While many a political film has been made, there are very few worth watching. And even fewer accurately capture a political ideology, the political situation as it occurred, or a well written and executed political experiment, or some crazy combination of the three. For all the political junkies (like me) at NSU, these are my top 5 picks for the Best American political movies of all time.
1. “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004)
Directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris, “The Manchurian Candidate” is perhaps the finest in political satire and political ideology created in modern film history. Closely based on the 1962 version, “The Manchurian Candidate” features a plot about how the desire of the wealthy and successful to attain and retain power lead to a scientific experiment beyond the physical capacity of modern science. To complement the well-written plot are stellar performances by Denzel Washington, Live Schreiber and Meryl Streep.
2. “J. Edgar” (2011)
Based on a true story, “J. Edgar” is a film not just about the tenure of J. Edgar Hoover, commissioner of the FBI for more than 50 years, but an insightful examination of the progression of the history of law enforcement in the U.S. Leonardo DiCaprio gives, quite possibly, one of the best performances of his lifetime as J. Edgar Hoover. Written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Clint Eastwood, “J. Edgar” is a film that those with a keen interest in the criminal justice system should definitely watch.
3. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)
Directed by Frank Capra and written by Sidney Buchman, Lewis Foster and Myles Connolly, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” was released during the Great Depression of the 1930s, right before the entrance of the U.S. into World War II. A classic movie with all the undertones of Hollywood at the height of its heyday, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” stars James Stewart as Mr. Smith, who is appointed to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate only to find that the political process is much more complicated than it seems. The film also stars Jean Arthur and Claude Rains, and is a must watch for anyone thinking about going into politics.
4. “Enemy of the State” (1998)
An interesting political conversation about the independence of the individual in society and the role of the government in the affairs of the individual, “Enemy of the State” is brilliant political film directed by Tony Scott, written by David Marconi and starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight. This is an excellent film for those who are interested in the modern day applications of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution (unreasonable searches and seizures) to daily life.
5. “The Candidate” (1972)
With the GOP primaries in full swing and the general election to soon follow, “The Candidate,” a film that examines the way candidates present themselves to constituents, is something that anyone planning to vote must watch. Directed by Michael Ritchie, written by Jeremy Larner and starring Robert Redford, Peter Boyle and Melvyn Douglas, “The Candidate” is a look at how elections transformed in the 1970s after the civil rights movement of the 1960s.