Upcoming Release Explores Military Propaganda in Hollywood Films

“Like a bloodhound on the trail, ‘Theaters of War’ tracks toward one riveting revelation after another, managing to shock even as it confirms what we imagined we knew about the role and reach of military propaganda.”

— Jonna Eagle | Associate Professor, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa | Author of War Games

If you’ve seen Top Gun or Transformers, you may have wondered: Does all of that military machinery on screen come with strings attached? Does the military actually get a crack at the script? With the release of a vast new trove of internal government documents, the answers have come into sharp focus: The U.S. military has exercised editorial control over thousands of films and television programs.

In our highly anticipated new release Theaters of War, media scholar and filmmaker Roger Stahl blows the lid off this story of government deception in mind-blowing fashion. You can sign up for updates about the film’s release here.

Propelled into a field trip across America, Stahl engages an array of other researchers, bewildered veterans, PR insiders, and industry producers willing to talk. In unsettling and riveting detail, he discovers how the military and CIA have pushed official narratives while systematically scrubbing scripts of war crimes, corruption, racism, sexual assault, coups, assassinations, and torture. From The Longest Day to Lone Survivor, Iron Man to Iron Chef, and James Bond to Jack Ryan, the deliberate creation of this other “cinematic universe” is one of the great PR coups of our time. As these activities gain new public scrutiny, new questions arise: How have they managed to fly under the radar for so long? And where do we go from here?

As you can see below, Theaters of War has been earning advanced praise from educators as a powerful classroom tool for decoding media propaganda.


“Like all of Stahl’s work, Theaters of War provides a devastating account of the deep entanglements of American entertainment media with the projects and perspectives of the U.S. military. That a long-time investigator like Stahl is himself stunned by the depth, reach, and intimacy of this relationship is testament to the profound significance of the material uncovered here. Like a bloodhound on the trail, the film tracks toward one riveting revelation after another, managing to shock even as it confirms what we imagined we knew about the role and reach of military propaganda. An essential contribution to understanding how the military shapes the popular image and story of war, Theaters of War should be required viewing for media scholars, concerned citizens, and casual media consumers alike.”

— Jonna Eagle | Associate Professor, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa | Author of War Games


“This powerful documentary hits us with overwhelming evidence that every film made with DOD or CIA cooperation is a picture made with major input from that agency, including pervasive censorship and rewriting. It forced me to wonder: How many hours of my lifetime have I spent staring at movie screens and TV screens unknowingly absorbing DOD and CIA propaganda? Is this part of a military-industrial-entertainment complex? Theaters of War is a terrific teaching experience. It should also inspire a host of follow-up articles and a dissertation or two.”

— H. Bruce Franklin | American cultural historian and author of Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War


“The Pentagon’s influence on Hollywood goes far beyond obvious propaganda films like Top Gun, all the way to seemingly innocuous movies from Godzilla to Transformers. This is the story of how the Defense Department courted the motion picture industry to create a cinematic universe in service to the military industrial complex. A tight, compelling, and straightforward documentary that is sure to grab audiences from the living room to the college classroom.”

— Douglas Rushkoff | Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens


Theaters of War clearly and compellingly unmasks the multiple and wide-ranging ways in which the CIA and U.S. military have brought considerable influence to bear on a huge number of cinematic productions and narrations. Drawing on a raft of newly available internal documents and insights from an impressive line-up of industry insiders and academic experts, it critically illuminates the military-entertainment complex as never before. It’s a must see and the crucial questions it raises on where we go from here merit much further debate and discussion.”

— Marcus Powers | Professor of Geography at Durham University


“Given Hollywood’s crucial role in influencing millions of people’s views of war, militarism, and U.S. foreign policy, it is troubling how little we know about the film industry’s relationship with the Pentagon and American intelligence. Theaters of War provides a much-needed investigation, showing how the military and the CIA dangle access to the stuff viewers expect to see — expensive hardware, realistic bases, and skilled personnel — to ensure consistency with the ideological needs of the state. This is essential viewing for anyone who consumes Hollywood’s thousands of entertainment products — that is, for all of us.”

— Dr. Scott Laderman | Professor of History at the University of Minnesota Duluth


“An impressively documented examination of the U.S. security state’s role in promoting militarism via popular media. Think propaganda’s the wrong word? Think again!”

—Stacy Takacs | Professor of English & American Studies at Oklahoma State University


“For years, Roger Stahl has been the leading scholarly voice about the reach and influence of military entertainment. In this riveting documentary, Stahl takes the audience on an adventure to uncover how the Pentagon shapes films and TV shows in both obvious and in hidden ways. Theaters of War is a must-see film.”

— Matthew Payne | Co-author of Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games


Theaters of War exposes the entertainment landscape of Hollywood as the monopolistic propaganda arm for what is, by far, the world’s single most militaristic purveyor of cruel and wanton destruction, and the most dangerous institution on the planet.”

— Dr. Oliver Boyd-Barret | Professor Emeritus of Media & Communication at Bowling Green State University