The Best Political Films Ever Made Films

The Best Political Films Ever Made

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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.

Check out more lists like this awesome collection of political thrillers, slave movies that will make you question the justice of history, and the top napoleon movies ever made


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  1. 1
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    • Actors: James Earl Jones, Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, + more
    • Initial Release: 1964
    • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
  2. 2
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    All the President's Men
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
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    • Actors: Richard Nixon, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Gerald Ford, Meredith Baxter, + more
    • Initial Release: 1976
    • Directed by: Alan J. Pakula
  3. 3
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    The Manchurian Candidate
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
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    • Actors: Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, Laurence Harvey, Henry Silva, + more
    • Initial Release: 1962
    • Directed by: John Frankenheimer
  4. 4
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    Schindler's List
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use
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    • Actors: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, Norbert Weisser, + more
    • Initial Release: 1993
    • Directed by: Steven Spielberg
  5. 5
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    Gandhi
    Photo: Freebase
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    • Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, John Gielgud, + more
    • Initial Release: 1982
    • Directed by: Richard Attenborough
  6. 6
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    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use
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    • Actors: James Stewart, Claude Rains, Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Arnold, + more
    • Initial Release: 1939
    • Directed by: Frank Capra
  7. 7
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    • Actors: Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Don Cheadle, Jean Reno, Sophie Okonedo, + more
    • Initial Release: 2004
    • Directed by: Terry George
  8. 8
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    • Actors: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Billy Gilbert, Jack Oakie, Chester Conklin, + more
    • Initial Release: 1940
    • Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
  9. 9
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    American History X
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
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    • Actors: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly DAngelo, Elliott Gould, Fairuza Balk, + more
    • Initial Release: 1998
    • Directed by: Tony Kaye
  10. 10
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    • Actors: Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke, Steven Berkoff, David Prowse, Adrienne Corri, + more
    • Initial Release: 1971
    • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
  11. 11
    + 113
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    Judgment at Nuremberg
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use
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    • Actors: Judy Garland, William Shatner, Marlene Dietrich, Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, + more
    • Initial Release: 1961
    • Directed by: Stanley Kramer
  12. 12
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    Mississippi Burning
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use
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    • Actors: Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, + more
    • Initial Release: 1988
    • Directed by: Alan Parker
  13. 13
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    JFK
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
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    • Actors: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, + more
    • Initial Release: 1991
    • Directed by: Oliver Stone
  14. 14
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    Wag the Dog
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use
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    • Actors: Kirsten Dunst, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, Jay Leno, + more
    • Initial Release: 1997
    • Directed by: Barry Levinson
  15. 15
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    • Actors: Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, José Ferrer, + more
    • Initial Release: 1962
    • Directed by: David Lean
  16. 16
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    • Actors: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Catherine McCormack, + more
    • Initial Release: 1995
    • Directed by: Mel Gibson
  17. 17
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    • Actors: Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Fry, Imogen Poots, + more
    • Initial Release: 2005
    • Directed by: James McTeigue
  18. 18
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    • Actors: James Franco, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Dave Franco, Alison Pill, + more
    • Initial Release: 2008
    • Directed by: Gus Van Sant
  19. 19
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    • Actors: Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Anjelica Huston, Brad Dourif, + more
    • Initial Release: 1975
    • Directed by: Miloš Forman
  20. 20
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    • Actors: Shirley MacLaine, Peter Sellers, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas, Hal Ashby, + more
    • Initial Release: 1979
    • Directed by: Hal Ashby
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