Best of: Election Movies

warroom

American movies have a love affair with politics and elections–they come pre-packaged with a gripping dramatic structure, with the added benefit of sex scandals, assassinations, double dealing and corruption. Since it’s election day, and we know that there’s nothing we would rather do than lock ourselves in a vault and watch movies until it’s over, we’ve gone through and picked some of our favorite election-based films to pass the time until a winner gets picked.

The Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962)
Political ambition, meddling families, deception, and trauma. The Manchurian Candidate visualizes America’s fear of Communism subversively lurking in our country in the 1960s and almost predicts the same fear up through the 1980s. As if serving in a war isn’t difficult enough, former Korean War POW Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) is brainwashed by Communists into being a political assassin. But the reoccurring nightmares of fellow POW Major Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) lead to the truth. Also starring Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh. And yes, it was remade in 2004 in relation to the Gulf War but that was not nearly as frightening. – Caryn Coleman

The Best Man (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1964)
Political conventions weren’t always the tone deaf political pep rallies that they are today. Traditionally, conventions were where candidates made their last stand, desperately trying to cobble together enough delegates to earn their spot on the November ballot. The Best Man is a primary season political drama written by Gore Vidal (based on his play of the same name) that depicts two candidates, Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson, running neck and neck for their party’s nomination. The race goes all the way to the convention, with the two candidates, both with their shares of skeletons to exploit, wrestling over the unseemly maneuvering it takes to get to the top spot in American politics. – Kris King

Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)

A smart, dark comedy involving high school politics in every sense of the word. I certainly don’t remember my high school elections being nearly this scandalous but perhaps I never had the goals of Tracy Flick. In probably one of the last roles we remember Matthew Broderick not being a totally weenie, Election at once captures a mid-life crisis, young naked ambition, and a moment before our our infamous 2000 election. I’m surprised Flick isn’t one of our 2012 nominees. – Caryn Coleman

The War Room (D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, 1993)
Though people often run to Primary Colors for election night entertainment, directors D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’s The War Room offers a look at the real deal. An inside look at the gears and cogs of the Clinton campaign during the 1993 presidential election, the film mainly follows George Stephanopoulos and James Carville as they charge headfirst into the political wasteland of the American electoral process. While it’s an amazing look at how much our world has evolved over the last twenty years, it’s remarkable to see how little political gamesmanship and rhetoric has changed. – Kris King

 

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