It’s often that reality is stranger than fiction. Even so, these political thrillers, comedies and heartfelt love stories manage to capture many of the ups and downs of American politics. Some are based on our country’s painful history of violence, while others are thoughtful reflections on what it means to live in a democracy. Turn off the news, sit back and watch some of the best political filmmaking this country has to offer.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Frank Capra was known for masterfully capturing the struggle of everyday working class people. This legendary filmmaker was at the top of his game when Mr. Smith debuted. Jimmy Stewart is the loveable outsider, the everyman who tries to change a corrupt political system from the inside out.
All the President’s Men (1976)
The story of Deep Throat and the Watergate scandal was brilliantly brought to life in this 1970s classic. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford play the two Washington Post reporters that famously brought down President Richard Nixon’s administration.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
A political assassination. A scheming Angela Lansbury. A nightmarish Frank Sinatra. There are so many things to love about this masterful political thriller. The plot is layered with one twist after another. It’s a conspiracy theorist’s dream come true.
While it’s not a race for the White House, Alexander’s Payne’s classic comedy is about the go-getters and the do-gooders that strive to get ahead. Who knew that a high school election for class president could be so telling?
Primary Colors (1998)
Another gem, Primary Colors takes an inside look at every politician’s worst nightmare. Candidates face one scandal after another as someone who appears to be a takeoff on Bill Clinton runs for office. Things are definitely not what they seem.
Sean Penn delivers one of the most harrowing, genuine performances that you’ll ever see in Gus Van Sant’s thrilling political classic. The film delves into the compelling story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the USA.
A whodunit for the ages. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy continues to be one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in American history. This expertly made film looks at every piece of the puzzle, including several conspiracy theories.
One of the greatest love stories ever told on film, Reds is the story of John Reed, the only American ever to be buried in the Kremlin. At the dawn of WWI, communism spreads through a group of young radicals fighting to save their country from what they see as an intolerably staunch nationalist government.
The American President (1995)
A sitting president has to make the most difficult choice of all: love or reelection. The endlessly charming Michael Douglas falls for a lobbyist, played by Annette Bening, and pays the ultimate price at the polls.
With nothing to lose, a weary politician decides to turn the tables on conventional political wisdom, shooting from the hip with outlandish comments and radical ideas. Sound familiar? If only Warren Beatty knew back in 1998 that his idea for a political comedy would foreshadow 2016 and one of the craziest elections in US history.