Zeitgeist: The Movie

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Not to be confused with Zeitgeist Films or Zeitgeist (film company).
Zeitgeist: The Movie
Directed by Peter Joseph
Produced by Peter Joseph
Written by Peter Joseph
Music by Peter Joseph
Edited by Peter Joseph
Distributed by GMP LLC
Release dates
  • June 18, 2007 (2007-06-18)
Running time 122 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Zeitgeist: The Movie is a 2007 documentary-style film by Peter Joseph, which presents a number of conspiracy theory-based ideas. The film disputes the historicity of Jesus Christ (the Christ myth theory), argues that the 9/11 attacks in 2001 were pre-arranged by New World Order forces,[1] and claims that bankers manipulate world events.[2] In Zeitgeist, it is claimed that the Federal Reserve was behind several wars and manipulates the American public and that there was a secret conspiracy for a One World Government or “New World Order,” common themes in the Patriot Movement.[3][2][1]

Zeitgeist makes a case that 'everything has always been a part of a master plan to create a New World Order, and the film's emotional climax involves a documentary filmmaker befriending a loose-lipped Rockefeller family member who blurts out the events of 9/11, nearly one year before they happened!' or so the film claims.[1]

Released online on June 18, 2007 at zeitgeistmovie.com, it became popular among conspiracy theorists.[4][1][2] Some critics have questioned the accuracy of its claims and the quality of its arguments, describing it as "agitprop" and "propaganda."[5][1][6] The film assembles archival footage, animations and narration into 'a kind of primer on conspiracies'.[2]

Production history[edit]

Zeitgeist: The Movie originated as a performance art show, according to Peter Joseph's Zeitgeist website. "The original Zeitgeist was not a film, but a performance piece, consisting of a vaudevillian, multimedia style event using recorded music, live instruments, and video."[7]


Horus left and Jesus right, both presented in the film as "solar messiahs."

The film opens with animated abstract visualizations, film and stock footage, a cartoon and audio quotes about spirituality by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, followed by clips of war, explosions, and the September 11 attacks. This is followed by the film's title screen. The film's introduction ends with a portion of the late comedian George Carlin's monologue on religion accompanied by an animated cartoon. The rest of the film, divided into three parts, is narrated by Peter Joseph.[1]

Part I: The Greatest Story Ever Told[edit]

Part I questions religions as being god-given stories, stating that the Christian religion specifically is mainly derived from other religions, astronomical assertions, astrological myths and traditions, which in turn were derived from or shared elements with other traditions. In furtherance of the Jesus myth hypothesis this part states that the historical Jesus is a literary and astrological hybrid, nurtured politically.[1]

Part II: All the World's a Stage[edit]

The 9/11 attacks are the subject of Part II of the film.

Part II uses integral footage of several 9/11 conspiracy theory films and states that the September 11 attacks were either orchestrated or allowed to happen by elements within the United States government in order to generate mass fear, initiate and justify the War on Terror, provide a pretext for the curtailment of civil liberties, and produce economic gain. These ideas include assertions that the U.S. government had advance knowledge of the attacks, that the military deliberately allowed the planes to reach their targets, and that World Trade Center buildings 1, 2, and 7 underwent a controlled demolition.[1]

Part III: Don't Mind the Men Behind the Curtain[edit]

Part III states that the Federal Reserve System is controlled by a small cabal of international bankers who conspire to create global calamities to enrich themselves.[2] Three wars involving the United States during the twentieth century are highlighted as part of this alleged agenda. Events said to have been engineered as excuses to enter into these wars include the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. The film asserts that such wars serve to sustain conflict in general and force the U.S. government to borrow money, thereby increasing the profits of the international bankers. The film then goes on to state that the Federal Income Tax is illegal.[1]

The film states that the United States Government's income tax is unconstitutional.

This section also says the existence of a secret agreement to merge the United States, Canada and Mexico into a North American Union. The creation of this North American Union is then alleged to be a step towards the creation of a single world government. The film speculates that under such a government every human could be implanted with an RFID chip to monitor individuals and suppress dissent.

The third part of Zeitgeist, according to Paul Constant from The Stranger, is about "how everything has always been a part of a master plan to create a New World Order, and the film’s emotional climax involves a documentary filmmaker befriending a loose-lipped Rockefeller family member who blurts out the events of 9/11 ... nearly one year before they happened!"[1]


Film award[edit]

The film was screened on November 10, 2007, at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood as part of the 4th Annual Artivist Film Festival, where it won the 'best feature' award in the Artivist Spirit category for feature-length documentaries.[8]

Critical response[edit]

Conspiracy theory and propaganda[edit]

The newspaper The Arizona Republic described Zeitgeist: The Movie as "a bramble of conspiracy theories involving Sept. 11, the international monetary system, and Christianity" saying also that the movie trailer states that 'there are people guiding your life and you don't even know it'."[9]

