Leslie Cash has been hospitalized for severe psychological disorders for a bit more than three months now, while her family has tried to hold on, preserving their lifestyle In Harmony with Nature, mostly away from society in a forest of Washington State.
After things got worse for Leslie, the Cash family decide it is time for them to travel and meet back with the rest of their family in New Mexico, including Leslie's father, Jack (Langella), and to confront with the urban society.
Ben (Mortensen) and Leslie have six children:
- Bodevan, the oldest sibling
- Vespyr, the oldest daughter, quiet and attached to nature
- Kielyr, the middle daughter, the most energic and curious one
- Rellian, the angsty teenage boy
- Zaja, a 8-year-old girl
- Nai, the youngest boy
Captain Fantastic contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Some of Ben's decisions may be seen this way. Jack even threatens to sue him for it.
- Aerith and Bob: Bodevan, Vespyr, Kielyr, Rellian, Zaja, Nai, and their parents — Ben and Leslie.
- Break the Haughty: Ben losing his wife, almost losing his children to their grandparents, and risking Vespyr's life.
- Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Leslie's last wishes were to be cremated, and that her ashes would be flushed down the toilets. Her family respected it.Ben: I assume you know that Leslie was a Buddhist. That means she wanted to be cremated, not buried.
- Coming-of-Age Story: There are several teachings and lecturings from olders to younglings, especially for Bo and Rellian.
- Due to the Dead: To Leslie.
- Eagleland: Both flavors.
Nai: Everyone's so fat!Zaja: [...] our country is ruled by corporations and their lobbyists who fund candidates and command their fealty [...]
- Flavor 1.
Zaja: Without the Bill of Rights, we'd be more like China. Here at least, we don't have warrantless searches. We have free speech. Citizens are protected from cruel and unusual punishments.
- Flavor 2.
- Esperanto, the Universal Language: Vespyr and Kielyr can speak Esperanto, or at least a few words of it.
- Exact Words:Jack: You told me they were in school.Ben: They are. Leslie and I are their teachers.
- The Hermit: At the beginning, the family lifestyle is close to this.
- Hippie Parents: Ben and Leslie.
- The Idealist: Bo is an ex-Trotskyist now Maoist.
- Imagine Spot: Ben can sometimes see and talk to his wife at night.
- Important Haircut: When Ben just left his children, he shaves his beard. Later, Bodevan cuts his hair short, just before the funeral.
- Initiation Ceremony: The movie starts with Bo killling a deer as a maturity initiation.Ben: Today the boy is dead, and in his place is a man.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Bodevan got accepted into most of the major universities with the help of his mother.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Ben, at the campsite.Ben: It's just a penis. Every man has one.
- Meaningful Echo: "Power to the people, stick it to the Man." Between Ben and his children, then Bo and Nai.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After Vespyr falls from the roof, Ben realizes she could have been paralyzed, or died. He decides to leave the children under Jack's responsability shortly after.
- Open-Minded Parent: Ben and Leslie.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Ben. He fakes a heart attack to steal food. He offers a book named "The Joy of Sex" to Nai, a very young boy. Since he's not interested, he offers him Rellian's large Bowie knife to play with.Vespyr: But you said hospitals are only a great place to go if you're a healthy person and you want to die.Zaja: You said Americans are uneducated and overmedicated.Kielyr: You said that AMA are avaricious whores only too willing to spread their fat legs for big pharma.Ben: All those things are true.
- Road Trip Plot: Going from Washington State to New Mexico, for Leslie's funerals.
- Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: After training in the family ways, the children grew strong but don't know about the real world.
- At the firecamp:
- In the bus, Vespyr has to discourse about Lolita.
- In the supermarket, Titanic (1997) song "My Heart Will Go On" is ironically playing, when Ben fakes a heart attack to steal food with his kids.
- Bo mentions "Baby and Child Care" by Benjamin Spock, but he has never heard about Spock from Star Trek.
- All but Rellian love to celebrate "Noam Chomsky" birthday instead of Christmas.
- Leslie's favorite song was Sweet Child o' Mine.
- Tragic Hero: Ben, after losing his wife, and when he risks losing his children.
- Training from Hell: Shown during the introduction.
- Training Montage: Including physical exercising, landfarming and art expression, the family members are timing their days with various activities.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The knifes and the climbing.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Played for Laughs, when Bodevan proposes to Claire, in the middle of a campsite. He met her a few hours before.