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The 411 Movies Top 5: The Top 5 Political Movies

March 19, 2016 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos

The 411 Movies Top 5: Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Movies Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to participate and give us their Top 5 on said topic. So, onto this week’s topic…

The Top 5 Political Movies

5. SPARTAN – This David Mamet action-thriller doesn’t become a full on “political” movie until the last third or so. Up until that point it’s a movie about a badass Marine Special Forces operator played by Val Kilmer who, after helping Delta Force select its next set of possible operators, helps the Secret Service and FBI look for the President’s missing daughter. The FBI suspects that the President’s daughter, played by Kristen Bell, may have been kidnapped by sex traffickers that operate out of the Middle East. So Scott kicks major ass looking for Bell, until reports come in that she was found dead in a boat accident. But something about the boat story doesn’t add up, so Scott ends up poking around some more and finds out that the President’s people may have allowed Bell to be kidnapped and then made up the boat story so she wouldn’t be an issue in the upcoming re-election campaign. Kilmer rocks hard in this movie and is probably his best screen performance. And Mamet, on a tight budget, manages to create more thrills and excitement than most big budget alleged thrillers could hope to accidentally have. And the politics of it are so damn cynical. And look at what happens when Scott “puts on his thinking cap.” Track this movie down if you haven’t seen it. It’s worth the effort.

4. CANADIAN BACON – Michael Moore’s only dramatic movie (so far) is essentially a movie about the United States going to war with Canada because the President, brilliantly played by Alan Alda, has low poll numbers and needs something “big” to happen so the American people will rally around him and, eventually, vote for him. It’s a Wag the Dog scenario before Wag the Dog was Wag the Dog. The Russians don’t want to start up the Cold War again, so the President’s smarmy aide, played by Kevin Pollak, concocts a scheme, along with ultra-rich scumbag weapons manufacturer R.J. Hacker, to start a war with Canada. It won’t be a “real” war, but the possibility of war with Canada will, the thinking is, get the American people riled up. As a result of that, there will be a massive outcry for more military spending, which will then lead to jobs for laid off workers, huge profits for Hacker, and good poll numbers for the President. Everyone wins. Of course, since Canadian Bacon is a comedy/satire, the big plan goes to shit and a real nuclear bomb shooting war with Canada almost happens. It’s a cynical message, sure, but it could happen if a President and a compliant, lame ass media get together and decide “something” needs to be done. War is, after all, good for business. One of John Candy’s best performances. “There’s a time to act and a time to think, and this, gentlemen, this is no time to think.”

3. IDIOCRACY – Written and directed by Mike Judge, Idiocracy is a science fiction comedy that’s a sort of rallying cry against rampant stupidity. When a slacker soldier played by Luke Wilson participates in a secret military hibernation experiment, he wakes up centuries later to find that the world has basically devolved into a pile of endless anti-intellectual insanity. The President, President Camacho, brilliantly played by Terry Crews, is a ridiculous former pro wrestler who starts off his State of the Union speech with “Shit” (and it’s on the teleprompter so we know it was planned out). Every second of this movie is both hilarious and incredibly sad, especially when you see real people in this day and age acting exactly like the citizens of the future. They don’t think, they don’t read, they just believe everything the business people, who aren’t much smarter than the regular citizenry, put out. And when Wilson’s Joe ends up the defacto smartest person in the world, good God we’re all in trouble. Watch and learn, everyone. Don’t allow this to happen.

2. HOFFA – Danny DeVito’s Hoffa is all about the rise of Jimmy Hoffa to the Presidency of the Teamsters Union. Hoffa, brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson, starts out small, getting small time truckers unionized and getting into massive brawls and riots with companies that aren’t too keen on the idea of an organized work force. As the story goes on, we see Hoffa get more and more powerful, getting more and more working people organized, butting heads with the federal government and eventually getting in league with the mob. Hoffa did good things, but he ended up essentially corrupt, and that’s what probably led to his disappearance (or his murder if the end of the movie is accurate). Power corrupts, even if the result is good for the people you represent. It’s goddamn depressing. And check out the great Robert Prosky as Hoffa’s associate back in Hoffa’s early days. Easily one of the greatest profane movie performances of all time. I’m amazed that the regular TV version of this movie exists with Prosky’s scenes still in it.

1. THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT– Rob Reiner’s The American President is a movie about a widower President, played by Michael Douglas, who, right before an election, decides to get romantically involved with a high powered lobbyist played by Anette Bening. This relationship leads to political issues for both the President and Bening’s Sydney Ellen Wade, as the President’s political opposition attacks him and the lobbyist loses credibility with her boss. I love how this movie, even when it tries to be cynical, doesn’t succeed. At its heart, even the bad guys in this movie (like Republican presidential candidate Bob Rumson played by Richard Dreyfus) are kind of decent. Their attack against Douglas’ President Shepherd is sort of despicable but it’s all part of the game. It’s what happens in political campaigns. So, when Shepherd finally decides to take Rumson on and go after him, it’s a monumental moment. It’s what American democracy is supposed to look like. Get in there and fight back, regardless of what you believe. Don’t let the guys on the “other side” try to define what you’re all about. I love this movie. It’s still, for my money, the best thing screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has done.

