Michael Moore has never met a challenge he couldn’t take on, a controversy he couldn’t insert himself into or a cause he couldn’t bring to light by doing something downright provocative. But for all of the filmmaker’s headline-making actions, it’s impossible to deny his hardworking spirit to hold America accountable for its own actions, errors and ideals.
For the first time in nearly seven years, the outspoken director is heading back to the big screen this Friday, February 12, with his most enjoyable and unbiased effort yet, “Where to Invade Next.” To celebrate, Indiewire has rounded up a collection of Moore’s six most outrageous moment in television and film.
1. Asking congresspeople to enlist their children in the military
Michael Moore’s critical examination of George W. Bush and the War on Terror won the Palme d’Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and ignited a firestorm of controversy over its accuracy, yet no one could possibly deny the hypocrisy on display in one of the film’s most pointed moments. As the filmmaker informs the audience that only one of the 535 members of Congress has a son fighting in the Iraq War, he storms Capitol Hill to see how many other members of Congress he can convince to enlist their children. These people may have sent our country into war, but the prospect of signing their children up paints a very different story. Armed with brochures and a clipboard ready for signatures, Moore bombardes congresspeople on the street and their reactions range from hilarious to aggravating, ridiculous and flat out despicable. Moore may not got a single signature, but he proves a point about our government tenfold.
2. Staging a Health Care Olympics between America, Canada and Cuba
One of the most brilliant bits of Moore’s entire career, this mock competition from the director’s short-lived “TV Nation” introduces and reports on the first-ever Health Care Olympics, in which America, Canada and Cuba compete against one another in various ailment categories to see which country has the best health care system. Exploring three different systems (free enterprise, government paid and socialist) with his trademark satirical edge, Moore essentially roasts America’s private insurance-driven system and shatters its image as the world’s leading health care system, especially next to Canada’s universal coverage. What’s so brilliant about this takedown is how Moore recruited anchors Bob Costas and Ahmad Rashad to present and report the story as if it were actually part of NBC’s Olympics coverage. Even better: Cuba was the original victor of the face-off, though NBC censored the outcome and forced the episode’s release in the U.S. to feature Canada as the winner.
3. Bringing the Sodomobile to all 20 states that persecute gay people
Moore has always been a staunch advocate for LGBT rights, and no moment involving this subject matter ranks as outrageous and commendable than the driving of the Sodomobile on his second short-lived television show, “The Awful Truth.” Aired almost a year after the murder of Matthew Shepard, in which 20 states still enforced sodomy laws, the Sodomobile found Moore joining 12 of the “most determined, tactically trained and sensibly dressed gay and lesbians he could find” on a tour of each of the 20 states in the eponymous bright pink RV. The highlight of the adventure is unquestionably the Sodomobile’s confrontation of notorious Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, and the results are as hilarious as they are rousing. Rolling into cities to challenge the government, the Sodomobile is peak Moore: Provocative and outlandish, sure, but also impassioned to make a difference and right some of the longstanding wrongs of America.
4. Getting a free gun for opening a bank account
Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” starts as an investigation into the main causes for the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, and, as a result, naturally gets to the root of gun laws and gun-related deaths that continue to be a hot-button issue today. The most jaw-dropping moment of the entire film comes at the very beginning when the film crew follows Moore as he goes to a Michigan bank in order to get a free gun just by making a deposit. After filling out the forms and making the deposit, the bank performs a quick background check before the viewer meets Moore as he leaves the bank carrying a brand new Weatherby hunting rifle. By showing just how simple it is to get a firearm, for free no less, Moore proves his point with shocking power. We’re still reeling from the moment 14 years later.
5. Promising to endorse the first candidate who jumps into a mosh pit
Another hilarious gem from Moore’s time as the host and creator of “The Awful Truth,” this segment found Moore arriving at the campaign site for each candidate in the 2000 presidential election — Al Gore, George W. Bush, Alan Keyes, John McCain, Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes and Orrin Hatch — and promising organizers that he would give his whole-hearteded endorsement on one condition: the candidate in question needs to jump into a portable mosh pit on the back of a truck. The energy of the members in the mosh put is truly out-of-this-world crazy, while the reactions of the organizers Moore is trying to convince are insanely priceless. The mosh pit endorsement is certainly one of the more juvenile of Moore’s many tricks, though it doesn’t seem to be too far off from the current circus that is today’s presidential race.
6. Crashing the General Motors Shareholders Convention
Moore’s 1989 debut explores the economic impact of General Motors CEO Roger Smith’s action of closing auto plants in the director’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. While the filmmaker’s personal connection to the story gives it an incendiary edge, Moore is wise enough to fill out the doc with enough of the town’s financial victims to make the experience a true call-to-arms. In some of the ballsiest moves of his career, “Roger & Me” finds the director going undercover to give the viewer a more in-depth view of the situation from all of its angles.
Early on, Moore takes on the disguise of a TV reporter in order to interview auto workers and get their honest opinions about Smith (they all despise him). Even more eye-catching is when he goes to the annual General Motors Shareholders Convention disguised as an actual shareholder. When Moore takes to the podium to air his grievances on the spot, Smith immediately shuts him out and has the convention delayed, only later to be heard joking about the hiccup. Moore alienates many by putting himself at the center of his documented controversies, but moments like these reveal the vitality of his missions in all their outrageous glory.