RR Films: Leadership

With the people of Turkey apparently voting for Christmas, er, a great and wise leader, with Vlad already established as such and with Donny trying to get into the club by dropping bombs all over the place, the human race seems to have regressed to childhood and decided Daddy knows best. Even if he is an aggressive, misogynistic, egotistical arsehole…..

I hope we all agree that leadership should be about more than strength and control, so let’s have some films that prove it. I’ll kick off with Selma, which contains three examples: George Wallace’s divisive machinations; LBJ’s canny pragmatism; and MLK’s inspirational conviction.

What films about Leadership would you recommend?

15 thoughts on “RR Films: Leadership

  1. I think that the issue of leadership on film is best explored by looking at flawed leaders who ultimately pay the price of their incompetence and hubris. Unfortunately, Hollywood (especially) tends to gloss over the hubris and incompetence and play up the courage and glory aspects. If you look at the Hollywood legend of George A. Custer, you see this in spades. It is rare to see any American leader portrayed as a loser, an incompetent or an arrogant fool.

    However, there is one film that gives us the vainglorious, arrogant Custer who slaughtered women and children in a series of massacres and that film is Little Big Man.

    Closer to home, the 1968 The Charge of the Light Brigade shows us the class-ridden, snobbish and incompetent leadership of the British expeditionary force in the Crimean War, personified by the incompetent and possibly senile Lord Raglan (who refers to the Russian enemy as “the French” in the presence of his ally, the French commander) and the snobbish arrogant aspects, given to us in the person of Lord Cardigan, who hates his brother-in-law Lord Lucan, his immediate superior.

    • I agree with you totally about flawed leader and hubris, every other film i thought of had this aspect. I find all who aspire to “leadership” suspect in some way.

      I become quite sad when i see that the criteria for getting into our top colleges nowadays is evidence of and potential for “leadership”. So much for our creative loners, the artists and the scientists. No wonder we’re fucked.

      I got an odd deja vu when i read the news this morning that your leader is calling an election to beef up support for the Brexit. What comes to mind is Hillary Clinton trying to push into solid red states as she was sure the blue ones were already in the bag. So much so that she ordered up a map of the country in solid blue for the floor of the Javits center to with its glass ceiling and the unveiling of the algorithm that was supposed to have won it for her.

  2. With some trepidation i’ll go for Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. Trepidation because for me the endings Spielberg tacks onto the ends of his films are gratituous and unnecessary, and leave a bit of a sour taste after otherwise great films. I am not an idiot, i don’t need a moralizing bit at the end to sum up what i should think and feel about what transpired earlier in the film.

  3. I’ll go for “Gladiator” with Russell Crowe as Maximus. Normally the sort of film I would avoid (too macho for me) but actually I thought it was an excellent film.

  4. A tricky one:

    Apollo 13 – Tom Hanks pulling his crew together when it all goes pear shaped.

    The Gathering Storm & Into The Storm – The Fall & Rise & Fall of Churchill.

  5. Ali’s suggestion triggered a thought in my mind. Spartacus is my suggestion. He was violent, rebellious and desperate for his freedom. His leadership inspired the other slaves so much that when the Romans offered them their freedom in exchange for identifying the rebel leader, they all stood up and claimed to be him (no funny comments about “I’m Brian and so is my wife” etc).

  6. Kurosawa’s Ran. Venal, spiteful, ambitious leaders who treat their subjects as pawns and their opponents as something to be destroyed in the quest for their own personal gain. It’s a good job we’ve moved on from such feudal eras, :-/

  7. Am I allowed to suggest television series instead? Partly because I watch these rather more than films, and partly because I think there’s a strong case to be made that leadership is as much about the ongoing grind, taking responsibility day after day, rather than a small number of critical moments (which is what films, for obvious reasons of time constraints, tend to do). In which case, I’m *not* going to suggest The West Wing, but rather Battlestar Galactica (new version), for its ongoing exploration of these issues – e.g. Apollo and Starbuck both having to grow into command – and the contrasting styles of Adama and Roslin, and the negative example of the unscrupulous populism of Balthar.

  8. But if I have to stick to films… Galaxy Quest, for another example of someone who’s played the part of a leader but has to discover what it means to really be one – above all, taking responsibility.

  9. Kagemusha (shadow warrior)

    Kagemusha – 影武者 – is the story of a small time criminal who impersonates a feudal lord ofter his death. The basic story is that the clan is in a really difficult time and very weak at that moment and then the lord dies. Some samurai from the clan discover the criminal who looks really like the dead lord and decide to hide the fact that the lord is dead and have the criminal impersonate him.

    As time goes by in the film the criminal starts to become more and more like the dead lord he is impersonating and convinces the generals to believe in him.

    The film is beautifully photographed and the climax at the tragic Battle of Nagashino is masterpiece of Japanese cinema. George Lucas and Francis Ford Cappola were listed as executive producers as the film was so expensive the rights to it were sold to a USA film company to get the money needed to make the film. So it also received a wide international distribution so maybe you know it ? ? ?

    It is a wonderful film about the nature of leadership (amongst many other things)


    • Hi Sakura! This is, like Ran, a film by the great Akira Kurosawa. Every Guardian reader (which is what most RRers are) knows and loves his films. It’s almost a rule… 😉

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