Wednesday Lee Friday
5. The Contender (2000) – If Jeff Bridges playing the President of the United States doesn’t encourage you to watch this one—I don’t know what will. Joan Allen is a newly minted Democrat and nominee for VP. When she’s asked a highly inappropriate question about her sex life while in college, she refuses to answer. This sets off a flurry of media activity, accusing her of even more absurd and ugly things. The moral? Even if it’s the “right” answer, answering an inappropriate question tacitly legitimizes it.

4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – Think filibusters are boring? You won’t after you see this gem that stars greats like Jimmy Stewart and Claude Raines. It also features a character named Henry Hill who isn’t even a mobster. This is one of the most passionate political films ever made. It’s extra cool how relevant it still is almost 80 years later.

3. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – The idea of Angela Lansbury playing a villain might seem crazy. But dammit, The Manchurian Candidate displays just how evil she can be. This unparalleled adaptation of a spectacular novel by Richard Condon. Brainwashing secret assassins who don’t even know they’re working for the bad guy is an old trope—it may have even been back then. But this 1962 film definitely holds up. The remake isn’t bad either, depending on your feelings about Liev Schreiber.

2. The Godfather Part II (1978) – The original Godfather is a timeless classic that deals with the rise (and potential demise) of the mafia in America. The sequel deals partly with the ascent of Don Vito Corleone, and partly with Don Michael’s reign as he navigates the political landscape in Nevada. We learn that politicians don’t follow their own rules, can be racist and ugly, but are pretty easily kowtowed by threats of exposure.

1. Dave (1993) – This film is a wonderful balance of exposing the dark side of politics while shining a light on the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way. When a cheating POTUS has a stroke, a lookalike is hired to replace him for reasons that turn out to be nefarious. A rare feel-good political movie, Dave features killer performances by Kevin Kline, Ving Rhames, Frank Lengella, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kinglsey, and a slew of politicians and media fixtures.

Shawn S. Lealos
5. Argo – I don’t care if you agree with the politics or not, or if you find that the movie stretched the truth of the story that it told. What makes Argo a spectacular movie is that we all know how it ends, unless you are a history illiterate, yet the movie still made us believe that they might not make it out alive. Ben Affleck proved with his movie that he had perfected the art of pacing and tension by taking a familiar story and creating a tense thriller that stacks up well with the best of them.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Yep, I am going there. The most interesting thing about Captain America as a character in the Marvel movies is that he is not really the patriotic symbol that many consider him to be. He is someone who believes in the core values of America, and when he returns, he realizes that the new U.S. Government is not the one that he supported in World War II. He said at one point that it didn’t look like we won the War at all. Then, Winter Soldier takes that thought and creates a huge political thriller action movie where Cap finds himself battling a U.S. Government who has no idea who the real terrorists are. In this case, the terrorists were not scary men from other countries; the terrorists were from within a government supported agency itself.

3. Election – You don’t have to be in the world of government politics to have a great political movie. Alexander Payne really made his name with this high school movie surrounding a popular high school government teacher (Matthew Broderick) who tries to fight fire-with-fire against a popular girl in the school who uses any means necessary to get what she wants and tries to use her devious methods to win the election for school president. It is a brilliant social commentary on politics at the basest levels.

2. All the President’s Men – This is another “based on a true story,” adapted from the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two Washington Post reporters who cracked the Richard Nixon Watergate scandal wide open. The movie remains even relevant today where anyone who tries to uncover government secrets finds themselves on the government watch lists and are silenced by any means necessary. The movie is a great thriller and both Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are fantastic in their roles.

1. Dr. Strangelove – My number one movie here is probably the best political satire ever made. Stanley Kubrick directed the film very loosely based on a thriller called Red Alert. Instead of taking the subject matter seriously, Kubrick found the entire situation ludicrous and directed it as such. A disgruntled U.S. General (played by Sterling Hayden) orders a nuclear strike against Russia and only he has the code to cancel it. This leads to a meeting in the War Room in the United States, where they try to avert World War III by trying to cancel the attack, which would cause Russia to retaliate with their own attack. Peter Sellers is the standout here as three different characters – the U.S. President Merkin Muffley, a British officer named Lionel Mandrake and Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi and current nuclear war expert. George C. Scott plays his role seriously, which makes him a riot and Slim Pickens is Slim Pickens as he stars as the bomber plane’s commander, Major T.J. “King” Kong. Forget political movies, this is one of the best movies ever made.


List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

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