Though most Americans would probably prefer to think of themselves as heroes or, at the very least, a positive force in the world, much of the world has a negative views of the United States. As such, Americans have frequently been portrayed as villains in foreign films, and we’ve put together a list of some of the most memorable movies where America is the bad guy.
10. Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1943)
Momotaro’s Sea Eagles was Japan’s first feature-length animated film, clocking in at 37 minutes. A World War Two propaganda film, it features the Japanese folk hero Peach Boy as the leader of an army of anthropomorphic animals who carry out the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hawaii is referred to as “Demon Island” and the Americans as “Demons.” Though most of the Americans are depicted as identical, featureless sailors, Bluto from the Popeye cartoons makes a cameo appearance as a drunken oaf who stumbles around one of the ships and cries pathetically when it begins to sink. Two years later a sequel entitled Momotaro: God Warriors of the Sea was released, which featured the anthropomorphic sailors freeing Pacific islands from British rule. But it also ends with a scene where young children pretend to parachute into an area drawn to look like the continental United States.
9. Conspiracy of the Doomed (1950)
Perhaps best known in the West for his Palme d’Or winning film The Cranes are Flying and the directorial cause célèbre I Am Cuba, Mikhail Kalatozov also directed a notorious piece of anti-American propaganda entitled Conspiracy of the Doomed. The film follows an American ambassador named MacHill who schemes to create a massive crop failure in order to force an Eastern European nation to join the Marshall Plan. Part of his plan involves collaboration with Catholic clergy who seek to regain the power that they lost with the advent of Communism. MacHill and the clergy are defeated by an uprising of the working class who take over the country’s government in the name of Stalin.
8. Silver Dust (1953)
Silver Dust was another piece of Stalin-era anti-American propaganda that painted Americans as unrepentant monsters. The film centers on an American scientist who develops a new weapon that utilizes a radioactive silver dust. The scientist then goes on to use live humans as test subjects for his creation. As he informs the State Department in the film, “Give me just one transport aeroplane filled with Koreans and Chinese and I’ll contrive an excellent method of killing people.” The film ends with the scientist’s assassination at the hands of a corrupt capitalist who wishes to gain control of the weapon for himself.
7) Mr. Freedom (1969)
Directed by American expatriate William Klein, Mr. Freedom is a bombastic attack on the America of the 1960s that begins as satire but ends as a full-blown condemnation. The film was so vicious in its attack on the United States that noted film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum labeled it “the most anti-American movie ever made.” It follows a gauche superhero named Mr. Freedom who dresses in red, white, and blue sports gear and travels to France to fight the “French Anti-Freedom” organization. From the opening scene where Mr. Freedom murders an African-American family, the film takes no prisoners. Curiously, the film seems to reject traditional leftist politics by savagely lampooning the USSR and Communist China with offensive stereotyped characters (the Chinese character is literally just a giant inflatable dragon). This could be seen as a parody of how America stereotypes its enemies, but it was greeted with hostility by Marxist-Leninist groups. But the film has gained a devout following in film critic circles, with American critics like Rosenbaum heralding it as a masterpiece.
6. The Detached Mission (1985)
During the Cold War, one of the most reliable sources of villains for American films were Soviet characters. Films like Red Dawn, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Rocky IV helped ingrain the image of the insane or unstoppable Soviet villain in the American mindset. But America wasn’t alone in demonizing their foes in action movies — Mikhail Tumanishvili’s The Detached Mission is one of the best examples of anti-American Soviet filmmaking. The movie follows a group of Soviet marines who have to stop an American officer from launching nuclear missiles. Much like their Hollywood counterparts, the Soviet heroes are able to mow down seemingly countless numbers of American soldiers without suffering so much as a scratch. The film was even marketed abroad as the Soviet version of the aforementioned Rambo.
5. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
It was tempting to include Kazuki Omori’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah on this list because of its infamous scene of a nascent Godzilla murdering an entire squadron of American soldiers on a Pacific island during World War Two. But the American soldiers weren’t depicted as vicious or villainous; they were just soldiers that happened to be on the opposite side of the Japanese during a terrible conflict. Instead we must look to Omori’s earlier Godzilla film, Godzilla vs. Biollante, to find truly villainous American characters. In it, a sinister American corporation known as Bio-Major literally holds the nation of Japan hostage. Their demands? That the government give them a group of surviving Godzilla cells. Their threat? If they don’t get the cells, they will detonate powerful bombs that will reawaken the dormant Godzilla so he can ravage Japan. And when the exchange for the cells goes sour, Bio-Major lives up to their threat. Godzilla’s subsequent destruction of Osaka is a total mea culpa for America. But despite this the film has still been embraced by many Western audiences as one of the best modern Godzilla films, even scoring a respectable 72% on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. Brother 2 (2000)
The sequel to Aleksei Balabanov’s crime thriller about a demobilized Russian soldier named Danila Bagrov who becomes a gangster sees Danila travel to Chicago to seek revenge on a group of Americans who are exploiting the twin brother of one of his friends. Through the film, Balabanov sought to define the concept of post-USSR Russian identity in contradistinction to that of America and its unethical values. As such, America is portrayed as being ruthlessly corrupt and horrifically racist. African-Americans in particular are singled out as being unscrupulous, even being described as “primitive” by one of the Russian characters. The film was a huge hit in Russia, cementing the status of Danila as a “mythical” champion of the “humiliated and insulted.”
3. The Host (2006)
Although technically the main villain in Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is a giant river monster, Americans are clearly depicted as being responsible for its creation and subsequent rampage. The monster is created after an American military official stationed in South Korea orders the disposal of over 200 bottles of formaldehyde by pouring them down a drain feeding into the Han River. Even worse, later in the film the American military fights the monster by using a deadly chemical known as “Agent Yellow.” According to the director, the formaldehyde incident was based on actual events and the inclusion of “Agent Yellow” was a direct satire against the United States. But despite Bong’s insistence that the film wasn’t intended to be maliciously anti-American, many audiences in Korea have viewed it as such. Even North Korea went on record to praise its “realistic” portrayal of American abuses. And yet the film was so financially successful in America that Universal Studios has announced that they will be doing a remake, although the project appears to be currently trapped in production hell.
2. Valley of the Wolves: Iraq (2006)
One of the most infamous anti-American films ever made, Valley of the Wolves: Iraq gained great notoriety when it was first released for its graphic recreation of the 2003 Hood event, where a number of Turkish military personnel were captured, humiliated, and interrogated by the United States military, and its depiction of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. The film is unapologetic in its portrayal of American forces in Iraq and Turkey as racist, sociopathic murderers. The film gathered even more controversy for its inclusion of two prominent American actors as villains: Billy Zane as Sam William Marshall, a murderous American colonel whose fundamentalist Christian beliefs lead him to believe that killing “terrorists” is a mission assigned to him by God, and Gary Busey as a Jewish doctor who harvests organs from helpless civilians to be sold to wealthy customers from New York, London and Tel-Aviv. Perhaps more than any other film on this list, Valley of the Wolves was the subject of considerable outrage and fury in America.
1. Who Killed the White Llama? (2007)
Rodrigo Bellott’s Who Killed the White Llama? was a smash hit upon its first release in its native Bolivia, quickly becoming the most pirated DVD in the entire country. The film utilizes a frenetic shooting and editing style that makes this tale about two of the most notorious criminals in Bolivia seem like Natural Born Killers. The starring couple is hired to transport 50 kilos of cocaine to the Brazilian border in just seven days by smuggling it under the woman’s faux-pregnant belly. Their client is the sinisterly named El Negro, a stereotypical American with an even more stereotypical Southern accent. Though the film is mainly focused on revealing Bolivia’s culture of political and economic corruption, the addition of an American criminal mastermind is a cultural statement that cannot be ignored.