Korea must open up to survive, but doing so risks the collapse of the regime. Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2012 Jan14):

Camp 14: Total Control Zone

Documentary 2012 NR 101 minutes. Through interviews and footage of a North Korean re-education camp, director Marc Wiese paints a shocking portrait of inhumanity as he chronicles the harrowing story of Shin Dong-huyk, who was born inside the camp but escaped at age 23.

The Flower of Kim Jong II

Documentary 2009 NR 74 minutes. Marked by a long history of repression and information control, North Korea continues to scrupulously monitor the activities of its citizens. This exposé reveals daily life under a totalitarian regime as well as the stories of prison camp survivors. Filmmaker N.C. Heikin draws on her artistic sensibility as a dancer and performer to craft a stylish documentary that bears a surprising message of hope and inspiration.


High Tech, Low Life

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 25m. Meet Tiger and Zola, two “citizen reporters” who travel throughout China, facing censorship and even imprisonment in their pursuit of the truth.  Citizen journalism at its best. The courage of these people is amazing, and their passion is inspiring. After I watched this, I tried to search for recent blogs by Tiger but couldn’t find anything. This film gives you the feeling and the flavor of Beijing. The real stuff. The way real people live and work and how they are naturally. The countryside scenes and the travel scenes nail it! I lived in China four years 2006 to 2010 teaching English, and this show brought back many memories. This doc shows the importance of the flow of information, and how each and every one of us can make a difference in our communities. I remember Facebook being blocked and on some occasions Yahoo and Google as well. Censorship in China is little known by most around the world, and I was fascinated. This doc does a good job at showing the censorship going on over there. Although it’s not as bad as everyone thinks. In four years I saw so much change it felt like I was inside a time-machine watching new developments pop up overnight — a lot of the same stuff going on here in the States. I recommend this film for anybody who has never been to China. I must say, this film opened my eyes to life in China. We should never take our freedom for granted. I really enjoyed this movie. And great job by all involved in this film! Great watch!


Revolution in Cairo

Documentary Frontline 2011 NR 53 m. Frontline dispatches teams to Cairo, going inside the youth movement that helped light the fire on the streets. Follow the “April 6th” group, which two years ago began making a bold use of the Internet for their underground resistance, tactics that led to jail and torture for many of their leaders. Now, starting with the “Day of Rage,” we witness those same leaders plot strategy to try to bring down President Mubarak. Link to View This FRONTLINE Story for Free (Listed by Date 2011 Feb 22):

The Square

Documentary 2013. Nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this critically praised documentary chronicles the history-making revolution in Egypt that captivated the world with scenes of courage and freedom in the face of violent opposition.

BURMA  (Myanmar):

As of 2007 Than Shwe, Burma. The citizens are still waiting for a new constitution promised 17 years ago. Reporters Without Borders ranks Burma 164th out of 168th in its press freedom index. Burmese have been arrested for selling videotapes of foreign news reports on the 2004 tsunami.

Burma VJ
(Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land)

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 29m. This Oscar-nominated documentary profiles a band of Burmese reporters who smuggle video of their repressive government’s abuses to the outside world. The U.S. has condemned the military regime of Than Shwe for over 20 years and called for the release from house arrest of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, a woman who is a hero in Burma and won the election there.


Putin’s Kiss

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 24m. This political drama traces the saga of Masha Drokova, a member of a Russian nationalist youth movement who starts to question its beliefs and her belief in Putin. A real true-to-life story of innocence lost and how a political youth movement can act against the interests of a nation as a tool not unlike what transpired under the NKVD, KGB and Hitler Youth. This young woman has her eyes opened slowly, as she has a taste the cult of personality and the power of the former head of the KGB.


Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 56m. This documentary follows the rise and fall of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who became one of Russia’s wealthiest men before butting heads with Vladimir Putin and winding up imprisoned on controversial charges.


Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 24m. This documentary chronicles half a century of hostile U.S.-Cuba relations. The film highlights decades of assassinations and sabotage at first backed by Washington, then ignored by the very government that launched a “war against terrorism.”

