1. THE CANDIDATE (1972)
Our 2008 voters’ guide begins with Robert Redford as a maverick who wins a Senate seat, then asks, ”What do we do now?” Dear Mr. Next President: Please don’t be so clueless.
2. BULWORTH (1998)
Warren Beatty is off the hook as a rapping Democratic senator running for reelection while — perhaps — losing his mind.
3. BOB ROBERTS (1992)
Tim Robbins’ mockumentary about a guitar-strumming right-winger running for the U.S. Senate is certainly a leftist potshot, but its wise skepticism about populist politicking straddles party lines.
4. THE GREEN BERETS (1968)
John Wayne felt so strongly about making this pro-Vietnam War film, and so irritated by leftist antiwar critics, that he codirected it himself. Panned in its day, it’s now fascinating.
5. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)
The world seems hell-bent on going kerflooey, as Peter Sellers tackles multiple roles in this explosive black comedy about the bomb.
6. PRIMARY COLORS (1998)
A not-so-thinly veiled portrait of Bill Clinton, whose personal life is at odds with his principles. Should that matter? Debate.
7. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
The most hallucinatory, wittily paranoid political thriller ever, Candidate follows a brainwashed American (Laurence Harvey) programmed by Communists to become an assassin.
8. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)
Jimmy Stewart stars as a junior senator in Frank Capra’s great comedy-drama about political idealism and cynicism — almost 70 years later, still mighty pertinent.
9. THE CONTENDER (2000)
A liberal Joan Allen gets a historic VP shot. Evil sexist Republicans line up to assassinate her character. Ironic, huh?
10. ELECTION (1999)
As win-at-all-costs (high school) presidential candidate Tracy Flick, Reese Witherspoon introduced a new archetype for craven ambition. —Nicole Ross
11. The Man (1972)
In this Year of Obama, you’ve got to see The Man, in which James Earl Jones plays Douglass Dilman, a nondescript president pro tem of the Senate but nonetheless third in line for the presidency. Because of a couple of incredible strokes of fate, he becomes the first black POTUS, literally, overnight. Of course, the power structure considers Dilman to be an accident of history and a caretaker president. But he proves to be made of much sterner stuff and winds up pursuing his party’s nomination for a full term. The great Rod Serling wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Irving Wallace. The movie was directed by the distinguished filmmaker Joseph Sargent (MacArthur, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three). —Jakeem
12. The American President (1995)
With Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, etc. ”My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the President.” —Catzak
I agree; I love the half-fairy tale, half-political drama The American President because of the sharp Aaron Sorkin-penned script and the pervasive score that’s been used in more movie trailers than Edward Scissorhands‘. —Jenny P
13. Dave (1993)
Kevin Kline’s Dave. I’d vote for him. Or for Ben Kingsley’s VP. So long as they got rid of Frank Langella’s creepy chief of staff ahead of time. —wg
14. The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)
A rare bird: an Eddie Murphy movie that’s neither a blockbuster nor a bomb. It’s simply…not bad. The costars are the best part. —joules
15. Recount (HBO, 2008)
HBO’s original movie, Recount (which is out on DVD), is a fantastic dramatization of the fateful and embarrassing 2000 election with a standout Laura Dern in one of her greatest performances ever. —Chris G
16. The Best Man (1964)
With Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. That movie showed how easily one person can sway an election and how dirty someone will go to win an election. Also in the movie, Henry Fonda’s character is a cheater, yet his wife stays by his side for appearance’s sake. And Cliff Robertson’s character has all the momentum going, and it looks like he will win the nomination, but in, like, one day all that hype he has is gone, and he loses the nomination. —Sina
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