10. 'The American President' (1995)
Few films have humanized the Commander-in-Chief quite like Aaron Sorkin’s drama (his first foray into the West Wing). Michael Douglas plays a widowed president who enters into a complicated romance with an environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening) under the harsh glare of the Beltway spotlight. Sometimes the most powerful man in the world really is just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him.
9. Bob Roberts (1992)
Tim Robbins’ faux doc about a conservative folksinger-turned-Senate candidate is meant to be a parody, but it’s eerily prophetic, not to mention practically a playbook for the Trump 2016 campaign.
8. JFK (1991)
Oliver Stone’s investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy is a cave dive into the darkest depths of the American psyche. It’s not about what happened — it’s the filmmaker’s indictment of the power structures that allowed it to happen.
7. Wag The Dog (1997)
Two White House lackeys recruit a Hollywood mogul to “produce” a fake foreign war to distract the public from a West Wing scandal. Barry Levinson’s film — which stars Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, and Dustin Hoffman — might not be a documentary, but it’s shockingly believable.
6. Primary Colors (1998)
Technically, John Travolta and Emma Thompson play fictional characters in Mike Nichols’ incisive adaptation of Joe Klein’s novel, but everyone knew they were really portraying not-so-thinly-veiled versions of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Still pleasingly — or appallingly — relevant today, depending on your political persuasion.
5. Game Change (2012)
Before we all declare that this is going to be the craziest election in American history, it might be helpful to look back on the wackadoodle race of 2008.
4. House of Cards (2013-present)
The most nihilistic pop POTUS and FLOTUS ever, Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) are loathsomely cynical, yet dish delicious catharsis for our gridlock frustration. They may lie, cheat, even kill for power — but they get stuff done. That’s what matters. Right?
BEST OF THE BUNCH: Season 1
3. Veep (2012-present)
As Selina Meyer on Armando Iannucci’s sharp satire, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a political figure who’s anything but politically correct, and the show’s over-the-top take on what it means to run the country is exactly what makes it a hilarious standout.
BEST OF THE BUNCH: Season 3
2. All the President’s Men (1976)
The best part about this book-turned-political thriller, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the cocksure journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal and essentially took down Nixon, is that it was all true — even the shady meetings with their secret whistle-blower, “Deep Throat.” (Spoiler alert! It was FBI deputy director Mark Felt.)
1. The West Wing (1999-2006)
A lovable, grandfatherly Democrat from a small New England state whose liberal policies make him wildly popular with his party’s base: Sound familiar? While Martin Sheen’s Jed Bartlet (NH) isn’t quite the same as Bernie Sanders (VT), they’re not too far apart — both are unlikely folk heroes thanks to their inspirational progressive politics. Now all Bernie needs is for Aaron Sorkin to write his speeches and he’ll have this race sealed.
BEST OF THE BUNCH: Season 6