10 Great Movies About Politics To Stream Instead Of Watching The News

We have reached the dog days of summer, and if you’re like us, you’re probably mentally drained from all of the election news. To take a break from the real world, here are 10 of the best movies, from all-time classics to underrated gems, that capture various aspects of the political process.

Most of the listed films are available to rent and/or purchase on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. We have also noted if they are available to stream on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

For even more viewing options, check out our list of 12 political documentaries.

  • “The Candidate”
    Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images

    In 1976, Robert Redford starred in one of the all-time great political films, “All the President’s Men,”a thrilling adaptation of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s story of the investigation that broke open theWatergate scandal.

    But just a few years earlier, Redforddelivered an equally compelling performance in a fictional political drama. In “The Candidate,” he playsBill McKay, a long-shot contender for aU.S. Senate seatin California. Recruited by a grizzledconsultant(Peter Boyle), McKayenters the politicalfray only when assured he will be able to speak his mind and promote his own political issues, rather than stick to conventions. But he learns that in politics, image and perception — rather than ideas and substance — are paramount to success.

    Available on Amazon Prime.

  • “In The Loop”

    Before creatingthe masterfulHBO comedy series “Veep,” Armando Iannucci wrote and directed “In The Loop,” a satireabout a diplomatic crisisbetween the U.S. and the U.K. that goes off the rails because ofa series of gaffes.

    Like “Veep,” “In The Loop” demonstrateshow political leaders can often be inept and bumbling. The film showcases a great cast from both sides of the Atlantic, including “Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi, future “Veep” star Anna Chlumsky and the late James Gandolfini as a foul-mouthed lieutenant general.

    Available on Netflix and Hulu.

  • “Milk”
    Kimberly White/Reuters

    Sean Penn won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of LGBT pioneer Harvey Milk. Even though the San Francisco supervisor’s life ended tragically — the film begins with actualnews footage announcing hisassassinationat the hands of a political rival who opposed LGBT rights — the film is ultimately uplifting and optimistic. Itcelebrates the power of grassroots political movements like the one Milk built,which continues to inspire San Francisco’s Castro District and other LGBT communities around the country.

    Adding to its political relevance, the film’s release in 2008 coincided with the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively struck downProp 8,a major victory for LGBT rights.

  • “Election”

    Reese Witherspoon stars as Tracy Flick, an ambitious, overachieving high school student hoping to becomeclass president. Running unopposed, Tracyispoised to win the election, untilher teacher, Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick), convinces a popular football player to jump in the race, which riles up Tracy. “Election” deftly exploresthe sometimes extremelengths people will go to in search forpower andbrilliantlysatirizesthe world of high school.

    The filmhas a famous fan: none other than President Barack Obama, who, according to director Alexander Payne, has twice told him personally that its his favorite movie about politics.

    Available on Amazon Prime.

  • “Selma”

    While the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, is well-documented, director Ava DuVernay’s powerful film shows the human side of the civil rights movement. Instead ofsugarcoating their difficulties, “Selma”unflinchingly details the opposition King and his followers faced, from FBI surveillance to police brutality. It also demonstrateshowpolitical calculus can hinder social change — President Lyndon B. Johnson delayed passage of the VotingRights Actto focus on other legislative priorities.

    Scenes of King’s fiery sermons are among the film’s mostexquisitelycrafted moments. DuVernay wasunable to secure the rights to King’s actual speeches, but when watching the film, it’s barelynoticeable, thanks to the spot-oncadenceofthe writingand David Oyelowo’s magnificentperformance as King.

    Available on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

  • “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”
    Herbert Dorfman/Getty Images

    Thealways-charmingJimmy Stewart plays an idealistic political newcomer determined tomake his mark by advocating for a cause near to his heart. But he is obstructed bya powerful political machine backing a pork-filled appropriations bill.

    Now considered a classic (in 2007, the American Film Institute ranked it 26 on its list of 100 greatestmovies), the film was initially panned by politicians for its stark depiction of corruption and greed. At the time, U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. called itone of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen done to our country, and Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley (D-Ky.) said the film “makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks.”

  • “The Ides Of March”

    Boasting great acting from George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and the sorely missedPhilip Seymour Hoffman, “The Ides of March,” which Clooney also directed, centers on a contentious presidential primary. Gosling plays an idealistic junior campaign manager for presidential candidate Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney). But his rosy view of politics and loyalty to his boss are challenged when he becomes entangled in ethical dilemmas, dirty tricks and backroom dealings.

    One of the film’s co-writers was Beau Willimon, who went on to create the Netflix series “House of Cards.” Willimon’s own experiences as a staffer on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign inspired him to write aplay, “Farragut North,” on which “The Ides of March” is based. Like “House of Cards,” the film paints a cynical portrait of the political process, whichcan be hard to stomach. But its many twists and turns make for an engaging thriller.

    Available on Amazon Prime.

  • “Primary Colors”
    Universal Pictures via Getty Images

    FeaturingJohn Travolta as a charismatic Southern governor running for president while mired in allegations of infidelity, this darkly comedic 1998 movie bears more than a passing resemblance to the campaign of a certain former president.

    Based on a novelby veteranpolitical reporterJoe Klein, “Primary Colors”is uneven at times — some of the jokes don’t totally land and some of the actinglooks cartoonish. But it definitely delivers on the ’90s political nostalgia, and its depiction of politics as an ugly and thankless blood sport paved the way for TV shows like “House of Cards.” Bonus: Look for the tough-as-nailspolitical operative played by Kathy Bates, who makes every movie better.

  • “Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb”
    Express via Getty Images

    In Stanley Kubrick’s blistering satire of the Cold War, a deranged U.S. Air Forcegeneral named Jack D. Ripper unwittingly orders a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. Political leaders and diplomats mustscramble to stop the attack and prevent a totalnuclear apocalypse. As the crisis escalates, they propose increasingly ridiculous ideas, in part due to the advice of an idiosyncratic nuclear expert, Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers, whoplays not one, not two, but three different roles in the film and reportedly improvised mostof his lines).

    “Dr. Strangelove” containslayers uponlayers of comedy, from funnycharacter and placenames (Ripper commands theBurpelson Air Force Base) to absurd imagery(the giant maps in the war room). And remember: There’s no fighting in the war room.

  • “The American President”

    President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is a popular president running for re-election. A widower, he falls in love with an environmental lobbyist, Sydney Wade (Annette Bening), but their relationship soon becomes a politicalliability for both of them.

    The filmwaswritten by Aaron Sorkin, so if you love “The West Wing,” you will probably like this. Ithas all of the classic Sorkin trademarks, especially the rapid-fire walking and talking. It even shares some of the same actors: Martin Sheen, President Bartlet on “The West Wing,” plays the White House chief of staff in “The American President.”Sorkin has also said that when creating”The West Wing,” he used dialogue and plot points that he originally wrote but did not include in “The American President.”

    Available on Amazon Prime.

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