A review in The Irish Times entitled "Zeitgeist: the Nonsense" wrote that "these are surreal perversions of genuine issues and debates, and they tarnish all criticism of faith, the Bush administration, and globalization—there are more than enough factual injustices in this world to be going around without having to invent fictional ones."[5]

Other reviews have characterized the film as "conspiracy crap,"[10] "based solely on anecdotal evidence," and "fiction couched in a few facts,"[1] or they have made disparaging reference to its part in the 9/11 truth movement.[4]

Some journalists have focused on it as an example of how conspiracy theories are promulgated in the Internet age. For example, Ivor Tossell in the Globe and Mail argued that contradictions in the film are overwhelmed by passion and effective use of video editing:

The film is an interesting object lesson on how conspiracy theories get to be so popular.... It's a driven, if uneven, piece of propaganda, a marvel of tight editing and fuzzy thinking. Its on-camera sources are mostly conspiracy theorists, co-mingled with selective eyewitness accounts, drawn from archival footage and often taken out of context. It derides the media as a pawn of the International Bankers, but produces media reports for credibility when convenient. The film ignores expert opinion, except the handful of experts who agree with it. And yet, it's compelling. It shamelessly ploughs forward, connecting dots with an earnest certainty that makes you want to give it an A for effort.[2]

Filipe Feio, reflecting upon the film's Internet popularity in Diário de Notícias, stated that "Fiction or not, Zeitgeist: The Movie threatens to become the champion of conspiracy theories of today."[11]

Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, mentioned Zeitgeist in an article in Scientific American on skepticism in the age of mass media and the postmodern belief in the relativism of truth. He argues that this belief, coupled with a "clicker culture of mass media," results in a multitude of various truth claims packaged in "infotainment units", in the form of films such as Zeitgeist and Loose Change.[12]

Jane Chapman, a film producer and reader in media studies at the University of Lincoln, called Zeitgeist "a fast-paced assemblage of agitprop," an example of unethical film-making.[13] She accuses Peter Joseph of "implicit deception" through the use of standard film-making propaganda techniques. While parts of the film are, she says, "comically" self-defeating, the nature of "twisted evidence" and use of Madrid bomb footage to imply it is of the London bombings amount to ethical abuse in sourcing. In later versions of the movie a subtitle is added to this footage identifying it as from the Madrid bombings. She finishes her analysis with the comment: "Thus legitimate questions about what happened on 9/11, and about corruption in religious and financial organizations, are all undermined by the film's determined effort to maximize an emotional response at the expense of reasoned argument."

On March 17, 2009, in a New York Times article, Alan Feuer reported that Peter Joseph had indicated that he had "moved away from" his opinion on whether the September 11 attacks were an inside job perpetrated by the U.S. government.[4]

Alex Jones, American radio host, prominent conspiracy theorist and executive producer of Loose Change, stated that film segments of Zeitgeist are taken directly from his documentary Terrorstorm, and that he supports "90 percent" of the film.[14]

Regarding the origins of Christianity[edit]

Skeptic magazine's Tim Callahan, criticizing the first part of the film (on the origins of Christianity), wrote that "some of what it asserts is true. Unfortunately, this material is liberally—and sloppily—mixed with material that is only partially true and much that is plainly and simply bogus."[15]

Chris Forbes, Senior lecturer in Ancient History of Macquarie University and member of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, severely criticized Part I of the movie, stating that it has no basis in serious scholarship or ancient sources, and that it relies on amateur sources that recycle frivolous ideas from one another, rather than serious academic sources, commenting, "It is extraordinary how many claims it makes which are simply not true."[16] Similar conclusions were reached by Dr. Mark Foreman of Liberty University.[17]

Paul Constant writing in Seattle newspaper The Stranger reviewed the religious critique in the film by saying: "First the film destroys the idea of God, and then, through the lens of 9/11, it introduces a sort of new Bizarro God. Instead of an omnipotent, omniscient being who loves you and has inspired a variety of organized religions, there is an omnipotent, omniscient organization of ruthless beings who hate you and want to take your rights away, if not throw you in a work camp forever."[1]

Allegations of veiled anti-semitism[edit]

In Tablet Magazine, journalist Michelle Goldberg criticized Zeitgeist: The Movie as being "steeped in far-right, isolationist, and covertly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories," and called the Zeitgeist Movement "the world's first Internet-based cult, with members who parrot the party line with cheerful, rote fidelity." She went on to write that the film borrows from the work of Eustace Mullins, Lyndon LaRouche, and radio host Alex Jones, saying that Zeitgeist: The Movie portrays a cabal of international bankers purportedly ruling the world.[18] In an interview with TheMarker, Joseph stated that while the film does mention bankers it does not seek to place blame on any individual or group of individuals. He argues they are merely a product of a socioeconomic system in need of change.[19]

