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The Best Political Films Ever Made

Political movies can approach the notion of politics and government from numerous perspectives, and with many wildly divergent purposes. Some of the earliest and best-remembered films were essentially propaganda tools being used by a political party or ideological group, hoping that the new media of cinema could be useful in helping to persuade or mollify the masses. (In some cases, as with the Nazi documentary "Triumph of the Will" or Sergei Eisenstein's massively influential "Battleship Potemkin," they were undeniable successful, at least initially.)

Political films can also serve the opposite purpose, encouraging people to distrust or even fear their government, or attacking an individual politician or political movement specifically. Some of the best political movies, the paranoia thrillers of the 1970s, for example, reflected America's distrust in its own leaders following the Watergate and other corruption scandals. More recently, George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck" told a true story about journalist Edward R. Murrow facing off against Joseph McCarthy, but as a way of discussing political issues that remained relevant even upon its release in 2005. Good political movies are able to illuminate complicated situations for their viewers.

Many Americans' understanding of complex political situations, both in their homeland and in other countries, as well, comes from watching popular films. For example, the satirical take on the politics of war in "Wag the Dog," the insights into Greek politics provided by Costa-Gavras "Z" or the look at Bolivian elections in the documentary "Our Brand is Crisis."

This list includes notable and significant political movies from throughout cinema history from all different styles and genres. It is VoteRanked and Open, so be sure to vote up your favorites, vote down the movies you don't think belong on the list and add any other suggestions you have at the bottom of the page.

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The Best Political Films Ever Made Films
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  1. 1
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    • Actors: James Earl Jones, Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens + 14 more
    • Initial Release: 1964
    • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
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    • Actors: Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, Laurence Harvey, Henry Silva + 9 more
    • Initial Release: 1962
    • Directed by: John Frankenheimer
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    • Actors: Richard Nixon, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Gerald Ford, Meredith Baxter + 84 more
    • Initial Release: 1976
    • Directed by: Alan J. Pakula
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    • Actors: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, Norbert Weisser + 133 more
    • Initial Release: 1993
    • Directed by: Steven Spielberg
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    • Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, John Gielgud + 144 more
    • Initial Release: 1982
    • Directed by: Richard Attenborough
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    • Actors: Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Don Cheadle, Jean Reno, Sophie Okonedo + 32 more
    • Initial Release: 2004
    • Directed by: Terry George
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    • Actors: James Stewart, Claude Rains, Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Arnold + 11 more
    • Initial Release: 1939
    • Directed by: Frank Capra
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    • Actors: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Billy Gilbert, Jack Oakie, Chester Conklin + 10 more
    • Initial Release: 1940
    • Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
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    • Actors: Judy Garland, William Shatner, Marlene Dietrich, Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster + 5 more
    • Initial Release: 1961
    • Directed by: Stanley Kramer
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    • Actors: James Franco, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Dave Franco, Alison Pill + 118 more
    • Initial Release: 2008
    • Directed by: Gus Van Sant
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    • Actors: Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey + 3 more
    • Initial Release: 1988
    • Directed by: Alan Parker
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    • Actors: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly DAngelo, Elliott Gould, Fairuza Balk + 8 more
    • Initial Release: 1998
    • Directed by: Tony Kaye
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    • Actors: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci + 21 more
    • Initial Release: 1991
    • Directed by: Oliver Stone
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    • Actors: Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke, Steven Berkoff, David Prowse, Adrienne Corri + 70 more
    • Initial Release: 1971
    • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
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    • Actors: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Catherine McCormack + 59 more
    • Initial Release: 1995
    • Directed by: Mel Gibson
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    • Actors: Kirsten Dunst, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, Jay Leno + 90 more
    • Initial Release: 1997
    • Directed by: Barry Levinson
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    • Actors: Shirley MacLaine, Peter Sellers, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas, Hal Ashby + 60 more
    • Initial Release: 1979
    • Directed by: Hal Ashby
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    • Actors: Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, José Ferrer + 11 more
    • Initial Release: 1962
    • Directed by: David Lean
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    • Actors: Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Fry, Imogen Poots + 90 more
    • Initial Release: 2005
    • Directed by: James McTeigue
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    • Actors: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman + 10 more
    • Initial Release: 1975
    • Directed by: Sydney Pollack
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