After dropping out of the University of Michigan-Flint following his freshman year (where he wrote for the student newspaper The Michigan Times
) got a job at the Buick plant. At 22 he founded the alternative weekly magazine The Flint Voice
, which soon changed its name to The Michigan Voice
as it expanded to cover the entire state. In 1986, when Moore became the editor of Mother Jones
, a liberal political magazine, he moved to California and The Michigan Voice
was shut down.
After four months at Mother Jones
, Moore was fired. Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard
reported this was for refusing to print an article by Paul Berman that was critical of the Sandinista human rights record in Nicaragua. Moore refused to run the article, believing it to be inaccurate. "The article was flatly wrong and the worst kind of patronizing bullshit. You would scarcely know from it that the United States had been at war with Nicaragua for the last five years." Berman described Moore as a "very ideological guy and not a very well-educated guy" when asked about the incident. Moore believes that Mother Jones
fired him because of the publisher's refusal to allow him to cover a story on the GM plant closings in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He responded by putting laid-off GM worker Ben Hamper (who was also writing for the same magazine at the time) on the magazine's cover, leading to his termination. Moore sued for wrongful dismissal, and settled out of court for $58,000, providing him with seed money for his first film, Roger & Me.
- Roger & Me: Moore first became famous for his 1989 film, Roger & Me, a documentary about what happened to Flint, Michigan after General Motors closed its factories and opened new ones in Mexico, where the workers were paid much less. Since then Moore has been known as a critic of the neoliberal view of globalization. "Roger" is Roger B. Smith, former CEO and president of General Motors.
- The Return to Flint: is a short (23-minute) documentary film that was aired on PBS. It is based on the feature-length film Roger & Me (1989) by Michael Moore. The film's title refers to Rhonda Britton, a Flint, Michigan, resident featured in both the 1989 and 1992 films who sells rabbits as either pets or meat.
- Canadian Bacon: In 1995, Moore released a satirical film, Canadian Bacon, which features a fictional US president (played by Alan Alda) engineering a fake war with Canada in order to boost his popularity. It is noted for containing a number of Canadian and American stereotypes, and for being Moore's only non-documentary film. The film is also one of the last featuring Canadian-born actor John Candy, and also features a number of cameos by other Canadian actors. In the film, several potential enemies for America's next great campaign are discussed by the president and his cabinet. (The scene was strongly influenced by the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove.) The President comments that declaring war on Canada was as ridiculous as declaring war on international terrorism. His military adviser, played by Rip Torn, quickly rebuffs this idea, saying that no one would care about "... a bunch of guys driving around blowing up rent-a-cars."
- The Big One: In 1997, Moore directed The Big One, which documents the tour publicizing his book Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American, in which he criticizes mass layoffs despite record corporate profits. Among others, he targets Nike for outsourcing shoe production to Indonesia.
- Bowling for Columbine: Moore's 2002 film, Bowling for Columbine, probes the culture of guns and violence in the United States, taking as a starting point the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. Bowling for Columbine won the Anniversary Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and France's Cesar Award as the Best Foreign Film. In the United States, it won the 2002 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It also enjoyed great commercial and critical success for a film of its type and became, at the time, the highest-grossing mainstream-released documentary (a record now held by Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11). It was praised by some for illuminating a subject slighted by the mainstream media, but it was attacked by others who considered it inaccurate and misleading in some of its presentations and suggested interpretations of events.
- Fahrenheit 9/11: Fahrenheit 9/11 examines America in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, particularly the record of the Bush administration and alleged links between the families of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Fahrenheit was awarded the Palme d'Or, the top honor at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival; it was the first documentary film to win the prize since 1956. Moore later announced that Fahrenheit 9/11 would not be in consideration for the 2005 Academy Award for Documentary Feature, but instead for the Academy Award for Best Picture. He stated he wanted the movie to be seen by a few million more people, preferably on television, by election day. Since November 2 was less than nine months after the film's release, it would be disqualified for the Documentary Oscar. Moore also said he wanted to be supportive of his "teammates in non-fiction film." However, Fahrenheit received no Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The title of the film alludes to the classic book Fahrenheit 451 about a future totalitarian state in which books are banned; according to the book, paper begins to burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The pre-release subtitle of the film confirms the allusion: "The temperature at which freedom burns." At the box office, Fahrenheit 9/11 is the second highest-grossing documentary of all time, taking in over US$200 million worldwide, including United States box office revenue of almost US$120 million.
