An Unreasonable Man



Compelling Nader docu isn't just for lefties.
  • Review Date: July 11, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 122 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The message here is the virtue of being a "professional citizen." There's lots of discussion of the obligations of being an American citizen, but people also question Nader's sincerity, loyalty, and ego.


Brief images of people bleeding and injured from car accidents.


Mention of putting a hand on a woman's "fanny," but no real discussion of sex or sexual situations.


Several people swear, including "bulls--t," "son of a bitch" and "f--k."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some discussion of drinking, but no one does it on-screen.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary comes from a clearly leftist perspective in its discussion of citizenship, activism, and electoral politics. This is not an unbiased portrait of Nader or politics and people who disagree with Nader's politics may become angry watching this film. There are fleeting images of injured people being carted off in an ambulance after a car accident. There's also a lot of discussion of corporate corruption and of our government and our economy being corrupt, which may be too complex a topic for some teens. Other teens may take it as gospel, and have a hard time thinking critically about the documentary. So families interested in the subject matter will want to watch and discuss this movie together.

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What's the story?

RALPH NADER: AN UNREASONABLE MAN is about more than a young first-generation American who reveres the American system so much that he does battle with some of its largest companies and federal agencies. It does trace Nader's youth in New England to Harvard Law School and then to a small boarding house in Washington, D.C., where he lived as he investigated safety in American cars. And Nader is shown at the peak of his popularity winning a suit against GM, the birth of Nader's Raiders, and finally to his ill-fated but boisterous run for the presidency in 2000. But mostly, this documentary is about what it means to be an American citizen and asks viewers to question whether their elected officials really represent them.

Is it any good?


To do a compelling profile of a public figure, that person must be dynamic, charismatic, and flawed. Viewers will find all three in Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man, a somewhat loving portrait of a man who started as a national champion and exists now as something between a pariah, a national joke, and a saint. In numerous scenes, it's clear what Nader's appeal is: He's like the best teachers who encourage their students to believe in themselves and hope for more than they thought capable of achieving. In this instance, the achievement Nader has in mind is a truly representative government, one that puts human needs above business needs. It's clear from seeing the footage of Madison Square Garden and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder singing "The Times are A-Changing," that they aren't really. For Nader, it's always the 1960s, and the world is always on the edge of becoming the one he's always imagined.

If Nader's enthusiasm is infectious, then his coldness and his sanctimoniousness is its opposite. The more Nader and his allies insist that he's the biggest threat to big business -- true or not -- the more he seems like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. His paranoia -- again, justified or not -- is unattractive, and his lack of loyalty to anything but his own convictions is a little repugnant. But mostly, this is a film that deifies Nader. It's telling that Nader did the press on this documentary when it was first released. One imagines that Nader tolerated the insults against him by some lefties because his ideas and his platform are the most important things to him. Even his own ego falls to his self-righteousness.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what their definition of a citizen is. Do you agree with Nader's father that the obligation of a school is not just to teach children to learn but also to think critically? This film is also a great opportunity to have a real discussion about electoral politics and third parties. Where do you stand on Nader's belief that the Republicans and Democrats are both corporate shills?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 11, 2005
DVD release date:June 12, 2007
Cast:Howard Zinn, Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader
Director:Henriette Mantel
Studio:IFC Entertainment
Run time:122 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byComrade Barnabas April 9, 2008

Quality biography, family friendly, but too "smart" for young kids

This is an excellent look at Ralph Nader, a consumer activist and presidential candidate. The message of the film will reverberate with most Americans except for the hardcore advocates of unregulated capitalism: Reaganites and the Ayn Rand fans. Even they could learn something from what Nader has to say. Young kids probably will be bored with the subject matter here, so don't expect them to put down the video game and watch this instead. Other than a few swear words (used in a relatively benign context) there is nothing objectionable about the material - no sex, no drugs/alcohol, no violence. If your teens are interested in politics, sociology and/or economics, this film is a definite candidate for their consumption. The movie is not entirely one-sided, as it does show the viewpoint of Democrats who were concerned that Nader's presidential campaign helped throw the 2000 election to George W. Bush. But conservatives, moderates, liberals and socialists alike should be able to relate to Nader's message about corporate power versus the idea of an America "of, by, and for the people."
Teen, 13 years old Written bygbboone January 21, 2010


I think it it is great appropriate film. But if you kid can't understand political bias, don't let them watch it.


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