A friend of mine once shared a link to an article with an ever-provoking title: Must-Watch Films for International Relations Students. A very debatable list contains 104 movies that the writer argues should be watch by all International Relations (IR) students. At first i guess this list is not in a random order i.e. some kind of “Top 104” or something. But then i realized that the author (maybe) just put all of his favorite movies that he thought fits the criteria “covered the vast range of topics in the International Relations’ studies” into the list.
International Relations itself is a very broad subject. It covers not only politics, which become a dominant part of the study, but also put a great emphasis on the understanding of historical moments, economic system, law, language, demography, faith and religions, environmental issues, and other socio-culture aspects. Moreover, nowadays the object of analysis is not only limited to Westphalian style nation-states, the primary actor in IR studies since 1648, but has expanded to include supranational bodies, international non-governmental organization, civil society, and many other non-conventional international actors. Damn, I started to sounds like an actual (ex) IR student (which no one will believe).
Considering its vast range of topics, it is somehow understandable to see some bizarre and quite obscure kind of movies in that list. You may wondering what makes Thank You For Smoking belong to the list. Or maybe that cartoon film Persepolis. In fact, both of these movies are very IR-ish. A kind of movies that would make those IR students shouted: “HI banget!” to reinstate their witty-yet-smart taste and sheer academic brilliance :p. It perfectly shows that IR is not a study that merely deals with politics and conflicts (this can explain why all movies about World War II could be included on the list), but also handle the issue of lobbyist role in a democratic governmental decision making process or the state vis-a-vis religion relation. However, i still can’t figure out how can films like Babies (as ‘international’ as its casts) and Captain America: The First Avenger belong to the list.
Despite those questionable parts, overall the author made a good choices. No similar list would be complete without the inclusion of Thirteen Days, the story of 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in the height of Cold War. The importance of this movie for IR students is like A Beautiful Mind for economic students. Clint Eastwood’s ‘twin movies’: Letters From Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers are also short listed. An excellent choice to depict World War II in Pacific front. I also think that all Michael Moore’s documentaries should be included, not only Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling For Columbine, and Sicko (yes, I’m talking about Capitalism: A Love Story). However, the author somehow left several important movies that share the same IR spirit (sounds so lame :p) with the rest. My choice of movies perhaps not as hipster-ish as the ones included in the original list. It consists of some very mainstream movies and widely popular. But, as i believe watching movies is a great way to study, i think it is important to add some new — still relevant to the topic — movies. These are some movies i suggest as an addition to complete the list:
1. Argo (2012)
How can the author forget and left Argo? It’s quite recent, it wins Oscar, and it’s also “HI banget!“. What could be more IR than the story of some (US) diplomats (!) trying to escape Tehran after the Iran Hostage Crisis post Islamic Revolution 1979?? If The Whistleblower and In The Loop (which i never heard of before :p) could be on top of the list, there’s no reason why Argo could be excluded from this list of 104 IR-ish movies.
2. Traffic (2000)
Traffic tells us a story of illegal drugs trafficking problem in United States and its southern neighbour, Mexico. It explores the cross-border drug trade from a number of perspectives: a user, an enforcer, a politician and a trafficker. Their stories are edited together throughout the film by Steven Soderbergh, the director of the Ocean’s Trilogy. A movie with all-star casts, Traffic shows how mazy the task of law enforcement on drugs trafficking is. It’s a personal favourite of mine, and as one (ex) stakeholder of IR studies (ahem!), i testify that it suits the criteria as IR movie and very recommended to watch as well.
3. Der Untergang (Downfall) (2004)
If you ever watched that Hitler-mad-at-something video meme, you probably already know that it was taken from a scene in this German movie. Der Untergang is a movie depicting final ten days of Adolf Hitler’s reign over Nazi Germany in 1945. It’s the final moments of World War II in European front as Hitler start to realize he won’t win the war when the Allied Force approaching Berlin. The Hitler in this movie would make Hitler in Inglorious Basterds ashamed. And of course that what makes it deserve to be in the list.
4. Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)
Another German movie, but this time it goes with a story of a dysfunctional family in East Germany during the falls of Berlin Wall. I couldn’t find (or in other words: haven’t watch) any other movie with end of Cold War as its background other than this. The German Reunification is a major historical event that marks the end of an era, along with the disintegration of Soviet Union. This historical moment perhaps only become a background in Good Bye, Lenin!, but it’s more than enough to be a must-watch list for all IR students out there.
5. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
A non-Michael Moore directed documentary that i think should also included in the list is this Al Gore’s work. An Inconvenient Truth is a movie that tries to shut the global warming naysayers’ mouth up. It has been credited for raising international public awareness of climate change and re-energizing the environmental movement in countries all over the world. As the focus of IR studies now also shifted to non-conventional issues like environment, global warming, migrant workers, etc., the screening of this movie surely reserve a place in one of the IR class as one of teaching methods.
Honorable mention: The Imitation Game, Inside Job, The Motorcycle Diaries, Blood Diamond, Apocalypse Now, Tora! Tora! Tora!, World War Z.