- Sicko: Moore directed this film about the American health care system, focusing particularly on the managed-care and pharmaceutical industries. At least four major pharmaceutical companies...Pfizer, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline...ordered their employees not to grant any interviews to Moore. According to Moore on a letter at his website, "roads that often surprise us and lead us to new ideas — and challenge us to reconsider the ones we began with have caused some minor delays." The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 19 May 2007, receiving a lengthy standing ovation, and was released in the U.S. and Canada on 29 June 2007. The film was the subject of some controversy when it became known that Moore went to Cuba with chronically ill September 11th rescue workers to shoot parts of the film. The United States is looking into whether this violates the trade embargo. The film is currently ranked the third highest grossing documentary of all time and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
- Captain Mike Across America: Moore takes a look at the politics of college students in what he calls "Bush Administration America" with this film shot during Moore's 60-city college campus tour in the months leading up to the 2004 election. Captain Mike Across America (2007). The film was later re-edited by Moore into Slacker Uprising.
- A Love Story: On September 23, 2009, Moore released a new movie titled A Love Story, which looks at the financial crisis of 2007—2010 and the U.S. economy during the transition between the incoming Obama Administration and the outgoing Bush Administration. Addressing a press conference at its release, Moore said, "Democracy is not a spectator sport, it's a participatory event. If we don't participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy. So Obama will rise or fall based not so much on what he does but on what we do to support him."
Moore has dabbled in acting, following a 2000 supporting role in Lucky Numbers
as the cousin of Lisa Kudrow's character, who agrees to be part of the scheme concocted by John Travolta's character. He also had a cameo in his Canadian Bacon
as an anti-Canada activist. In 2004, he did a cameo, as a news journalist, in The Fever
, starring Vanessa Redgrave in the lead.
Between 1994 and 1995, he directed and hosted the BBC television series TV Nation
, which followed the format of news magazine shows but covered topics they avoid. The series aired on BBC2 in the UK. The series was also aired in the US on NBC in 1994 for 9 episodes and again for 8 episodes on Fox in 1995.
His other major series was The Awful Truth
, which satirized actions by big corporations and politicians. It aired on Channel 4 in the UK, and the Bravo network in the US, in 1999 and 2000.
Another 1999 series, Michael Moore Live
, was aired in the UK only on Channel 4, though it was broadcast from New York. This show had a similar format to The Awful Truth
, but also incorporated phone-ins and a live stunt each week.
In 1999 Moore won the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Arts and Entertainment, for being the executive producer and host of The Awful Truth
, where he was also described as "muckraker, author and documentary filmmaker".
Moore has directed several music videos, including two for Rage Against the Machine for songs from The Battle of Los Angeles
: "Sleep Now in the Fire" and "Testify". He was threatened with arrest during the shooting of "Sleep Now in the Fire", which was filmed on Wall Street; the city of New York had denied the band permission to play there, although the band and Moore had secured a federal permit to perform.
He also directed the video for R.E.M. single "All the Way to Reno " in 2001.He also directed the video for the System of a Down song, "Boom!".
Appearances in other documentaries
- Moore appeared in The Drugging of Our Children, a 2005 documentary about over-prescription of psychiatric medication to children and teenagers, directed by Gary Null a proponent of Alternative Medicine. In the film Moore agrees with Gary Null that Ritalin and other similar drugs are over-prescribed, saying that they are seen as a "pacifier".
- Moore appeared on fellow Flint natives Grand Funk Railroad's edition of Behind The Music.
- Moore appeared as an off-camera interviewer in Blood in the Face, a 1991 documentary about white supremacy groups. The film centers around a neo-Nazi gathering in Michigan.
- Moore appeared in The Yes Men, a 2003 documentary about two men who pose as the World Trade Organization. He appears during a segment concerning working conditions in Mexico and Latin America.
- Moore was interviewed for the 2004 documentary, The Corporation. One of his highlighted quotes was: "The problem is the profit motive: for corporations, there's no such thing as 'enough'".
- Moore appeared briefly in Alex Jones's 2005 film Martial Law 9/11: Rise of the Police State. Jones criticises Moore for not going into depth about 9/11 in his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 and portraying Bush as an unassuming front man as opposed to an active conspirator in 9/11.
- Moore featured prominently in the 2005 documentary This Divided State, which followed the heated level of controversy surrounding his visit to a conservative city in the United States two weeks before the 2004 election.
- Moore appeared in the 2006 documentary I'm Going to Tell You a Secret, which chronicles Madonna during her 2004 Re-Invention World Tour. Moore attended her show in New York City at Madison Square Garden.
- Moore featured in the 2008 documentary "Shooting Michael Moore," which follows up on the lives of subjects featured in Moore's films.
Moore has authored three best-selling books:
- Downsize This! (1996), about politics and corporate crime in the United States,
- Stupid White Men (2001), ostensibly a critique of American domestic and foreign policy but, by Moore's own admission, "a book of political humor," and
- Dude, Where's My Country? (2003), an examination of the Bush family's relationships with Saudi royalty, the Bin Laden family, and the energy industry, and a call-to-action for liberals in the 2004 election.