Movies In My Collection #163: The Best In Political Movies

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An election has passed and however you want to feel about it, most of us, myself included, are upset with the results but you know what, we’re gonna move forward so let’s try to drone out the negativity but looking at some of the best political movies released that are worth recommending:

Bob Roberts

Bob Roberts is a folksinger with a difference: He offers tunes that protest welfare chiselers, liberal whining, and the like. As the filmmakers follow his campaign, Robbins gives needle-sharp insight into the way candidates manipulate the media.

Directed by Tim Robbins and starring Tim Robbins, Giancarlo Esposito, Alan Rickman, Ray Wise, and Brian Murray, this is a mock documentary about an upstart candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The film is very reminiscent of Tanner ’88. If you don’t remember Tanner ’88, it was a miniseries written by Garry Trudeau (creator of Doonesbury and the Amazon series Alpha House) and directed by Robert Altman that was essentially a mockumentary first broadcast by HBO during the months leading up to the 1988 U.S. presidential election, it purports to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the campaign of former Michigan U.S. representative Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy) during his bid to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.

The story is told from a number of different points of view, including Tanner, his campaign staff, the small army of news reporters that constantly follow the candidate, and volunteers. Many political figures of the time appear (some in cameos, some extended), including Bruce Babbitt, Bob Dole, Kitty Dukakis, Gary Hart, Jesse Jackson, and Pat Robertson.

It’s actually a really good miniseries, very funny, very satirical, and brilliantly acted with Michael Murphy’s Tanner stealing the show, it’s definitely one you should definitely check out at some point.

And the same can be said for Bob Roberts.

The acting in here is very good, Tim Robbins does a fantastic job as Roberts and shows off his impressive capabilities as a writer and director which would later show up more brilliantly in 1995’s Dead Man Walking.

The cast is very good, not only do you have great talents like Giancarlo Esposito, Alan Rickman, and Ray Wise but you also have Gore Vidal, Harry Lennix, Tom Atkins, David Strathairn, James Spader, Pamela Reed, Helen Hunt, Peter Gallagher, Lynne Thigpen, Jack Black, Anita Gilette, Susan Sarandon, Fred Ward, Fisher Stevens, Bob Balaban, John Cusack, and many more in the film.

The comedy is very strong, the satirical elements are very well done, and the story is written in a smart, satirical fashion that puts it above many of the political comedies of its’ type.

Bob Roberts is a very funny, very clever, very satirical, very well acted, and very smart political comedy that’s benefited from a great script and direction by Tim Robbins who knew exactly what kind of story he wanted to tell with this and managed to do the best damn job he could possibly do with it and accomplished everything he wanted to say with it. It’s one of the great political satire films.

Dave

Dave is a 1993 American comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Gary Ross, and starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, and Ben Kingsley appear in supporting roles.

Bill Mitchell is the philandering and distant President of the United States. Dave Kovic is a sweet-natured and caring Temp Agency operator, who by a staggering coincidence looks exactly like the President. As such, when Mitchell wants to escape an official luncheon, the Secret Service hires Dave to stand in for him. Unfortunately, Mitchell suffers a severe stroke whilst having sex with one of his aides, and Dave finds himself stuck in the role indefinitely. The corrupt and manipulative Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, plans to use Dave to elevate himself to the White House – but unfortunately, he doesn’t count on Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make the country a better place, and falling in love with the beautiful First Lady.

One of the definitive political satires from director Ivan Reitman, the last really great movie from Reitman as a director, also features a solid script by Gary Ross, and a really good cast led by Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver.

The American President

The American President is a 1995 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin. The film stars Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox and Richard Dreyfuss. In the film, President Andrew Shepherd (Douglas) is a widower who pursues a relationship with environmental lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Bening) – who has just moved to Washington, D.C. – while at the same time attempting to win the passage of a crime control bill.

Composer Marc Shaiman was nominated for the Original Musical or Comedy Score Oscar for The American President. The film was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical for Michael Douglas, Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical for Annette Bening, and Best Comedy/Musical, The American Film Institute ranked The American President No. 75 on its list of America’s Greatest Love Stories.

This was Rob Reiner’s first feature after the abysmal disaster that was North and boy, did he come back with a bang or what? With a smart savvy script by Aaron Sorkin, this romantic comedy works really well thanks to the great chemistry by Michael Douglas and Annette Bening.

