Excruciating decisions — many lists like this exist, and so what are the criteria? A political movie needs to say something, say it well and deliver theatrically. To me political struggles are about power and injustice, the organization of society. I’ve seen a lot of films, not as many as some but more than most.

Best / Most Impact

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Bob Roberts

This may be the best American political movie of all time.

JFK

This may also be the best American political movie of all time.

Chinatown (Collector's Edition DVD)

Chinatown

Emotional punch, rawness that isn’t apparent until the very end.

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All the President’s Men

I felt obligated to watch this again, but it sure does slice deeply, if a little short on action.

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Full Metal Jacket

The military culture opened up like a festering wound.

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Battleship Potempkin

Classic for a reason, quite useful to study.

Claudius
I Claudius

Noticed this on another list, and was instantly sold. It’s a TV production, a mini-series but why not? This deserves to be here.

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The Tudors

Similarly a mini-series, set in the court of Henry VIII, done with such perfection it has to be recognized.

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Caligula

The most chilling, raw film on the entire list. Mad Caesar, the fitting heir to a mad culture, the pinnacle of absolute power and atrocity.

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Dr. Strangelove

The cold war in a nutshell.

Idiocracy

A favorite of mine, and we quote it often. America continues down this path every day, and it is unlikely to ever seem dated, barring nuclear annihilation.

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Platoon

The US military as its own universe.

MPW-51884
The Handmaid’s Tale

The correct take and the correct villains.

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Miss Bala

How a corrupt narco empire intersects with the people under its dominion.

MPW-19401
Brazil

Fascism, absurdism, escapism.

189666.1020.A
The Player

Hollywood as a class system.

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American Psycho

Ivy league Mansons: the masters of the universe.

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Cosmopolis

Elite self-loathing, power disparity and the obscenity of unrestrained capitalism.

RED
The Thin Red Line

Another take on the military, war as conquest and thought the enemy of soldiers.

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A Clockwork Orange

The state vs. crime, an experiment not so difficult to imagine.

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Raising Arizona

Recidivism, ethics, morality and love.

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Election

Ethics vs. morality.

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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

The rot at the center of American politics, pervasive corruption, social manipulation.

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Thirteen Days

Nuclear brinksmanship and the madmen clamoring to wage war at any price.

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The Pianist

Warsaw Ghetto, the politics of survival.

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28 Days Later

At the edge of civilization, humanity is stripped away.

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Robocop

Corporate takeover of policing and government.

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Aguirre: The Wrath of God

Fools rush in.

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How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Society necessitates a personality split, and can only continue in its present form by destroying.

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Heathers

Society as a high school.

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The Road Warrior

The forces of civilization vs. the forces of anarchy, and one man caught in the middle.

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Eyes Wide Shut

Elite depravity and unaccountability.

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Bridge Over the River Kwai

Stockholm Syndrome, myopia, desperation clouds the mind.

Almost But NO.

The Ghost Writer

I was torn where this should end up. It’s a little slow and understated for the mass audience.

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The Manchurian Candidate

I don’t consider this a political film at all, but a psychological thriller.

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Bulworth

Eh, upon further reflection Warren Beatty’s performance makes me a little embarrassed to include this at all. C+ for effort though.

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Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Greatest zombie film, but not purely political.

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Three Kings

Top notch film, but politically rather tepid.

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Frost/Nixon

Interesting on a small scale.

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Great racial themes, as well as an amusing take on southern politics, but a little silly.

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The Battle of Algiers

This ranking may draw some fire. It’s a good story, but the pacing and execution are dated.

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Gandhi

Too long. Cut that thing down.

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The Lives of Others

Slow and less than edge of the seat for far too long.

DownfallDD
Downfall

Another close call. Should it go in the above list? It has the feel of a contained stage play, a little small for the best of list.

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Black Dynamite

Too silly, but a hell of a fun ride. I wouldn’t feel right about a Blaxploitation spoof film on the best-of list, but the ending is too much to ignore.

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The Insider

Solid film, just not great.

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Erin Brockovich

Also solid story, important, but not truly great cinematically.

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V For Vendetta

Don’t know about this one. I enjoyed it, but it really shows its problems in terms of pacing and lack of suspense.

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Watchmen

Great comic book film, perhaps the best one – maybe should get moved up the page.

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The Parallax View

Creepy paranoid thriller, seems a little dated now.

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The Matrix

A little too Keanu.  A little too over the top.  Way too dumb.

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Der Tunnel

Great film but a bit one-sided in its perspective, giving it some shallow moments, as in a number of generic action films.

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The Distinguished Gentleman

Too silly to be a serious contender, but the story is worth a view.

Not Yet Seen

NO-poster
No

Worst / Evil / Overrated

Birth of a Nation (The Clansman)
Evil.
The Deer Hunter
Evil.
Team America: World Police
Evil.
Reds
So boring, prefer Dr. Zhivago if I’m going to sit that long in Russia.
The American President
Sorkin. Yuck. Hollywood’s version of politics is laughable if it wasn’t so damaging that people buy into this crap.
Dave
See above. Hate Hollywood’s version of the White House with a passion. Listen to LBJ and Nixon’s actual tape recordings, and compare to the mainstream Disneyfied tripe. Utter waste of good celluloid.
Wag the Dog
Overrated. This was amusing but grates upon further reflection. The people are amoral assholes, all of them, with not a one worth a damn, pretty much makes a mockery of itself.
Thank You For Smoking
Overrated. That actor has one of those faces you just want to beat to a bloody pulp. Such an arrogant, libertarian film that didn’t win me over, sorry.
Primary Colors
Overrated/evil. How does this crap end up on best-of lists? Lionizing Slick Willie? Wear a raincoat.
Charlie Wilson’s War
Propaganda pure and simple, factually inaccurate and an insult.
Casablanca
Ridiculous plot tries to make a fluffy broken heart story seem important, and people buy it. The screenwriter disowned it.
Citizen Kane
Possibly the most overrated movie in history. Literally put me to sleep, sorry Orson. Preferred Touch of Evil.
The Leopard
Overrated. Long, slow, boring every sin an American audience would despise.
W.
Oliver Stone’s worst film.
All the King’s Men
Both versions are overrated, a bit long and convoluted and lacking action. Sean Penn’s Dead Man Walking is a better political film.
The Candidate
Massively overrated. This film pisses me off in the last scene: “What do we do now?” Empty and hollow, even in a time of great historical upheaval, the 1960s and Vietnam. Only a Hollywood screenwriter/producer combo would have nothing he stands for and wants to accomplish. Sort of disgusts me. This is the emptiness and shallowness of Tinseltown more than anything else.
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