Ahead of the Oscars, Our Staff Picks for Political Movies

PHOTO: Mr. Smith goes to Washington movie poster is seen here.
Columbia

The country looks to Hollywood this Sunday for the 84th Annual Academy Awards, but Hollywood has been looking to politics for great material since its very beginning. If the GOP race isn't providing you with enough excitement, check out some of the titles on our list of the best political films to get in the campaign spirit.

Rick Klein, Senior Washington Editor

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

(Image Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Cold War fervor and fear at its black-and-white best, complete with real-life brainwashings before George Romney made them famous. You realize that Frank Sinatra was a terrific actor, and the filmmakers were right not to cast him as the presidential candidate but as his friend. Angela Lansbury as Manipulative Mom is icily brilliant. You also get to watch a presidential candidate (Laurence Harvey) with a bizarre accent and remember this came out during the Kennedy years. Plus, you'll never see a Queen of Diamonds again without getting a quick chill down your spine.

Alexa Keyes, Digital Intern

Traffic (2000)

(Image Credit: Universal)

Michael Douglas is a drug czar, Benicio del Toro is a Mexican cop, and Catherine Zeta Jones is the wife of a major drug cartel boss in this star-studded film that takes an unapologetic look at the drug war on multiple fronts: the users, the dealers, the politicians and the police. Senators Harry Reid, Charles Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Don Nickles and Barbara Boxer all make cameo appearances. From corrupt politicians to inner-city dealers and users, "Traffic" presents the War on Drugs as a complete failure with a ripple effect that touches nearly every aspect of American politics.

Amber Porter, Managing Editor of OTUSNews.com

Dave (1993)

(Image Credit: Warner Bros.)

I don't know if this is really my favorite, or if it's just been conditioned to be by the years of constant repeats on cable television.

Z. Byron Wolf, Deputy Political Director

Bob Roberts (1992)

(Image Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Take a conservative tycoon with a compelling life story, a way with folk music, some slicked-back hair and absolutely no moral compunction -- and you've got Bob Roberts, the 1992 comedy in the vein of mockumentaries like "This is Spinal Tap." It's one part farce,  two parts satire and probably a little bit of genius by actor, writer, director Tim Robbins. This movie has a political agenda, but more than that, it has rich characters that suggest the question, What kind of a person would want to give up their entire life to run for office anyway? What's more, who wants to give up their life to work for the person who wants to run for office? Alan Rickman's shady svengali is at the center of the evil parts of the film. It veers into the fanciful toward the end, but the early scenes of Tim Robbins melding Bob Dylan with Gordon Gecko into a vanity senatorial campaign are hilarious and a bit alarming because they seem almost plausible.

Chris Good, Political Reporter

Election (1999)

(Image Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Everyone knows somebody like Tracy Flick. Also, isn't all politics sort of about megalomania and revenge?

Josh Haskell, Political Desk

Being There (1979)

(Image Credit: Lorimar)

In this dark comedy, Chance the Gardener accidently becomes Chauncey Gardiner, an upper class, highly educated business man. Chance has rarely ventured out from his job as a gardener at the townhouse of a wealthy D.C. resident. But once his benefactor dies, Chance is taken in by Washington elites including an adviser to the president. The American public identifies with Chance's "simple brand of wisdom." Politicians interpret his statements about gardening as profound analogies on the state of the U.S. economy. Some may say Chance's qualities as a "Washington outsider" resonate with voters today more than ever.

Sarah Parnass, Digital Intern

WALL*E (2008)

(Image Credit: Disney Pixar) Though the plot of this film was more romance than politics, it definitely has a political undertone. Humankind forced to abandon Earth thanks to excessive production and consumption? Obese adults permanently tethered to their armchairs where they eat all their meals through a straw and watch endless hours of television? Idolizing one little, lone plant? Clearly this is an argument for environmental conservation and a reassessment of American priorities. Its realism is a little scary, but overall, it's a cute, heartwarming story.

Barbara Friedman, ABC News Producer

Wag the Dog (1997)

(Image Credit: New Line Cinema)

A must-see movie! Definitely one of the most cynical movies ever made about American politics. And a perfect black humor film for an election year. "Wag the Dog" takes a scathing look at a team of presidential aides and an image expert sans morals (Robert De Niro) who get together to rehabilitate the image of a president caught in a sex scandal during an upcoming election.

Karen Travers, ABC News Correspondent

The American President (1995)

(Image Credit: Universal)

This classic Washington movie, written by Aaron Sorkin, is chock full of quotable lines and has one of the most star-studded casts ever to work inside the Beltway. Not only do you have Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd, but as an added bonus, Martin Sheen plays his loyal chief of staff before he went on to serve as president himself for seven seasons on "The West Wing" (another Sorkin gem). The tale of a widowed president finding love with an environmental lobbyist may seem like the plot of your basic romantic comedy, but with its rapid-fire policy debates and Washington lingo, The American President will make any viewer feel like a political insider.

(ABC Political Reporter Elizabeth Hartfield seconds this: "Some of Aaron Sorkin's best writing. The movie conveys a strong sense of American pride but doesn't get too wonky.")

Amy Bingham, Digital Reporter

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

(Image Credit: Columbia Pictures)

Obviously. This movie is to politics what "Cinderella," "Snow White" and "Beauty and the Beast" are to relationships. It may not be accurate but it sure is inspiring. Mr. Smith's wide-eyed optimism that he can make a difference, change the world and help the helpless make Washington seem like a place where dreams can come true. And with the utter unhappiness in America, especially when it comes to politicians, we could use a reminder of what a politician should be, even if Jefferson Smith is about as realistic as Prince Charming.

Meg Fowler, Digital Intern

Air Force One (1997)

(Image Credit: Buena Vista) Because you get to see one of Harrison Ford's most ferocious growls: "Get off my plane!"

Jaclyn Evens, ABC News Media Logger

Happy Feet (2006)

(Image Credit: Warner Bros.) Cute movie with lots of political undertones. Elderly penguin calls the dancing "paganistic" and "the cause of the food shortage." The dancing penguin and his "followers" are thrown out... Metaphor on anti-immigration movement?

Serena Marshall, Digital Reporter

Man of the Year (2006)

(Image Credit: Universal) A comedian runs for president? Yes, please (and more serious run than Colbert)!

Matt Negrin, Political Reporter

Swing Vote (2008)

(Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures)

I actually watched a few minutes of this movie when it was on TV. It was pretty terrible, and I didn't understand how the situation actually developed. So I guess that's how I feel about the electoral process in general, which makes this movie the most accurate reflection of politics I've ever seen.

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