Watchworthy
2.0k voters

The Best Political Films Ever Made

Updated August 28, 2020 20.1k votes 2.0k voters 143.0k views315 items

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
Photo:
...more
  • 26
    The Grapes of Wrath
    60
    11

    The Grapes of Wrath

    Henry Fonda, John Carradine

    Released1940

    Directed byJohn Ford

    The Grapes of Wrath is a 1940 drama film directed by John Ford. It was based on John... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More The Grapes of Wrath 

    #71 of 160 The Most Utterly Depressing Movies Ever Made#51 of 364 The Best Movies Based On Books

  • 27
    Argo
    106
    51

    Argo

    Ben Affleck, John Goodman

    Released2012

    Directed byBen Affleck

    Argo is a 2012 American political thriller film directed by Ben Affleck. The film is adapted... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 28
    The Lives of Others
    90
    38

    The Lives of Others

    Ulrich Tukur, Ulrich Mühe

    Released2006

    Directed byFlorian Henckel von Donnersmarck

    The Lives of Others is a 2006 German drama film, marking the feature film debut of filmmaker... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 29
    The Battle of Algiers
    78
    36

    The Battle of Algiers

    Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef

    Released1966

    Directed byGillo Pontecorvo

    The Battle of Algiers is a 1966 film based on occurrences against the French government in... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 30
    Paths of Glory
    73
    26

    Paths of Glory

    Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou

    Released1957

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Paths of Glory is a 1957 American film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same name... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Paths of Glory 

    #233 of 276 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry#78 of 224 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

  • 31
    Network
    83
    12

    Network

    Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway

    Released1976

    Directed bySidney Lumet

    Network is a 1976 American satirical film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 32
    The Queen
    178
    102

    The Queen

    Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen

    Released2006

    Directed byStephen Frears

    The Queen is a 2006 British historical drama film depicting the British Royal Family's... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 33
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    77
    10

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck

    Released1962

    Directed byRobert Mulligan

    To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1962 American drama film directed by Robert Mulligan. The... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 34
    The American President
    155
    98

    The American President

    Annette Bening, Michael J. Fox

    Released1995

    Directed byRob Reiner

    The American President is a 1995 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Rob Reiner... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 35
    Being There
    195
    112

    Being There

    Shirley MacLaine, Peter Sellers

    Released1979

    Directed byHal Ashby

    Being There is a 1979 American comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby. Adapted from the 1970... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 36
    In the Name of the Father
    103
    56

    In the Name of the Father

    Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson

    Released1993

    Directed byJim Sheridan

    In the Name of the Father is a 1993 Irish-British-American biographical courtroom drama film... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More In the Name of the Father 

    #7 of 13 13 Daniel Day-Lewis Performances That Prove The Mad Genius Of His Notorious Method#33 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '90s

  • 37
    Seven Days in May
    155
    67

    Seven Days in May

    Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner

    Released1964

    Directed byJohn Frankenheimer

    Seven Days in May is a 1964 drama-romance film written by Fletcher Knebel, Charles W. Bailey... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 38
    Z
    114
    57

    Z

    Jean-Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand

    Released1969

    Directed byCosta-Gavras

    Z is a 1969 Algerian French language political thriller directed by Costa-Gavras, with a... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Z 

    #243 of 1,189 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever#130 of 152 The Best Movies of the '60s

  • 39
    Doctor Zhivago
    65
    19

    Doctor Zhivago

    Omar Sharif, Julie Christie

    Released1965

    Directed byDavid Lean

    Doctor Zhivago is a British-American 1965 epic drama–romance film directed by David Lean,... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 40
    Milk
    253
    197

    Milk

    James Franco, Sean Penn

    Released2008

    Directed byGus Van Sant

    Milk is a 2008 American biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 41
    Citizen Kane
    63
    15

    Citizen Kane

    Orson Welles, Alan Ladd

    Released1941

    Directed byOrson Welles

    Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film produced by, co-written by, directed by and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Citizen Kane 

    #72 of 149 Movies That Should Never Be Remade#1 of 121 The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time

  • 42
    Fail Safe
    66
    31

    Fail Safe

    Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau

    Released1964

    Directed bySidney Lumet

    Fail-Safe is a 1964 Cold thriller film directed by Sidney Lumet, based on the 1962 novel of... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 43
    Downfall
    51
    20

    Downfall

    Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz

    Released2004

    Directed byOliver Hirschbiegel

    Downfall is a 2004 German film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, depicting the final ten days... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Downfall 

    #60 of 374 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked#66 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

  • 44
    Malcolm X
    197
    117

    Malcolm X

    Denzel Washington, Al Sharpton

    Released1992

    Directed bySpike Lee

    Malcolm X is a 1992 American biographical drama film about the African-American activist... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Malcolm X 

    #276 of 366 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime#128 of 236 The Best Movies Based On True Stories

  • 45
    Dave
    178
    102

    Dave

    Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver

    Released1993

    Directed byIvan Reitman

    Dave is a 1993 American political comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman. To avoid a potentially... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Dave 

    #203 of 926 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films#560 of 836 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

  • 46
    Charlie Wilson's War
    124
    65

    Charlie Wilson's War

    Julia Roberts, Amy Adams

    Released2007

    Directed byMike Nichols

    Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 American biographical comedy-drama film, recounting the true... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Charlie Wilson's War 

    #1174 of 1,647 The Most Rewatchable Movies#23 of 55 The Funniest Movies About Politics

  • 47
    Brazil
    78
    44

    Brazil

    Robert De Niro, Bob Hoskins

    Released1985

    Directed byTerry Gilliam

    Brazil is a 1985 British film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam, Charles... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Brazil 

    #264 of 314 The Funniest '80s Movies#171 of 242 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time

  • 48
    Thank You for Smoking
    186
    99

    Thank You for Smoking

    Katie Holmes, Robert Duvall

    Released2006

    Directed byJason Reitman

    Thank You for Smoking is a 2006 comedy-drama film written and directed by Jason Reitman and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 49
    Clear and Present Danger
    74
    42

    Clear and Present Danger

    Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe

    Released1994

    Directed byPhillip Noyce

    Clear and Present Danger is a 1994 spy action thriller film directed by Phillip Noyce, based... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Clear and Present Danger 

    #21 of 102 The Best Third Films In A Movie Series#11 of 89 The Greatest Movies About CIA Agents & Operatives

  • 50
    Reds
    118
    73

    Reds

    Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton

    Released1981

    Directed byWarren Beatty

    Reds is a 1981 epic film that was co-written, produced, and directed by Warren Beatty. The... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

    More Reds 

    #46 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '80s#308 of 315 Movies with the Best Soundtracks