The Top 10 Political Movies
The presidential elections are almost upon us, and what better time to do a round-up of the best political movies around. As we boot the bums living in the White House out and usher in the next bandwagon of suits, the movies that best parodied or reflected the political reality of their times are the ones we go to now. They say you should never talk politics or religion unless you’re looking to get into a fight, but they never said nothin’ about talking politics in movies. So without further ado, here are our 10 favorite movies about politics.
This extremely strange political comedy takes weirdness up a few notches. Warren Beatty (who wrote, directed and starred in it) plays a liberal senator up for re-election, and he’s taken a hit out on himself so that his family can cash in on the life insurance. Realizing that he can now say whatever he feels like, he does so, and in the form of rapping. While his rapping admittedly gets really old really fast, Beatty definitely takes a risk with this film in speaking his mind the way he wants – just like the character he plays. This was also, for better or worse, the film that put Halle Berry on the map.
9. Wag the Dog
Whoever said Robert De Niro couldn’t be funny probably didn’t watch Wag the Dog. De Niro plays Conrad Brean, part of the president’s administration, and the man responsible for helping his president win an election – despite the scandal he’s become embroiled in after fondling a Girl Scout. He hires Hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Dustin Hoffman) to help him concoct a fake war in Albania to help distract the American public from thinking about how much they hate the president. Hmmm…why does this sound so familiar? One of director Barry Levinson’s better films, this political parody is still relevant eleven years later.
8. The Candidate
Robert Redford proved he had a knack for political films back in the '70s, and The Candidate is definitely one of the best around. Redford plays liberal lawyer Bill McKay, who gets approached by the Democratic political machine to challenge the Republican incumbent Senator for his seat in California. While at first he’s faithful to the issues he cares about and the causes he stands for, once it becomes apparent he actually has a chance at success his integrity starts to give way to the sweet siren song of power and glory. Redford expertly handles the absurdities and indignities that modern political competition entail, and he gives another one of his great performances from the '70s.
7. The American President
Rob Reiner directed The American President, which in my book is reason enough to see it. Despite some of the cheesier aspects of what is basically a high-falutin’ romantic comedy (emphasis on romantic), Michael Douglas and Annette Bening turn in solid performances, as do Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox. While this movie might not provide the most realistic depiction ever of life behind the Oval Office doors, it’s a nice little window into the political world of the '90s – and a reminder that the Clinton administration really defined that entire decade. Back then movies about the White House and politics weren’t in general as dark as they’ve become today. It’s crazy what an economy that’s not in a depression and entangled in two wars will do for a filmmaker’s world view.
6. The Manchurian Candidate
After Raymond Shaw returns from the Korean War with the Congressional Medal of Honor, two members of his platoon have disturbing dreams that suggest Shaw didn’t actually earn his medal. The dreams lead to an investigation of conspiracy that threatens to submerge Shaw’s mother and senator husband. This movie’s disturbing implications about our government and the wars it becomes involved in has remained with us to this day, and The Manchurian Candidate was even remade in 2004, starring Denzel Washington. If you’re not big on oldies, check out director Jonathan Demme’s remake.