Chip Berlet writes that the 9/11 conspiracy theories "are bait used to attract viewers from the 9/11 truth movement and others who embrace conspiracist thinking to the idiosyncratic anti-religion views of the videographer and the world of right-wing antisemitic theories of a global banking conspiracy."[20]

Jared Lee Loughner media association[edit]

Jared Lee Loughner was described in news accounts as "obsessed" with Zeitgeist. Loughner was convicted of the 2011 Tucson shootings in which six people died and U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was permanently injured.[14][21] Joseph criticized the media for making this association, accusing them of using Zeitgeist as a scapegoat to avoid discussing the deeper social issues behind spree shootings.[22]


A sequel, Zeitgeist: Addendum, advocates a resource-based social system. An updated version was produced in 2010 entitled Zeitgeist: Final Edition. A third film called Zeitgeist: Moving Forward was released online on January 25, 2011.

Excerpts used in video[edit]

In June 2013, the band Black Sabbath used extensive imagery from Zeitgeist: The Movie and the Zeitgeist film sequels in their music video "God Is Dead?"[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Constant, Paul (2007-09-06). "Beauty Is Truth". Features. The Stranger. Retrieved 2014-01-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Tossell, Ivor (2007-08-17). "Conspiracy theorists yelling in the echo chamber". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  3. ^ Gane-McCalla, Casey (12 January 2011). "AZ Shooter Was Fan Of Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Movies". News One. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Alan Feuer (March 17, 2009). "They’ve Seen the Future and Dislike the Present". The New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b O'Dwyer, Davin (August 8, 2007). "Zeitgeist: the nonsense". The Irish Times. Retrieved September 16, 2010. 
  6. ^ Frauenfelder, Mark (August 6, 2007). "Jay Kinney reviews Zeitgeist, the Movie.". Boing Boing.
  7. ^ Goldberg, Michelle (February 2, 2011). "Brave New World". Tablet Magazine. "The documentary that started it all began as an art project. “The original Zeitgeist was not a film, but a performance piece, which consisted of a vaudevillian style multi-media event using recorded music, live instruments and video,” the Zeitgeist website explains." 
  8. ^ "4th Annual Artivist Film Festival and Artivist Awards Announce the Winning Films of This Year's Festival". Artivist Film Festival and Artivist Award press release. November 5, 2007. Retrieved February 10, 2009. 
  9. ^ Faherty, John (16 January 2011). "Gabrielle Giffords shooter suspect: Moments from a life in spiral". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Orange, Michelle (September 10, 2008). "Able Danger". The Village Voice. 
  11. ^ Feio, Felipe (February 18, 2008). "Teoria da conspiração no 'top' do Google Video (Conspiracy theory is the 'top' Google Video)". Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). Retrieved September 16, 2010. 
  12. ^ Shermer, Michael (July 2009). "What Skepticism Reveals about Science". Scientific American. 
  13. ^ Chapman, Jane (2009). Issues in Contemporary Documentary. Polity Press. pp. 171–173. ISBN 978-0-7456-4009-9. 
  14. ^ a b Goldberg, Michelle (January 13, 2011). "The Cult Web Film that Inspired Loughner". The Daily Beast Company, LLC. Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  15. ^ Callahan, Tim (2009). "The Greatest Story Ever Garbled". Skeptic 28 (1). 
  16. ^ "Zeitgeist: Time to discard the Christian story?". Interview at the Centre for Public Christianity, Sydney, Australia. 
  17. ^ "Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie: Alleged Parallels between Jesus and Ancient Pagan Religions". Evangelical Philosophical Society. 2011. 
  18. ^ Goldberg, Michelle (February 2, 2011). "Brave New World". Tablet Magazine. "The first Zeitgeist documentary borrowed from the work of Eustace Mullins, Lyndon LaRouche, and Alex Jones to rail against the cabal of international bankers that purportedly rules the world." 
  19. ^ Discussion of the Zeitgeist Movement with Peter Joseph on YouTube, TheMarkerTV (Israel), Jan. 19, 2012. Interview conducted in English, following a brief introduction to Joseph and the Movement in Hebrew.
  20. ^ "Loughner, "Zeitgeist - The Movie," and Right-Wing Antisemitic Conspiracism". Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  21. ^ Herreras, Mari (October 14, 2011). "Occupy Tucson Starts Saturday, 9 a.m., Armory Park | The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch". Tucsonweekly.com. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  22. ^ Joseph, Peter. "Public statement from the creator of the “Zeitgeist film series”, Peter Joseph: Re: The mainstream media association created between “Zeitgeist” and the Tucson murders.". zeitgeistmovie.com. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  23. ^ "BLACK SABBATH Taps Controversial Filmmaker PETER JOSEPH For 'God Is Dead? Video". BlabberMouth. June 8, 2013. 

External links[edit]