Movies

A List of Political Movies from Bio-Pics to Satires

There are a lot of films about politicians, especially about bad politicians fictional and real. This is a list of political movies that I find interesting to watch.

I only included two films about Richard Nixon since there are many documentaries, comedies and dramas made about him or featured him in some way. There is also a lot of satires featured on this list from dramas to comedies about politics. I only included live action films on this list. I’ll make another film about animated political movies later.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

An idyllic politician fights for the belief that good can still come from the corrupt and jaded American Senate. A young senator fights against the corrupt political system that has Mr. Smith attempting to do some good only for corrupt politicians and a political machine to block it out and scheme against it for their profit. This was James Stewart’s finest performance on screen. The classic was once banned because of the ideologies stated in the film.

Screenshot of Columbia Pictures – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).
Mr. Smith (James Stewart) is holding multiple letter on the Senate floor.

All the King’s Men (1949)

The rise and fall of every-man politician Willie Stark who went into politics to fight for the little guy but ends up just as corrupt as the politicians only fighting for himself to stay in power. The film is also a film noir in tone and themes of the story being about betrayal, corruption, drinking and death. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren in 1947 who claimed that the book was “never intended to be a book about politics.” This film won the best film Oscar in 1949 and was re-made in 2006 with Sean Penn in the leading role.

Screenshot of Columbia Pictures – All The King’s Men (1949).
Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) on a podium talking to the crowd.

Nixon (1995)

A historical political film about the personal and political life of Richard Nixon directed by Oliver Stone. It starts from early life in Iowa to becoming the 37th President of the United States of America. The inspiration to make the film for the director was based on the death of the former president a year before. Initial reactions to the film were not great.

Screenshot of Hollywood Pictures – Nixon (1995).
President Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) in a chair with Henry Kissinger behind him (Paul Sorvino).

Bulworth (1998)

A disillusioned jaded corrupt politician running for President, hires a hitman to target himself while going on a two-day rant about what should really change in politics. He tells off his political consul, his advisers, the media, his on-TV wife and bad politics. While sparking a relationship with a young female Black activist. It’s the weird, funny and profanity-laced dark comedy that is a reverse political story where the guy starts off as a good person goes bad but a bad person turning good. The comedy is also known for the 90’s summer hit “Ghetto Superstar” by Mia, Pras and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The song lasted longer in the public eye on the radio than the movie did in theatres.

Screenshot of 20th Century Fox – Bulworth (1998).
Senator Jay Bulworth (D) (Warren Beatty) rapping with Nina (Halle Berry) behind him.

Dave (1993)

When the president of the United States goes into a coma during his run, his state of the union office scramble to find a replacement lookalike to temporarily fill in to avoid a re-election campaign and further sandal. That’s where Dave comes into the rescue from managing a temporary employment agency by day then impersonating the president by night is recruited to stand in as the president while the president is in ill health. The policies that are passed by Dave turn to trouble with the stuffy executive politicians. It’s a nice romantic comedy that holds up today.

Screenshot of Warner Bros. – Dave (1993).
Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) on the podium

Frost/Nixon (2008)

The interview of President Nixon after the 1972 Watergate scandal with British journalist David Frost. The film is a historical drama based on the 2006 play written by Peter Morgan who later wrote the screenplay. The film is best described as inspired by actual events with the real interview easily searchable online on archive channels.

Screenshot of Imagine Entertainment – Frost/Nixon (2008).
David Frost (Michael Sheen) interviewing Richard Nixon (Frank Langella).

Vice (2018)

A semi-biographical movie about ex-vice President Dick Cheney from his early life leaving Yale due to alcoholism to his political life with the 2008 presidential campaign, the two wars with Iraq and Afghanistan and the accidental shooting of Harry Whittington. This film has some great acting from the cast with a nice looking poster. But the film has some fuzzy history with inserted dramatizations like the fictional mid-1970s conversation with Antonin Scalia about expanding the powers of the executive branch.

Screenshot of Annapurna Pictures – Vice (2018).
Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) sitting in a backyard.

Medium Cool (1969)

This film has a mixture of real documentary footage, actors being filmed in a cinema-vertié style and the actual main story acted out for the film. The story is about media manipulation and political corruption at the core of the late sixties political campaigns. This was recognized as one of Robert Forster’s best works and Haskell Wexler’s debut directorial feature film. A TV cameraman finds himself becoming increasingly involved in the social unrest that erupts around the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film is renowned for showing the counterculture movement and societal issues during the time affecting race, gender, poverty, crime, and war.

Trailer to Medium Cool (1969)

Wag The Dog (1997)

A political rouse to fool a country to not focus on a sex scandal, fakes a war with a spin doctor Hollywood producer and a Washington doctor before the elections. It was like two spin doctors coming together to lie to a lot of people. The movie came out a month before the Lewinsky scandal. The fabrication of the story builds upon ludicrous with more people added in and finding themselves on a plane justifying the tale. Looking back the film is just weird and a very 90’s movie.

Screenshot of New Line Cinema – Wag The Dog (1997).
L to R: John Levy (John Michael Higgins), Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), Amy Cain (Suzanne Cryer) and Winifred Ames (Anne Heche) watching a monitor.

Man of the Year (2006)

A host from a satirical news program laughs off an audience suggestion to run for president which turns into an accidental mail campaign that lands him on the presidential ticket in 13 states. He starts to take it seriously while being very under-qualified and being a showman being comedic and talking points. It’s a satirical comedy from 14 years ago that has a trailer that gives most of the plot away. (Trailer not seen here.)

