With the centennial of former President Richard Nixon's birth upon us, we put together a list of the top five movies on the president. The movies fall into two categories on the depiction of Nixon: one in which Nixon is made out to be a character foil, and another, which uses Nixon as a point of comic relief.
This 2008 film based on the 2006 Peter Morgan play of the same name, vilifies Nixon while examining his role in the Watergate scandal through a series of televised interviews following his resignation from the presidency a few years earlier. Though critics gave it positive reviews, "Frost/Nixon" received some expected flack for found historical inaccuracies of the depiction of Nixon and the 1977 interviews leading up to his resignation. Frank Langella tries his hand at method acting in his portrayal of Nixon and received acclaim for his performance toward the end of the movie, earning him an Academy Award for Best Actor, among other awards.
The movie was said to have used dramatic license to portray the interview sessions, but the film was successful in that it attempted to humanize Nixon and not necessarily use him as a scapegoat for America's woes. However, many authors and critics still maintain that the nature and progression of the some of the interviews were inaccurately portrayed to seem as if the president had performed poorly.
|'All The President's Men'|
Based on a book of the same name, this classic film stars Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as the legendary Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward throughout their investigation of the 1972 Watergate scandal.
The scandal resulted from a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. With the help of the infamous "Deep Throat" -- revealed as FBI Associate Director Mark Felt in 2005 -- the journalists traced the incident to the executive branch of the federal government and then to the president himself, leading to the resignation of Nixon. "All the President's Men" won four Academy awards, including best supporting actor, and earned a number of international award nominations.
Typewriters may have been replaced by Twitter, but "All the President's Men" is widely regarded as a "must see" example of the constant battle between politics and journalism, making it a movie that is just as relevant to modern politics as it was 41 years ago.
Anthony Hopkins tries his hand at a portrayal of Nixon in this biographical film directed by Oliver Stone. The film takes a somber tone at times, especially when displaying the paranoia and medical issues that apparently hampered Nixon in the months leading up to his resignation.
Speaking to The Daily Beast in 1995, Stone said that what struck him about Hopkins' portrayal of Nixon was "the isolation of Tony. ... The loneliness. I felt that was the quality that always marked Nixon. He played repression perfectly in 'Remains of the Day,' and there was a lot of Nixon in that, too."
This film is one of three which Stone made on the professional and personal lives of American presidents, the other two being John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush.
|'The Assassination of Richard Nixon'|
Sean Penn plays a downtrodden man as he plans the assassination of Nixon but actually ends up assassinating himself in the end. The events are loosely based on the incidents of the actual 1974 assassination attempt on Nixon by Samuel Byck. Byck tried to hijack a domestic airline and ended up killing himself and shooting the plane's pilot and copilot.
Penn's character blames his troubles on Nixon because he believes the president made a promise to end the Vietnam War, which he failed to deliver, and was reelected yet again on that same promise.
Though Nixon is never portrayed by a real character, he is present in the background of the film, including in scenes that indirectly lead to main character to becoming disillusioned with his life, or as Robert Ebert calls it, the "journey of a man going mad."
As is evident in the title, "Dick" takes a facetious approach to the portrayal of Nixon by finding humor in the secrecy of "Deep Throat."
Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams play two high school girls who are hired to be Nixon's dog walkers after a class trip to the White House. The girls find themselves in unique positions to witness situations leading to the Watergate scandal and present themselves as "Deep Throat" to Washington Post journalists Bernstein and Woodward.
Nixon attempts to trick the girls into stopping their contact with the journalists, but ultimately fails.
Despite being depicted as somewhat of a caricature, the film finds balance between humor and reality, allowing "Tricky Dick" to have an approachable demeanor that was not often seen.