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The Best Political Films Ever Made

Updated January 11, 2021 20.7k votes 2.1k voters 143.7k views340 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.

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  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb1

    Released1964

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, more commonly known as... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • All the President's Men2
    522
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    All the President's Men

    Richard Nixon, Dustin Hoffman

    Released1976

    Directed byAlan J. Pakula

    All the President's Men is a 1976 American political thriller film directed by Alan J. Pakula.... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington3
    355
    125

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

    James Stewart, Claude Rains

    Released1939

    Directed byFrank Capra

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a 1939 American political comedy-drama film, starring James... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • The Manchurian Candidate4
    353
    125

    The Manchurian Candidate

    Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury

    Released1962

    Directed byJohn Frankenheimer

    The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American Cold War suspense thriller directed by John... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Lawrence of Arabia5
    216
    86

    Lawrence of Arabia

    Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole

    Released1962

    Directed byDavid Lean

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  • Schindler's List6
    425
    153

    Schindler's List

    Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes

    Released1993

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • The Great Dictator7
    364
    151

    The Great Dictator

    Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard

    Released1940

    Directed byCharlie Chaplin

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  • V for Vendetta8
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    V for Vendetta

    Natalie Portman, John Hurt

    Released2006

    Directed byJames McTeigue

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  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest9
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    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito

    Released1975

    Directed byMiloš Forman

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1975 drama film written by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • American History X10
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    American History X

    Edward Norton, Edward Furlong

    Released1998

    Directed byTony Kaye

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  • Judgment at Nuremberg11
    172
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    Judgment at Nuremberg

    Judy Garland, William Shatner

    Released1961

    Directed byStanley Kramer

    Judgment at Nuremberg is a 1961 American drama film dealing with the Holocaust and with the... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • JFK12
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    JFK

    Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman

    Released1991

    Directed byOliver Stone

    JFK is a 1991 American historical legal-conspiracy thriller film directed by Oliver Stone. It... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Gandhi13
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    Gandhi

    Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley

    Released1982

    Directed byRichard Attenborough

    Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Hotel Rwanda14
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    Hotel Rwanda

    Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix

    Released2004

    Directed byTerry George

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  • A Clockwork Orange15
    206
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    A Clockwork Orange

    Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke

    Released1971

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Wag the Dog16
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    Wag the Dog

    Kirsten Dunst, Robert De Niro

    Released1997

    Directed byBarry Levinson

    Wag the Dog is a 1997 black comedy film produced and directed by Barry Levinson. The... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Mississippi Burning17
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    Mississippi Burning

    Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman

    Released1988

    Directed byAlan Parker

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  • Full Metal Jacket18
    84
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    Full Metal Jacket

    Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey

    Released1987

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 film directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy19
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    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch

    Released2011

    Directed byTomas Alfredson

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  • Frost/Nixon20
    137
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    Frost/Nixon

    Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell

    Released2008

    Directed byRon Howard

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  • Apocalypse Now21
    108
    25

    Apocalypse Now

    Marlon Brando, Harrison Ford

    Released1979

    Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola

    Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic adventure war film set during the Vietnam War. Produced... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • Three Days of the Condor22
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    Three Days of the Condor

    Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway

    Released1975

    Directed bySydney Pollack

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  • Braveheart23
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    Braveheart

    Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau

    Released1995

    Directed byMel Gibson

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  • Good Night, and Good Luck24
    222
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    Good Night, and Good Luck

    George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr.

    Released2005

    Directed byGeorge Clooney

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  • All the King's Men25
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    All the King's Men

    Broderick Crawford, John Ireland

    Released1949

    Directed byRobert Rossen

    All the King's Men is a 1949 drama film with noir-themed overtones set in a political setting... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button