Looking for Fidel

Documentary 2004 NR 1hr. The leader of the only Communist state in the Western Hemisphere was 76 years old and had been in power almost half a century when Oliver Stone sat down with him for the 2003 interview that forms the core of this documentary. Stone also talks to activists, spouses of jailed journalists and even the mother of an executed hijacker to provide this clear-eyed view of Cuba following the 2003 crackdown on dissidents.


Documentary 2002 NR 1hr 31m. This documentary by director Estela Bravo takes a look at the political and social impact the immensely powerful Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has had on the world during the 40-plus years he’s been in power. Through interviews with politicians (Nelson Mandela, Arthur Schlesinger), friends (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), and other cultural experts (Alice Walker), Fidel’s personality and work are explored and discussed.



The Official Story
(La Historia Oficial)

Drama 1985 R 1hr 53m. An Argentinean teacher is forced to question her government when she suspects her adopted daughter may be the child of a murdered political prisoner.


Docudrama 2005 NR 1hr 48m. An Argentinean teen’s life turns upside down when she’s ordered to leave the couple who raised her and move in with a grandmother she’s never known.

Clandestine Childhood
(Infancia clandestina)

Drama 2011 NR 1hr 50m. This tense drama portrays the complex life of 12-year-old Juan, whose parents return to Argentina to covertly battle the ruling junta.


Missing  (1982)

Docudrama 1982 PG 123 minutes. When an American living in South America goes missing, his wife turns to his businessman father for help. But the family soon learns a lesson in political reality … and the ugly facts about the United States’ involvement in Latin America.


Triumph of the Will

Documentary 1934 NR 120 minutes. Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous propaganda film documenting the Third Reich’s 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally features a cast of thousands — including Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Rudolf Hess, Hermann Goering and other top officials. Images of cheering crowds, precision marching, military bands, banners lining Nuremberg’s streets and Hitler’s climactic speech illustrate with chilling clarity how Germany fell under his spell.

The Double Headed Eagle:
Hitler’s Rise to Power 1918-1933

Documentary 1973 NR 86 minutes. Filmmaker Lutz Becker sifted through hundreds of yards of archive and newsreel footage from 1918 to 1933 for this objective, journalistic look at the rise of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler.

Hitler: The Rise of Evil

Docudrama 2003 NR 189 minutes. This TV biopic profiles history’s most spectacular madman, tracing his journey from humble roots to complete mastery of Germany. Starring Robert Carlyle as the Fuhrer, the film shows the link between Hitler’s rise and Germany’s economic woes.

The Nazis: A Warning from History

Documentary 1997 NR 2 discs. Through archival footage and interviews with those who survived Adolph Hitler’s reign — including unrepentant Nazis — this comprehensive documentary series sheds new light on the rise of the Third Reich in Germany. Chapters reveal how the Nazi state compelled ordinary people to commit atrocities, the order and disorder within the German army, and Hitler’s propensity for getting his minions to do his work, among other enlightening facts.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Docudrama 2005 NR 117 minutes. Arrested for participating in the White Rose resistance movement, anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) is subjected to a highly charged interrogation by the Gestapo, testing her loyalty to her cause, her family and her convictions. Based on true events, director Marc Rothemund’s absorbing Oscar-nominated drama explores maintaining human resolve in the face of intense pressure from a system determined to silence whistle-blowers.



Docudrama 1969 NR 127 minutes. Based on true events, director Costa-Gavras’s Oscar-winning film closely parallels the real-life assassination of a Greek doctor and humanist whose 1963 murder led to public scandal and eventual overthrow of the democratic government in Greece. Part mystery and part thriller, the film made its mark as a groundbreaking political roman à clef, and its edge-of-your-seat plot, vérité photography and driving score resonate even today.


