Ben in “National Treasure” does not give a fuck about history.

I mean, look at the number of artifacts he destroyed or put at risk

Aaron J. Alford
3 min readSep 28, 2019
Movie Poster Credit to Disney

When I was a kid and I saw national treasure for the first time. I really liked it. I never thought it was amazing, but it was definitely fun. I had the impression that the lead character, I believe his name was Ben, knows a lot about history and is the key to solving the treasure map in the film.

I recently rewatched National Treasure. I noticed a few things. The animations don’t hold up, they relied too heavily on verbal exposition in this film, and I have a slightly different view of the main character now. Now I am pretty sure that Ben is a delusional egotistical asshole who cares about nothing other than his own personal reputation and wealth.

In the very first scene we are introduced to how little they care about the team of folks who would eventually be the villains. The mercenary dudes who follow Sean Bean’s character seem nice enough, it’s actually Riley the IT dude who keeps being a dick to them. I mean, they may have always planned to betray Ben and Riley, but they also kind of deserved it.

By the end of the first scene, Disney also showed us who these people are. They light on fire and subsequently blow up a ship that is a beautifully preserved piece of American history. They are treasure hunter’s at war with America’s artifacts.

The movie tries to pretend that Ben only stole the Declaration of Independence because Ian, the main villain dude, was going to do it worse. Due to Ben’s pattern of reckless behavior displayed in both this movie and its much lower quality sequel, it seems to me like he probably would have figured out a way to justify it to himself one way or another.

Later in the movie Ben and Riley would:

  • Steal the Declaration of Independence, then subject it to lemon juice and a hair dryer to find a hidden map.
  • They rolled up the document, something that probably hasn’t happened to it in a century!
  • They carried the declaration around, even dropping it in traffic, later in the movie.
  • Ben steals a brick from Independence Hall and found some weird steam punk glasses to look at the back of the declaration with
  • They smash a tomb in a New York City church.

The dumbest part of the whole narrative is that every time they destroy something valuable, it was the right thing to do to solve their massive riddle. They basically Google their way to the “location of hidden items of historic and intrinsic value.” Is this movie endorsing the destruction of artifacts in the name of personal gain?

I think the treasure they find is even sold off. They talk about how low of a percentage they got to keep, but why did they get to keep any percentage? And does that mean that they sold off the treasure to people at auction, or did they sell just some of it to pay off the treasure hunters?

My highschool Latin teacher worked at the Troy dig, and if they found some valuable stuff they didn’t get to sell it for profit. It went to the correct institutions of science, preservation, and culture that you would expect. This movie implies that the original countries that the treasure was stolen from aren’t entitled to it back. Functionally, this movie says that a group of white “knight templars” created a primarily white secret society that plundered the world for centuries and this movie finally finds the stash. Don’t the countries those artifacts were stolen from get them back?

This movie is wack.



Aaron J. Alford

Media critique and memes. Writing about rhetoric and society. MA in Communication