Anarchism and science fiction: E

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A boy befriends an alien stranded on Earth and helps it to return to its home world, while evading the attention of the authorities.


Osborne takes evident pleasure in the film's depiction of government agents as the bad guys. Joe Schembrie, too, in his Science Fiction and Libertarianism, notes with approval that, in E.T.,  "government agents and scientists prove to be far less competent than children at dealing with an alien encounter."


'J.G. Eccarius': We Should Have Killed the King (1990)

Interesting and readable, but mostly non-sf, bracketed by a chapter set during the Peasants' Revolt and a chapter in a future where all but an an anarchist community have died through ecological meltdown. Briefly reviewed in July 1990, in the New Anarchist Review #16.

Greg Egan: Permutation City (1994); Distress (1995)

Permutation City is among books cited by Nick Mamatas in The BASTARD Chronicles 2015 as hard sf overwhelmed by religious allegory.

   Distress is largely set against the backdrop of the sympathetically presented anarcho-syndicalist society of Stateless, an engineered coral island in the Pacific. The inhabitants mostly disregard anarchist thinkers like Bakunin, Proudhon and Godwin; children are educated in sociobiology.


. . . Stateless seemed to run on the principle of people agreeing to do the same thing for entirely different reasons. It was a sum over mutually contradictory topologies which left the calculus of pre-space for dead; no imposed politics, philosophy, religion, no idiot cheer-squad worship of flags or symbols—but order emerged nevertheless. (ch. 24)

T. Mullett Ellis: Zalma (1895)

Primarily a romantic fiction centred on an anarchist-hunter and an anarchist, the latter ultimately plotting to destroy society by means of anthrax germs distributed by balloon; she only succeeds in killing herself. Although the author displays considerable knowledge of 1890s anarchism, the image he paints of anarchists is only lurid and melodramatic: one instance will suffice, in which an anarchist, who has been betraying the conspiracy unwittingly via his wife, redeems himself by slitting her throat and writing 'Vive l'Anarchie' on the wall in her blood. (Tower edn: 167)


Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson: Transmetropolitan series (1997–2002)

Comic book series, noted by Evan Lampe on the Facebook Anarchists and Science Fiction page; Lampe has also published an essay on the series, included here. The series is also recommended by two contributors to Reddit's Anarchism strand.


Harlan Ellison

. . . "writes many short stories whose heroes have no truck with authority of any sort, though the conventions of the genre sometimes get in the way of the essential messages of his stories." (Moorcock 1978)

   Ellison is fond of Thoreau, and quotes him repeatedly—for example in 'Silent in Gehenna' (1971), and '"Repent, Harlequin!", said the Ticktockman' (1965). The latter story is a classic of individual rebellion, near-anarchist in motivation; in 2015 it won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.


Harlan Ellison, ed.: Dangerous Visions (1967)

Key anthology in American New Wave sf. Recommended on Facebook 'Anarchists and Science Fiction' page.


Don Elwell: The Ganymeade Protocol (2010)

Recommended by Melanie Petrewski, who says:


It's kind of a different take, postulating a "floating republic" kind of syndicalist gathering based on 17th century ships articles.  I found it interesting because it seemed vaguely plausible as well as the fact that it completely avoided the sort of philosophical overthink in most Anarchist depictions.

Elysium (2013, dir. Neill Blomkamp)

In the 22nd century, Earth is overpopulated and has in effect been written off by the rich, who have decamped to an idyllic orbiting habitat; it becomes clear that by a reboot of the system immigration controls can be overridden, giving citizenship of Elysium to all inhabitants of Earth.


Included in the Working class cinema: a video guide. Also short-listed by two contributors to the Anarchism subReddit discussion of films advocating anti-capitalism, of whom one says "It's not great, but it is alright and contemporary. [ . . . ] Critiques of wage slavery, class, immigration, healthcare, etc are great."


SFE cautions that "descriptions of the film as a socialist manifesto are highly exaggerated".

Equilibrium (2002, dir. Kurt Wimmer)

Multiply-derivative and pointless dystopian yarn, so corny it's boring.


Recommended by starrychloe at's Good movies for libertarians and anarchists. One comment, on's The Libertarian Film Festival, describes it as "The fight against total state control. A great terrible movie." Sorry, but it's just terrible.

Escape from L.A. (1996, dir. John Carpenter)

A near future Los Angeles has been separated from the mainland by an earthquake, and is now being used as an internment camp and general people dump for anyone in the US deemed morally unfit. A criminal is tasked with a race against time, to retrieve a superweapon and the President's runaway daughter. Vaguely comedic, but mostly just silly.


Libertarian co-producer and co-writer Kurt Russell "manages to get some libertarian points across," according to Libertarian Movies, which notes that "Snake, the cynical antihero, rejects both the right-wing government that enforces 'moral crimes' and the left-wing resistance which aims to use force to achieve its anti-technology goals." Osborne's guide says "It's not a bad flick on its own merits and it has an underlying message libertarians will appreciate."


Included in's Working class cinema: a video guide.

Escape from New York (1981, dir. John Carpenter)

Similar to, and better than, Escape from L.A., with the penal colony being the whole island of Manhattan, and the hostage the President himself.


For liberty4eva, Snake "would definitely be considered a libertarian anarchist if one had to guess his political leanings upon watching Escape From New York as well as the inferior 90's sequel Escape From L.A."


Dr Evermore (pseudonym of Tom Every): 'The Forevertron'

This steampunk sculptural whimsy, built in the 1980s, is the only piece of plastic art included here, for its obvious inherent merit, but also for Don LaCoss's enthusiastic account of it in Fifth Estate in 2008. See also Minter, and the Wikipedia entry.

Ex Machina (2015, dir. Alex Garland)

The CEO of an Internet giant calls one of his programmers to his isolated home and research base, where he is asked to appraise the level of consciousness of his most recent android construct, whom its creator already believes to have passed the Turing test. The experiment proves all too successful, the android outwitting both of them, and escaping her confinement. An intelligent and beautifully made film, clearly echoing the Frankenstein motif.


Seen as strongly feminist by J.A. Micheline, a view endorsed by Eoin O'Connor on the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction Forum. Also noted on the FB Solarpunk Anarchists and Anarchists & Science Fiction pages. Two contributors to the FB Forum include this film among their shortlists of the best sf ever committed to film.

eXistenZ (1999, dir. David Cronenberg)

Unconvincing take on the theme of where simulation stops and reality begins, using videogaming in place of Chuang Tzu's famous butterfly dream.


One of three Cronenberg films categorised as subversive by Glenn in his essay 'Film as Subversion', in the 2015 Bastard Chronicles.



See my hotlist, for items particularly recommended by me.

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This page was last revised on 2017-04-23.

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