My Fellow Americans

My Fellow Americans is a 1996 American comedy film starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner as feuding ex-presidents. Dan Aykroyd, Lauren Bacall, Esther Rolle, John Heard, Wilford Brimley, Bradley Whitford and Jeff Yagher are also in the cast. It is named for the traditional opening of Presidential addresses to the American people.

Lemmon’s perennial collaborator, Walter Matthau, was slated to costar. Health problems kept him from appearing so Garner was chosen to star opposite Lemmon for their first project together. The film was unofficially called “Grumpy Old Presidents” by those on the set.

Kramer and Douglas, two former presidents from opposite ends of the political spectrum, become reluctant allies when they become the target of a conspirator in President Haney’s administration. The two ex-presidents realize they have an enemy within the government and set out to find evidence that will clear their names. The search takes them across the Southern Appalachians; along the way they meet a homeless couple, thwart kidnapers in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, and find themselves marching in a gay pride parade.

Jack Lemmon and James Garner work off each other really well in this extremely funny political satire comedy from Peter Segal, the director of Tommy Boy.

Wag The Dog

Wag the Dog is a 1997 black comedy film produced and directed by Barry Levinson. The screenplay by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet was loosely adapted from Larry Beinhart’s novel American Hero. The film stars Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, with Anne Heche, Denis Leary, and William H. Macy in supporting roles.

The film follows a Washington, D.C. spin doctor (De Niro) who, mere days before a presidential election, distracts the electorate from a sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood film producer (Hoffman) to construct a fake war with Albania.

Wag the Dog was released one month before the outbreak of the Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan by the Clinton administration, which prompted the media to draw comparisons between the film and reality.

This movie works because of just how realistic that it ended up becoming in later years, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro work incredibly well off each other, David Mamet does a great job co-writing the script, Barry Levinson does the direction really well here.

Election

Election is a 1999 American black comedy-drama film directed and written by Alexander Payne and adapted by him and Jim Taylor from Tom Perrotta’s 1998 novel of the same title. The plot revolves around a high school election and satirizes both suburban high school life and politics. The film stars Matthew Broderick as Jim McAllister, a popular high school social studies teacher in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, and Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick, around the time of the school’s student body election. When Tracy qualifies to run for class president, McAllister believes she does not deserve the title and tries his best to stop her from winning.

One of the first features from director Alexander Payne and what many also consider to be kind of a spiritual sequel to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you can make the argument that Broderick’s character is like what Ferris Bueller would be like if he had to act like an adult.

The movie is extremely funny, very smart, and very clever like great political satires should be and one of the reasons why Alexander Payne became such a great director with films such as Sideways, The Descendants, and Nebraska.

The Ides Of March

The Ides of March is a 2011 American political drama film directed by George Clooney from a screenplay written by Clooney, along with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon. The film is an adaptation of Willimon’s 2008 play Farragut North. It stars Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright.

Stephen Meyers is a young idealist who’s brilliant at communications, is second in command of Governor Mike Morris’s presidential campaign, and is a true believer. In the middle of the Ohio primary, the campaign manager of Morris’s opponent asks Meyers to meet; he offers him a job. At the same time, Morris’s negotiations for the endorsement of the man in third place, a North Carolina Senator, hit a snag. A young campaign intern, Molly Stearns, gets Stephen’s romantic attention. Republicans have a trick up their sleeve; Stephen may be too trusting, and Molly has a secret. What’s most important, career, victory, or virtue?

The cast in this movie carries the film through, Ryan Gosling gives one of his strongest performances as an actor in this movie as does most of the cast here in a conflicting but harrowing political movie on the level with a lot of great drama and tension.

The Campaign

The Campaign is a 2012 American political satire comedy film directed by Jay Roach, written by Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy and stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as two North Carolinians vying for a seat in Congress.

A hilarious depiction of pretty much how the actual 2012 election ended up turning out. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifiankis were both hilarious and the movie was surprisingly funny, but you really couldn’t tell from all those shitty trailers that came out.

MOVIES MENTIONED IN THIS POST

Bob Roberts

Dave

The American President

My Fellow Americans

Wag The Dog

Election

The Ides Of March

The Campaign

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