Screenshot of Universal Pictures – Man of the Year (2006).
Tom Dobbs (Robin WIlliams) on a podium.

Thank You For Smoking (2000)

A lobbyist for a big tobacco company suffers a moral dilemma to continue being a soulless bureaucrat working to have cigarettes normalized and more profitable or be a good role model for his son. He also verbally battles an anti-smoking liberal senator that could really damage business. This film has a swagger tone to the sales pitch efforts. The film is from the happy optimistic lobbyist point of view.

Screenshot of Fox Searchlight – Thank You For Smoking (2005).
Nick (Aaron Eckhart) talks to media in front of courthouse.

The Manchurian Candidate

There are two versions of this movie with two different tones. Both films are about political corruption and are about an army veteran who saved people at war is used to rise from the political ranks while being brainwashed to turn into unwitting assassin sleeper agents activated by a word spoken. In 2004, the war was the Gulf War. In 1962, the war was the Korean War. The original book was about communism taking place in 1959.

Trailer to The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Trailer to The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Bob Roberts (1992)

A young millionaire businessman conservative runs for head of state of America with a seedy underhanded campaign against an the older more qualified candidate. This was a mockumentary about political campaigns. It has discussions of fake promises, pop culture references, extremists, capitalism eating up politics and lies that give nothing at the end.

Screenshot of Miramax – Bob Roberts (1992).
Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins) shaking hands with voters with his campaign chairman (Alan Rickman) behind him.

A Face In The Crowd (1957)

A loudmouth radio jockey gets the opportunity to run a popular television show and completely sells out. He does things for the money in an increasingly soulless matter. He becomes a major influence among the general viewing audience selling them false dreams, terrible products, cash grabs and ostentatious events like marrying a young woman for the ratings and endorsing a politician for the money and the supposed power he might receive.

Screenshot of Warner Bros. – A Face In The Crowd (1957).
Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith) facing the cameras with the crowd behind him.

The Parallax View (1974)

A journalist finding out that there is a conspiracy about assassinating the U.S. president that is connected to the corporation Parallax Corporation. Many people turn up dead during his investigation. This was featured on Alan J. Pakula’s Political Paranoia trilogy that I recommended as a movie marathon.The paranoia is interesting to watch years later.

Screenshot of Paramount Pictures – The Parallax View (1974).
Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty) in brainwashing machine.

Election (1999)

A microcosm of a political race for President in a high school setting. A high school teacher moderates the run for student electoral president with Mr. Popular everyday-man naive jock versus the scheming convincing over-achieving A-student. The person pulling all of the strings is the supervising teacher who just sees terrible things that could happen if she is elected and will stop at nothing to passive-aggressively stop her from being in head office. This film is dark and cleverly parallels the world of politics and immaturity.

Screenshot of MTV Pictures/ Paramount Pictures – Election (1999).
Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) fundraising at school.

The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)

A con artist with no previous political history uses the death of a longtime serving congressman in his district to scam money from lobbyists due to having a similar name to the congressman. He uses an old campaign from the recently past congressman using name recognition and that people really don’t pay attention but simply vote the “name you know”. This is one of those movies that most people haven’t hear about but is very funny about how they lampoon corrupt politicians and wealth in the early 1990s. Also, the names are ripped from history being Thomas Jefferson and Johnathan Davis with Johnston added to the names.

Screenshot of Buena Vista Pictures – The Distinguished Gentleman (1992).
Dick Dodges (Lane Smith) being dragged off by security with Thomas Jefferson Johnson (Eddie Murphy) smiling in front of them.

Canadian Bacon (1995)

A closure of a weapon manufacturing plant by the orders of the current president valuing the future of the children and not wars cause his approval ratings sink. His cabinet convinces him to go to war with a country to revive the economy and political popularity. After seeing a brawl at a Canadian-American hockey match turn violent they choose Canada. The hockey match spectators were the recently unemployed factory workers with their serif friend who stated an offensive critique about the quality of Canadian beer which started the brawl. This film satires the relationship between the United States of America and Canada, the border and political decision making in the early to mid-1990s. This film is funny watching the perceptions of Canadian life through the fictionalized American eyes like the capital being Toronto (it’s not) and all signage must have English and French side-by-side.

Screenshot of Gramercy Pictures/ MGM Pictures – Canadian Bacon (1995).
L to R: Deputy Sheriff Kabral Jabar (Bill Nunn), Deputy Sheriff Honey (Rhea Perlman) and Sheriff Bud. B. Boomer (John Candy) at a insiders conference.

Idiocracy (2006)

If you like Brawndo, you might like this movie. An average every man working at the inventory stock room at a military base is signed up for an experimental hibernation project. But when the pods are forgotten after a seize, the man and the other person in the other pod wake up 500 years into the future. They are disappointed by the horrible progress of past problems mounting up into apocalyptic disasters like a failing ecosystem, rampant unregulated commercialism, a lack of social responsibility, human rights and anti-intellectualism that people are named after corporate products, Beef Supreme. It’s a political and environmental movie that shows a world of misguided politics that turned into a cheap, idiotic version of itself.

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

This is a cold war-era comedic satire directed by Stanley Kubrick with Peter Sellers in three memorial roles, especially as Dr. Strangelove. The film is very funny and frightening about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button at the wrong time. An insane general with a puny name (U.S. Air Force General Jack D. Ripper) sends his pilots to bomb the USSR thinking that the communists were conspiring to pollute the “precious bodily fluids” of the American people. Meanwhile, the president with advisors, generals and other politicians try to stop the possible nuclear disaster.

Screenshot of Columbia Pictures – Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) trying to control his arm.
Banner credit: Under The Moonlight

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