The Unofficial Reading List of the Highly Educated Characters in 'Captain Fantastic'

For those who want to be fellow philosopher kings like the children in "Captain Fantastic," here's a list of all of the books, articles, and music they studied in the movie.

Director Matt Ross' dramedy Captain Fantastic is an interesting tale about a recently widowed father raising his children in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in hopes of creating a paradise rich of physical strength and mental fortitude. To put it more plainly, Ben Cash, played by Viggo Mortensen, has his six excellently named kids scale mountains and read Dostoevsky and loads and loads of Chomsky.

If you've ever seen the film and left thinking that family had a reading list that was absolutely to die for, you're in luck. L.A. based filmmaker H. Nelson Tracey of Hint of Film has put together a video essay that lists the many books, essays, articles, subjects, and music mentioned in the film. Enjoy!

The message Captain Fantastic tries to communicate about intellectualism and philosophy is quite complex. On one hand, the Cash family seems ahead of the intellectual curve in many ways compared to typical U.S. families. However, as the story begins to unfold, and as they're exposed to live beyond the wilderness, we see that they are equally crippled in social settings. The children, though brilliant and compassionate human beings, are sheltered from life outside of their cozy wooded nook, perhaps even unprepared for an adulthood that they may choose to experience beyond it.

Obviously this reading list isn't going to be up every intellectual's alley (some of the messages conveyed in the film deviate greatly from my own personal philosophy), but if you're curious, Tracey has made a convenient list of all of the materials mentioned in the film.

  • Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy (1975) by Elton John
  • The Brothers Karamazov (2002) by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1999) by Jared Diamond
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004) by Brian Greene, Chapter 12: "The World on a String"
  • Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life (1872) by George Eliot
  • No Fractura Hidráulica: “No Fractura Hidráulica” T-Shirt
  • Marxism in Our Time (1973) by Isaac Deutscher 
  • Trotskyism and Maoism : Theory and Practice in France and the United States (1989) by A. Belden Fields
  • Stalinism: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium (2005) by Alter Litvin and John Keep
  • Maoism in Action (1974) by C. L. Chiou
  • Three "Whys" of the Russian Revolution (1997) by Richard Pipes
  • Scientific American: "The Neuroscience of Habits" (June 2014)
  • Scientific American: "A Crisis in Physics?" (May 2014)
  • National Geographic: "Wild Pets: The Debate of Owning Exotic Animals" (April 2014)
  • Grammar: “Unique and Other Modifiers”
  • Facism vs. Capitalism by Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. (2013)
  • Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare (2005) by Philip Short
  • Coolidge (2012) by Amity Shales
  • Lolita (1955) by Vladmir V. Nabokov 
  • Titanic Soundtrack, “My Heart Will Go On” (1997) by James Horner & Celine Dion 
  • The Hammer and the Cross (1980) by Michael Scott Rohan
  • The Chomsky Reader (1987) by Noam Chomsky
  • The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower (2007) by Robert F. Barsky
  • Because We Say So (2015) by Noam Chomsky
  • Who Rules the World (2016) by Noam Chomsky
  • Noam Chomsky: Class Warfare, Interviews with David Barsamian (1996)
  • Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (2002)
  • The Joy of Sex (1972) by Alex Comfort
  • Nike, Goddess of Victory
  • The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus (1994) by Aliki
  • Killer Instinct - Xbox One (2013)
  • Maus (1980) by Art Spiegelman
  • The United States Constitution (Book shown by Kristal Leebrick)
  • The US Bill of Rights (1789)
  • Citizens United and the FEC
  • ACLU: Poster
  • Samadhi: Personal Journeys to Spiritual Truth (2000) by Derek Biermann
  • Bach - Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould
  • Yo-Yo Ma Cello Suites inspired by Bach
  • Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969)
  • The Pocket Book of Baby & Child Care (1947) by Dr. Benjamin Spock
  • The Indian Runner (1991) dir. Sean Penn starring Viggo Mortensen
  • Buddhism: World Religions
  • The Holy Bible, Matthew 18:15-20
  • Republic by Plato (380 BCE) - translated by Robin Waterfield (1993)
  • A cover of Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from Appetite for Destruction (1987)
  • ACLU (2nd time seen in film) Click to Donate:
  • Jesse Jackson for President, 1988: T-shirt
  • The Nez Percés Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (1965) by Alvin M. Josephy​

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Your Comment


Highly educated? No. Smart? No.
Books that highly UN-educated set-dressers and writers think seem smart? Yes.
Nobody who has an education in philosophy, economics, or history would pick 96% of these books. These are garbage.
Try "A History of Philosophy" by Copleston, or "Economics in One Lesson" or a logic textbook. I guarantee you this list is nearly a total waste of your time. If you actually want to be smart.

June 1, 2017 at 7:24AM, Edited June 1, 7:24AM


Yes, it's a well known fact Fyodor Dostoevsky is a terrible writer and all his works are garbage. #iamverysmart

June 1, 2017 at 7:29AM, Edited June 1, 7:30AM


And anyone who studies philosophy must certainly have never read Plato's Republic. I mean, what importance did he have to philosophy, really? #iamverysmart

June 1, 2017 at 7:34AM


Robert Creeley's poem, "A Form of Women," appears in the penultimate scene.

Robert Creeley

A Form of Women

I have come far enough
from where I was not before
to have seen the things
looking in at me from through the open door

and have walked tonight
by myself
to see the moonlight
and see it as trees

and shapes more fearful
because I feared
what I did not know
but have wanted to know.

My face is my own, I thought.
But you have seen it
turn into a thousand years.
I watched you cry.

I could not touch you.
I wanted very much to
touch you
but could not.

If it is dark
when this is given to you,
have care for its content
when the moon shines.

My face is my own.
My hands are my own.
My mouth is my own
but I am not.

Moon, moon,
when you leave me alone
all the darkness is
an utter blackness,

a pit of fear,
a stench,
hands unreasonable
never to touch.

But I love you.
Do you love me.
What to say
when you see me.

December 2, 2019 at 2:16PM