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The Best Political Films Ever Made 

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Originally by Ranker Community
Updated June 19, 2020 25k votes 2k voters 141.3k views 313 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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1
Dr. Strangelove or: How ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
James Earl Jones, Peter Sellers, George C. Scott

Released: 1964

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, more commonly known as Dr. Strangelove, is a 1964 political satire black comedy film that satirizes fears of a nuclear ...more

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2
All the President's Men ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Richard Nixon, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford

Released: 1976

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

All the President's Men is a 1976 American political thriller film directed by Alan J. Pakula. The screenplay by William Goldman is based on the 1974 non-fiction book of the same name by Carl ...more

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#115 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #84 of 358 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
The Manchurian Candidate... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh

Released: 1962

Directed by: John Frankenheimer

The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American Cold War suspense thriller directed by John Frankenheimer that stars Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh and co-stars Angela Lansbury, ...more

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#66 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #289 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #298 of 481 The Greatest Movies for Guys

4
Mr. Smith Goes to Washin... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
James Stewart, Claude Rains, Jean Arthur

Released: 1939

Directed by: Frank Capra

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a 1939 American political comedy-drama film, starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur, about one man's effect on American politics. It was directed by Frank Capra ...more

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#804 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #24 of 81 The Most Patriotic Movies of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley

Released: 1993

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas ...more

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#8 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #4 of 358 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
V for Vendetta is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Hugo Weaving

Released: 2005

Directed by: James McTeigue

V for Vendetta is a 2006 American political thriller film directed by James McTeigue and written by the Wachowski Brothers, based on the 1988 Vertigo graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore ...more

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7
The Great Dictator is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Billy Gilbert

Released: 1940

Directed by: Charlie Chaplin

The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical political comedy-drama film starring, written, produced, scored, and directed by Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other ...more

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8
Lawrence of Arabia is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness

Released: 1962

Directed by: David Lean

Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British epic adventure drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel. The film stars Peter O'Toole in the ...more

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#10 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #24 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

9
Gandhi is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley, Martin Sheen

Released: 1982

Directed by: Richard Attenborough

Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leader of India's non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against the United ...more

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#213 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #373 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

10
American History X is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly DAngelo

Released: 1998

Directed by: Tony Kaye

American History X is a 1998 American drama film directed by Tony Kaye and written by David McKenna. It stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and co-stars Fairuza Balk, Stacy Keach, Elliott ...more

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#111 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #46 of 481 The Greatest Movies for Guys #189 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

11
JFK is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon

Released: 1991

Directed by: Oliver Stone

JFK is a 1991 American historical legal-conspiracy thriller film directed by Oliver Stone. It examines the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and subsequent ...more

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#862 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #142 of 363 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
One Flew Over the Cuckoo... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd

Released: 1975

Directed by: MiloŇ° Forman

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1975 drama film written by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman and directed by MiloŇ° Forman.

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13
Hotel Rwanda is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Don Cheadle

Released: 2004

Directed by: Terry George

Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 American historical drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted from a screenplay written by both George and Keir Pearson. It stars Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo ...more

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14
A Clockwork Orange is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke, Steven Berkoff

Released: 1971

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novella A Clockwork Orange. It employs disturbing, violent ...more

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Kubrick And Codpieces: Behind The Scenes Of 'A Clockwork Orange' #43 of 358 The Best Movies Based On Books #149 of 481 The Greatest Movies for Guys

15
Braveheart is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson

Released: 1995

Directed by: Mel Gibson

Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical medieval war drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First ...more

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#23 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #17 of 553 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Wag the Dog is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Kirsten Dunst, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman

Released: 1997

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Wag the Dog is a 1997 black comedy film produced and directed by Barry Levinson. The screenplay by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet was loosely adapted from Larry Beinhart's novel American Hero. ...more

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17
Judgment at Nuremberg is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Judy Garland, William Shatner, Marlene Dietrich

Released: 1961

Directed by: Stanley Kramer

Judgment at Nuremberg is a 1961 American drama film dealing with the Holocaust and with the post-WWII geo-political complexity of the Nuremberg Trials. The picture was written by Abby Mann and ...more

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#42 of 214 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #786 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

18
Mississippi Burning is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand

Released: 1988

Directed by: Alan Parker

Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by Chris Gerolmo. It was loosely based on the FBI investigation into the incidents involving of three ...more

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#289 of 363 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #187 of 522 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

19
All the King's Men is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, John Derek

Released: 1949

Directed by: Robert Rossen

All the King's Men is a 1949 drama film with noir-themed overtones set in a political setting directed by Robert Rossen and based on the Robert Penn Warren novel of the same name. The production ...more
20
Frost/Nixon is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Michael Sheen

Released: 2008

Directed by: Ron Howard

Frost/Nixon is a 2008 British-American historical drama film based on the 2006 play of the same name by Peter Morgan, who also adapted the screenplay. The film tells the story behind the ...more

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21
Milk is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
James Franco, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin

Released: 2008

Directed by: Gus Van Sant

Milk is a 2008 American biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, ...more

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22
Good Night, and Good Luc... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Daniels

Released: 2005

Directed by: George Clooney

Good Night, and Good Luck. is a 2005 American drama film directed by George Clooney and starring David Strathairn, Clooney, Robert Downey, Jr., Patricia Clarkson and Jeff Daniels. The movie was ...more

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23
Three Days of the Condor... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow

Released: 1975

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Three Days of the Condor is a 1975 American political thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and Max von Sydow. The screenplay by ...more

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#160 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #447 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on The Very Best Movies About Hackers

24
Tinker Tailor Soldier Sp... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
sebbzor added Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gary Oldman

Released: 2011

Directed by: Tomas Alfredson

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 espionage film directed by Tomas Alfredson. The screenplay was written by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, based on the 1974 novel of the same name by ...more
25
Being There is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Political Films Ever Made
Shirley MacLaine, Peter Sellers, Jack Warden

Released: 1979

Directed by: Hal Ashby

Being There is a 1979 American comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby. Adapted from the 1970 novella by Jerzy Kosinski, the screenplay was written by Kosinski and the uncredited Robert C. ...more

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#193 of 358 The Best Movies Based On Books #215 of 922 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Filmslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever