People's Choice: 20 Political Films We -- and You -- Voted For
Game Change (2012)
Julianne Moore plays folksy Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, who was plucked from relative obscurity to be the running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain (Ed Harris). Detailing Palin's growing dependence on her own hype and her all-encompassing delusion that she was ready to be ''one heartbeat away from the presidency,'' Game Change chronicles one spectacular implosion.
The Ides of March (2011)
George Clooney directs and stars in this noir-ish tale of an Ohio Democratic presidential primary. Opportunism clashes against optimism, media manipulations are in full swing, a sex scandal threatens to blow up the hopeful campaign of Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney), and today's increasingly toxic political landscape is keenly drawn with a thriller edge.
In the Loop (2009)
Veep creator Armando Iannucci's scathing satire of political incompetence goes for the jugular. Loop veers toward the wonky as it unfurls how a single gaffe can strain the U.S./U.K. special relationship, but you're so busy laughing at the ineffectual political players that you hardly notice.
Reader's Pick 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
The Contender (2000)
A liberal Joan Allen gets a historic VP shot. Evil sexist Republicans line up to assassinate her character. Ironic, huh?
Reader's Pick Election (1999)
As win-at-all-costs (high school) presidential candidate Tracy Flick, Reese Witherspoon introduced a new archetype for craven ambition. —Submitted by Nicole Ross
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.
Warren Beatty is off the hook as a rapping Democratic senator running for reelection while — perhaps — losing his mind.
Wag the Dog (1997)
Pitch-black and Oscar-nominated, this ''ruthlessly clever'' Washington send-up from director Barry Levinson and writers David Mamet and Hilary Henkin marries Hollywood theatrics with Beltway cynicism. Clinton-era sexual shenanigans force the POTUS' spin man (Robert De Niro) to call on a film producer (Dustin Hoffman) to cook up an only-on-TV-screens war in hopes of uniting the country — and distracting from the President's dallying. A conceit so ridiculous it's probably been seriously considered by D.C. power brokers.
Reader's Pick 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
Reader's Pick 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
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.
The Candidate (1972)
Robert Redford stars 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.
Reader's Pick The Man (1972)
In this [era] 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
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.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
The world seems hell-bent on going kerflooey, as Peter Sellers tackles multiple roles in this explosive black comedy about the bomb.
Reader's Pick 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
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.
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Elia Kazan depicts the spirit-crushing machinations of political campaigns in this classic drama. Starring Andy Griffith in an uncharacteristically grimy role, which screenwriter Budd Schulberg claimed he based on a twisted version of humorist Will Rogers.
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.