Michael Clayton (2007)
George Clooney is a master ”fixer” for a high-powered law firm, but fixing a massive cover-up by a client is harder than it looks.
According to Oliver Stone’s controversial 1991 film, the real force behind John F. Kennedy’s assassination wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald, but…a shady businessman who was working with the CIA — or was that the Mafia — and also Lyndon Johnson?! Whatever. Stone’s take might not have been exactly accurate as history, but it made for a hell of a movie.
The Parallax View (1974)
After a series of witnesses, snooping journalists, and the assassin himself are killed following a presidential hopeful’s murder, playboy reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) picks up on the trail that takes him to the Parallax Corporation. Murder? More assassins? Bomb threats? Yup, it’s all waiting for him there.
The Matrix (1999)
What if everything we see around us is actually an elaborate illusion created by the evil machines who have enslaved us all in creepy goo pods? Dude! Keanu! You’re blowing our minds here.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Before Denzel’s 2004 remake, Ol’ Blue Eyes was the center of the mind-altering government scandal. When a group of American soldiers under Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) are kidnapped by communists during the Korean War, they’re brainwashed into becoming assassins. Only Sinatra knows what’s up and tries to throw a wrench in the sinister plan of a former comrade (and his manipulative, power-hungry mother).
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Hate on Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s runaway best-seller all you want, but you can’t deny that Paul Bettany makes one scary albino. Even we won’t bother trying to defend Tom Hanks’ hair, though.
Capricorn One (1978)
Not long after the initial allegations that the Apollo Moon landings were a sham — there’s always a dissenter in the crowd, isn’t there? — Capricorn One took on the ol’ government space scandal. A crew of astronauts are made to fake a Mars landing, but did we mention that O.J. Simpson was one of the men? Talk about conspiracies!
Conspiracy Theory (1997)
Wild-eyed New York cabbie Mel Gibson thinks the government is out to get him, and lawyer Julia Roberts goes along for the ride. Get it, the ride? Because he’s a cab driver? Never mind.
All the President's Men (1976)
The Watergate scandal was a transformative event in American politics. So transformative, in fact, that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — the wonky reporters who uncovered the extent of Richard Nixon’s corruption — were played by box-office idols Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in the 1976 adaptation of Woodward and Bernstein’s nonfiction book.
Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Robert Redford plays Joe Turner — later given the code name ”Condor” — a CIA agent who literally reads between the lines, scanning books, papers, and mags for coded messages. In the movie, a Jackie Collins-esque novel becomes the focus of the pending scandal. Today, Condor would have had his eyes full just glimpsing at Wikipedia.
Enemy of the State (1998)
Will Smith unwittingly comes across evidence of a covered-up murder by the NSA, prompting the spy agency to do everything in its power to hunt him down and destroy his life. C’mon, guys, he’s Will Smith. Don’t you know he always wins in the end?
The Insider (1999)
Whistle-blower Russell Crowe tells 60 Minutes producer Al Pacino that his former employers in the cigarette industry have been doing some nasty stuff to keep people hooked on nicotine. His old bosses respond by ripping apart his family and orchestrating death threats against him. Hey, Big Tobacco, overreact much?
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Big name pharmaceutical companies are secretly testing out vaccines on African patients, and when Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz, who nabbed an Oscar for her role) speaks out, she’s not-so-mysteriously murdered. One part romantic journey and at least two parts corporate conspiracy and corruption, The Constant Gardener follows Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) as he searches for answers about wife Tessa’s disappearance.
The China Syndrome (1979)
Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas are a reporting team who secretly film and uncover some hush-hush news about a power plant. Wait! Unsafe nuclear power plants that are eventually going to ruin the world? This thriller flick became a little too believable when the Three Mile Island accident happened 12 days after.
They Live (1988)
The movie’s homeless protagonist John Nada (Roddy Piper) uncovers the truth behind our society with a pair of shades apparently plucked from the Risky Business set. They show that most people are actually aliens and subliminal advertising is taking over. Duh! In today’s current state of product placement pollution, Cruise’s Ray-Bans would be useless.
The Conversation (1974)
In between the first two Godfather movies, Francis Ford Coppola took a break from all the tragic intensity and directed this light little romp: Gene Hackman plays an uptight professional surveillance expert who may or may not have stumbled onto a violent plot that only he can stop. Okay, maybe not so light after all!
One of Coppola’s major inspirations for The Conversation was this film from Italy’s Michaelangelo Antonioni, in which a photographer thinks he might have inadvertently captured evidence of a killing in one of his snapshots — but enlarging the film to get a better look only complicates matters…
Arlington Road (1999)
Just a couple years before the T-word ignited fear in our nation, Arlington Road featured a college professor (Jeff Bridges) who suspected his neighbors of being terrorists. Osama’s considerably missing in this thriller, but there’s no lack of phony blueprints, mysterious deaths, and bombs in parking garages.
Wag the Dog (1997)
In Barry Levinson’s 1997 comedy, spin doctor Robert De Niro and filmmaker Dustin Hoffman concoct a fake overseas war to distract the public from a White House sex scandal. A little over a year later, as NATO bombing of the Balkans followed President Clinton’s impeachment, Serbian television reportedly aired the film.
Seven Days in May (1964)
A story line following a president’s unappealing foreign policy decisions is a little too believable. A behind-the-scenes Pentagon full of lies, secret missions that end in murder, and press conferences that catch the good guy while the bad guy gets off scot-free? Yeah…those aren’t too farfetched either.
The Pelican Brief (1993)
Sadly, this environmental/legal thriller (based on a John Grisham novel) isn’t about an unorthodox firm made up of diploma-wielding pelicans. Julia Roberts (as a law student) and Denzel Washington (as a reporter) are pretty good second choices, we guess.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a private in the Vietnam War who becomes a casualty of secret government testing of hallucinogenic drugs on soldiers. The film flashes back and forth, mingling Jacob’s time in Vietnam with memories of life in New York with his son Gabe and a barrage of intense hallucination. It’s not until the end that the viewer and Jacob know what’s real and what’s an illusion.
The Stepford Wives (1975)
When the Eberharts (Katharine Ross and Peter Masterson) move out to the Stepford, Conn., ‘burbs, they discover a land untouched by feminism and dust, maintained by robotic women who cook, clean, and merely malfunction after a car accident. All of the liberal-minded, free thinkin’ broads fall one by one into submission until only Mrs. Eberhart is left standing.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
The television series was built on the warning to ”Trust No One.” Millions of viewers tuned in to whisper at home about the extraterrestrial conspiracies the government was hiding — and figure out whether or not Mulder and Scully were going to finally do it already! The platonic-ish pair returned to uncover the truth again on the big screen.
Room 237 (2013)
Is Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film The Shining really about the holocaust? Or the genocide of the Native American population? Or the ”fact” that Kubrick directed the allegedly fake moon landing footage? These questions, and more, are pondered (if not answered) in filmmaker Rodney Ascher’s mind-bending movie. —Clark Collis