1. Seven Days In May (1964)
Not even the leader of the free world is safe from the machinations of closed-door cabals. John Frankenheimer followed up The Manchurian Candidate with more executive-branch intrigue, as Burt Lancaster leads a high-level coup d’état against the president.
2. The Parallax View (1974)
Two years before he chronicled the Watergate scandal in All the President’s Men, Alan J. Pakula channeled Nixon-era distrust into this paranoid classic. Warren Beatty stars as a reporter investigating an assassination who runs afoul of shadowy figures operating just behind the political curtain.
3. The Conversation (1974)
Shhh! Did you hear a click? More relevant now in the age of NSA eavesdropping than perhaps ever before, this masterpiece of surveillance terror was directed by Francis Ford Coppola between Godfathers. Gene Hackman is an audio expert who overhears an alarming conversation and soon finds himself on the other end of the microphone (and gun barrel).
4. The Insider (1999)
For all those cigarettes smoked by informants in the dark corners of parking garages, Big Tobacco can orchestrate a pretty mean conspiracy itself. Based on real-life whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand, Michael Mann’s unfiltered thriller is nerve-racking enough to turn your mouth to ash.
5. The Ghost Writer (2010)
Roman Polanski’s twisty and atmospheric tale of a scribe (Ewan McGregor) hired to finish the memoirs of a Tony Blair-esque former prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) showcased some of his best work in years, evoking the same metastasizing dread the director perfected decades earlier with Chinatown — and with an ending that’s just as haunting.