The Island President

Documentary 2011 PG 1hr 41m. Excellent film, capturing the humility and sincerity of Mohamed Nasheed’s efforts to establish democracy in the Maldives and then help his country survive global warming. During his presidency of the Maldive Islands, Mohamed Nasheed fights to prevent rising ocean levels from inundating his low-lying archipelago nation.


The Panama Deception

Documentary 1992 NR 91 minutes. Filmmakers Barbara Trent and David Kasper explain the untold truths behind the United States’ 1989 invasion of Panama in this hard-hitting documentary that illuminates the complex relationship between Gen. Manuel Noriega and the CIA and U.S. government. Juxtaposing interviews with experts and eyewitnesses with historical media reports, the film shows how the press helped win the American public’s approval despite widespread condemnation abroad. See Full Review


The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
(Autobiografia lui Nicolae Ceausescu)

Documentary 2010 NR 3hr 7m. Track the rise and fall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu through this documentary which constructs his portrait by only using archival footage.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
(4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile)

Drama 2007 NR 113 minutes. . In the last days of communism in Romania, college student Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) wants to end her unplanned pregnancy. With help from best friend and fellow student Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), Gabita seeks an abortion — which is illegal under the oppressive Ceausescu regime. Director Cristian Mungiu’s searing portrait of life under a dictatorship received a slew of film festival awards along with a Golden Globe nod for Best Foreign Language Film.

Children Underground

Documentary 2001 NR 1hr 48m. This documentary explores Romanian dictator Nicolei Ceaucescu’s decision to outlaw contraceptives and encourage the populace to have more children.


Joseph Stalin:
Red Terror

Documentary 2004 NR 50 minutes. Joseph Stalin ranks as one of the greatest tyrants of all time, responsible for the deaths of 20 million of his own countrymen. This portrait revisits the life of “Uncle Joe” via Soviet archival film and an astonishing collection of interviews. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the extent of Stalin’s atrocities has been revealed, and he has taken his place alongside Hitler as one of the most reviled leaders of the 20th century.

The Tunnel

Docudrama Thriller 2001 NR 167 minutes. In this acclaimed drama inspired by true events, Olympic swimmer Harry Melchior (Heino Ferch) defects from East Germany in the 1960s and hatches a daring plot to help his sister (Alexandra Maria Lara) and others flee East Berlin through a 145-yard underground tunnel. With the help of an engineer (Sebastian Koch), Melchior leads the risky plan, under constant threat of being discovered by the authorities.

Berlin Tunnel 21

Docudrama Thriller 1981 NR 2hr 21m. Following the rise of the Berlin Wall, determined American soldier Sandy (Richard Thomas) and pessimistic engineer Emerich (Horst Buchholz) put their lives on the line in order to build a secret underground tunnel and spring their loved ones out of East Berlin. Full of nonstop tension, this gripping made-for-TV drama based on a true story finds the duo facing unexpected traitors, devastating setbacks and the constant threat of being discovered.

The Wall
A World Divided

Documentary 2010 NR 55 minutes. With insights from political leaders like George H.W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Condoleezza Rice, explore the origins and demise of the notorious Berlin Wall, the structure’s affect on ordinary German lives and the peaceful end to the Cold War. Full of detailed information, this historical PBS documentary explains the stark differences between East and West Germany and their process of reunification.

Burning Wall

Documentary 2002 NR. Hava Kohav Beller’s documentary examines dissent within East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Despite being subject to government surveillance and made to endure psychological warfare from the secret police force known as the Stasi, opponents of the totalitarian state saw their numbers continue to swell. Candid interviews with former dissidents and Stasi agents reveal the events leading up to the regime’s collapse in 1989.

After the Wall
A World United

Documentary 2011 NR 55 minutes. After serving as a geographic and ideological divide for 40 years, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, bringing the reunification of Germany and an end to the Cold War. This documentary revisits the events surrounding the wall’s historic collapse. Interviews with major players such as George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl offer insight into political maneuverings while firsthand accounts from Germans provide personal perspectives.


Custom Search


Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know