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The Best Political Films Ever Made

Updated August 28, 2020 20.1k votes 2.0k voters 143.1k 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.

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  • 1
    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

    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
  • 2
    All the President's Men
    517
    171

    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
  • 3
    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
    354
    120

    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
  • 4
    The Manchurian Candidate
    345
    124

    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
  • 5
    Lawrence of Arabia
    210
    83

    Lawrence of Arabia

    Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole

    Released1962

    Directed byDavid Lean

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  • 6
    Schindler's List
    418
    151

    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
  • 7
    The Great Dictator
    361
    147

    The Great Dictator

    Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard

    Released1940

    Directed byCharlie Chaplin

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  • 8
    V for Vendetta
    341
    172

    V for Vendetta

    Natalie Portman, John Hurt

    Released2006

    Directed byJames McTeigue

    V for Vendetta is a 2006 American political thriller film directed by James McTeigue and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 9
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
    207
    89

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito

    Released1975

    Directed byMiloš Forman

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  • 10
    American History X
    217
    95

    American History X

    Edward Norton, Edward Furlong

    Released1998

    Directed byTony Kaye

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  • 11
    Judgment at Nuremberg
    163
    72

    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
  • 12
    Gandhi
    236
    120

    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
  • 13
    Hotel Rwanda
    204
    93

    Hotel Rwanda

    Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix

    Released2004

    Directed byTerry George

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  • 14
    Wag the Dog
    292
    154

    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
  • 15
    JFK
    329
    206

    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
  • 16
    A Clockwork Orange
    204
    109

    A Clockwork Orange

    Malcolm McDowell, Warren Clarke

    Released1971

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

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  • 17
    Mississippi Burning
    183
    90

    Mississippi Burning

    Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman

    Released1988

    Directed byAlan Parker

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  • 18
    Full Metal Jacket
    82
    24

    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
  • 19
    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
    115
    40

    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch

    Released2011

    Directed byTomas Alfredson

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  • 20
    Frost/Nixon
    135
    66

    Frost/Nixon

    Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell

    Released2008

    Directed byRon Howard

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  • 21
    Apocalypse Now
    104
    23

    Apocalypse Now

    Marlon Brando, Harrison Ford

    Released1979

    Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola

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  • 22
    Braveheart
    208
    142

    Braveheart

    Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau

    Released1995

    Directed byMel Gibson

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  • 23
    All the King's Men
    182
    92

    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
  • 24
    Three Days of the Condor
    123
    63

    Three Days of the Condor

    Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway

    Released1975

    Directed bySydney Pollack

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  • 25
    Good Night, and Good Luck
    218
    105

    Good Night, and Good Luck

    George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr.

    Released2005

    Directed byGeorge Clooney

    Good Night, and Good Luck. is a 2005 American drama film directed by George Clooney and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button