What’s your favorite political movie?

The definition of “political” is broad here: Anything that deals with politics or social issues of political importance.  But here’s the kicker — you need to judge and defend your choice primarily on political rather than artistic merit. 

Since it’s my post I get two choices:

(1) To Kill a Mockingbird for many reasons, but particularly for it’s portrayal of the power of courageous nonviolence in the scene when Scout and Jem helped Atticus defuse the mob getting ready to lynch Tom Robinson.

(2) Seven Days in May for providing a chillingly realistic portrayal of how liberty might be lost.

So what are your favorites?

18 Responses to “What’s your favorite political movie?”

  1. RoManXP-47 Says:

    I’ve got a top 10. Here they are in no particular order:

    Hail the Conquering Hero
    Dr. Strangelove
    Buffalo Bill and the Indians
    Wag the Dog
    1984 (Feel like this is a bit of a cheat, since the movie is such a faithful adaptation of the book, but it does a beautiful job of showing how this
    hideous regime drains the soul out of the populace.

  2. MikeMike Says:

    I just found out that Rod Serling wrote the ‘Seven Days in May’ screenplay. It’s at the top of my netflix queue.

    My favorite political movie is Thirteen Days. It shows how Kennedy was surrounded by both hawks and doves and combined their varying viewpoints to create his own policy. Wouldn’t that kind of variety among the president’s advisors be nice today? The only drawback to the film is Kevin Costner attempts a Boston accent in it.

  3. boethius Says:

    “man of the people”, a Spencer Tracy film, seldom run, my favorite….really drives home the point that corruption isn’t a “modern art”. Think, too, “Gabriel Over the Whitehouse”, or, “angel over the Whitehouse” deserves mention and consideration. Both flicks are worth remembering.

  4. shells500 Says:

    The Parallax View , 1974, with Warren Beatty. Very frightening at the time because of the Kennedy assasinations, Malcom X, MLK and Watergate.

    From IMDB.com:
    Plot Summary for
    The Parallax View (1974)
    Joe Frady is a determined reporter who often needs to defend his work from colleagues. After the assassination of a prominent U.S. senator, Frady begins to notice that reporters present during the assassination are dying mysteriously. After getting more involved in the case, Frady begins to realize that the assassination was part of a conspiracy somehow involving the Parallax Corporation, an enigmatic training institute. He then decides to enroll for the Parallax training himself to discover the truth.

  5. armagh444 Says:

    My favorite “political” movies? Well, there’s really only one that comes to mind, and I’m not entirely sure that anyone will agree that it’s necessarily political. Still, we are using a somewhat loose definition so . . .

    The Killing Fields with The Year of Living Dangerously running a close second.

    True, neither is about politics per se, at least not explicitly so, but each has a definite political purpose: to demonstrate through reference to actual scenarios what can and does happen when the world turns its back on tyranny and totalitarianism.

  6. RJHall Says:

    It’s not a political movie, and I’ve already commented on it here a few months ago (under “Worst president? Wrong question.” in case anybody wants to see my deathless prose!), but somebody just has to mention the old Stephen King movie “The Dead Zone”, in which a young Martin Sheen plays a scene in which his politician character has become a president whose name is NOT Jed Bartlet (hey, speaking of The West Wing, how about as a political movie “An American President” which preceded it?) but rather Greg Stillson, a crazy right-wing thug who pretends to be nice and so is popular but, when he gets the chance, brutally forces World War III and then announces, “The missiles are flying, hallelujah, hallelujah!” Apparently the psychic protagonist (who has a forgettable name like John Smith) who has a vision of this scene is even more prescient than Stephen King intended, because Greg Stillson is in word and deed the spitting image of, oh, need I even finish this sentence?

  7. hari seldon Says:

    The original version of “The Manchurian Candidate” with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. It exposed the hypocrysy of “super patriots.” Angela Lansbury’s husband was a takeoff on Joe McCarthy and the extremism and hypocrisy of these despicable characters is still alive and well in today’s Republican party.

  8. hizzhoner Says:

    I’m really surprised that nobody mentioned The Candidate with Robert Redford. In my opinion it’s one of the best portrayals of Jefferson’s admonition “By the time a man does all that is necessary to attain public office, he is no longer worthy of it!”

    Three Days of the Condor is probably the best movie to fuel your suspicions about Government….other than that “The Manchurian Candidate” (the original) and Bulworth were pretty good.


  9. RArmstrong Says:

    The best political movie is Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe. The attempt by the bad guys to cynically manipulate the decency of ordinary people is more believable today than when the film was made. Doesn’t Dick Cheney remind you of D.B. Norton?
    The best political movie that has not yet been made is the story of the Bonus Army. If anybody knows Ron Howard, tell him to get off his butt.

  10. bboldt2 Says:

    I am frankly surprised no one nominated “A Face in the Crowd” The deeper into the slop we get, the more true this film becomes. Andy Griffith’s first, best performance.

    My recollection of “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” starring Alan Alda and a stellar cast - is a little hazy. I do remember it as detailing how a good man is corrupted by the irresistible lure of power and how even the best of us can be destroyed.

    Bob Boldt

  11. goldarn Says:

    How about Duck Soup?

    “The Department of Labor wishes to note that the workers of Freedonia are demanding shorter hours.”
    “Very well, we’ll give them shorter hours. We’ll start by cutting their lunch hour to 20 minutes.”

  12. Sir Loin of Beef Says:

    I always felt that Mann’s “Last of the Mohicans” provided some pretty good depictions of Core/Periphery theory in action.

    But “V for Vendetta” takes the cake for an analysis of our contemporary national leadership, and the most relevant (albeit alegorical) primer on options for political action in the near future.

  13. Sir Loin of Beef Says:

    to Boethius:

    I too, relish my copy of “Gabriel over the White House”; not for its artistry or message, but more as a cultural artifact that can be held up to today’s complacent bourgeoisie as proof of the existence of a pre-war American Fascist movement that has direct ideological, financial, and genetic ties to the neoconservative cabal running the country today.

    Hearst and his Wall Street buddies produced this movie at a time when FDR was reeling on the ropes, and Mussolini was being given great press in the American papers and magazines. The movie high-handedly shows the way out of economic depression to consist of nationalist insularity, militarism, and centralized political and industrial power.

    Did you notice the fly-on-the-wall character “Thiessen”? - He’s a German diplomat who laments the corruption and banality of the American government prior to the president’s metaphysical rebirth, and rejoices when “the trains start running on time”, so to speak. Interestingly, “Thiessen” happens to also be the name of the German industrialist and Nazi financier who was at the time of the film’s production in partnership with George W. Bush’s forebears, George Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush.

    I think it is no coincidence that this movie, produced in 1934, preceded by only a year the Wall Street attempt to usurp the executive branch of the US government through a pseudo-military coup (see “The Plot to Seize the White House”, by Jules Archer. 1973; http://www.clubhousewreckards.com/plot/plottoseizethewhitehouse.htm) and instill a self-described fascist regime in its place. The plot was - as most readers here probably know - foiled by General Smedley Butler who was solicited by the conspirators to serve as the coup’s figurehead. The brief senate hearings held in the plot’s aftermath have apparently dissapeared into history - but the names “Mellon”, “Morgan”, “Brown Brother/Harriman”, and (by implication), “Bush” remain associated and with us today.

    So yeah, great movie!

  14. Sir Loin of Beef Says:


    A Bonus Army movie!
    Yes! great concept!

    Since you started talking about political movies not made, what about Castro’s 26th of July Movement and the Cuban revolution? what about the the Bay of Pigs?

  15. skittrell Says:

    my favorite political movie…is……”Pelican Brief”…made in 1991, and it
    is very good. I own two copies of it and watch it always. It travels from
    New Orleans, to New york, to Washington DC, involves a few assassinations
    along the way and leads to a corrupt administration….sounds familiar?

  16. boethius Says:

    Thank you, Sir Loin, for “validating” my “Gabriel” preference. While much was forgotten, the Thiessen-esque stuff did remain in my memory, albeit in its deeeper recesses. Do wish you’d examine my other pick, “Man of the People”. Never having been, until now, a chatterer, I am awkward, a/o shy to express my point of view. Chaplin did some wonderful political stuff, too. Hollywood, in general, in days of yore, said what the press couldn’t, much the way music did in the 19th century, i.e., Verdi’s “Nabucco” as metaphor. Even the composer’s name was an acronym for”Viva!Victor Emanuel, Rey de Italia” The arts have always understood their responsibilities. My ‘nom de plume’, my hero, coined the phrase, “the music of the spheres” almost 1500 years ago….moreover, Boethius explained its purpose, v.v, planetary allignment and earthly harmony. His is a scholarly explanation of musical chairs, and what happens when the music stops! Art’s soundtracks are doing far better than life’s when one compares the two as of today. Hence, my responce to the “Cafe’s’ question, and follow-up to you.

  17. boethius Says:

    Thank you, Sir Loin, for “validating” my “Gabriel” pick. Do hope you find the time to view the “Man of the People” film. Thanks, too, for jarring my memory on the Thiessen-esque stuff. A first-time chatterer, my “nom de plume” embodies my certainty of the power and the accompanying responsibility the arts hold in this world. I wrote all this stuff a couple of minutes ago, but hit (I think) the wrong button. Boethius was the chap who first coined the phrase, “the music of the spheres” (about 1500 yrs ago), the ultimate game of musical chairs! Films have soudtracks, as does life. Hence, my response to the “Cafe” question. However, the arts didn’t just awaken to socio-political responsibility with the advent of film. Political statements have been a sub-text to the arts for centuries. Wish the blog world would pose a question about the best political opera! “nabucco” would be my choice. Even its composer, Verdi, his name, itself an acronym for “Viva Victor Emmanuel, Rei di Italia”…written with no major tenor role…makes one wonder, etymologically, tenor derived from tenere, to hold; Italy wanted “out” of the Hapsburg hold. Hmmm.
    Back to the movies…Chaplin did that one with the world as a beachball…Hitler-ish, haven’t seen it in years…another goodie.

  18. Rusty Says:

    Hizhoner beat me to the punch regarding Three Days of the Condor with Robert Redford. Especially Cliff Roberton’s statements at the very end regarding the plans to take over the Middle East and their oil fields, something Redford’s unit stumbled on resulting in their murders. Was something along the lines of, “When the oil stops and people are cold, they’re not going to care where and how we get the oil; They’re just going to want us to get it.” Sound familiar? And that was in 1973! Ironic that the exact opposite has happened and stopping the oil is exactly what they wanted. What’s gas going for now? Ingenuis.

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