Celebrate Election Day with these 10 great election-themed movies
If you're seeking relevant distractions from the vote-tallying process, you have plenty of cinematic options — from cynical thrillers to diverting satires
After they cast their ballots today, exhausted voters who need a break from 24-hour election coverage may be looking for a way to wind down but stay in the spirit of the day. The Week is here to help. Consider downloading one or more of these 10 election-themed movies:
1. All the King's Men (1949)If you've stopped believing anything the candidates say, try this surprisingly cynical Best Picture winner, based on the novel of the same name. All the King's Men, which chronicles an idealist's descent into corruption as he advances in the world of politics, is a genuine American classic that holds up more than 60 years after its original release (2006's disastrous remake, starring Sean Penn, didn't fare nearly as well).
2. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)Conspiracy theorists can dive headfirst into the paranoia of the Cold War with The Manchurian Candidate, a Frank Sinatra thriller about an elaborate communist plot to plant a mind-controlled Soviet sleeper agent in the Oval Office. The glossy 2004 remake is also well worth watching (especially for Meryl Streep's turn as a Hillary-Clintonesque power broker), but it doesn't quite measure up to the original.
3. The Candidate (1972)If mind-control is too far-fetched for your Election Day viewing party, The Candidate offers a far more grounded — but equally grim — indictment of the American political system. Robert Redford plays a California Senatorial candidate, who repeatedly compromises his values and beliefs in order to climb in the polls. The film's blackly satirical closing scenes are justly regarded as some of the sharpest political commentary in mainstream American cinema of the 1970s.
4. Dave (1993)Need a palate cleanser after movies about the inevitability of political corruption? Try Dave, a sweet, modern populist fable about an ordinary man who happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to the leader of the free world. When the president disappears in an attempt to dodge a sex scandal, the Secret Service taps virtual doppelganger Dave Kovic to stand in as his replacement — only be to wowed by Dave's wild spike in popularity.
5. The American President (1995)Just a few years before screenwriter Aaron Sorkin would take his idealistic vision of American politics to the small-screen with The West Wing, he offered this unlikely political rom-com, starring Michael Douglas as a widowed commander-in-chief. The film's depiction of the president's contentious relationship with a rival presidential hopeful played by Richard Dreyfuss, and his near-compromise to ensure a victory in an upcoming election, show that re-election is rarely far from a first-term president's mind.
6. Bulworth (1998)A fascinating, deeply strange passion project from writer/director/star Warren Beatty, Bulworth tells the story of an aging, depressed California Senatorial candidate who arranges for his own assassination. In the days leading up to his planned death, Bulworth embraces drug use, raps in public, and embarks on an affair with a campaigner played by Halle Berry.
7. Election (1999)This brilliantly satirical cult-classic shows that student-body elections can be every bit as nasty, contentious, and corrupt as presidential elections. Matthew Broderick stars as a meddling Omaha high school teacher who oversees a dramatic race for the seemingly-insignificant office. Reese Witherspoon's breakout performance as Tracy Flick, a gratingly overachieving high school student determined to claim the title, remains her career-best.
8. Man of the Year (2006)It's more interesting in concept than in execution, but the Robin Williams vehicle Man of the Year — which posits a world in which a Jon Stewart-esque figure enters a presidential election satirically, then discovers an unexpected groundswell of support — takes a few well-aimed shots at the two-party system and the modern electoral process as a whole.
9. The Ides of March (2011)Last year's star-studded political drama offers a (fictional) glimpse behind the scenes of a contentious Democratic primary campaign, with Ryan Gosling as a junior campaign manager for George Clooney's Obama-esque presidential hopeful. Though the film is implausible and soapy in places, it features a few terrific performances, including strong supporting turns by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti.
10. The Campaign (2012)If months of negative campaigning have worn you down, you'll probably be happiest throwing up your hands and watching this wacky political satire, which pits Will Ferrell's sitting North Carolina congressman against Zach Galifianakis' soft-spoken challenger, who was hand-chosen by thinly-veiled parodies of the Koch brothers.