Top Political Movies, Part 1

Frost/Nixon (2008) / Director: Ron Howard / Stars: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell

A recreation of the post-Watergate television interviews between David Frost (Sheen), a lightweight British interviewer seeking to recast himself as a tough reporter, and former president Richard Nixon (Langella), seeking to rehabilitate his legacy.

All the President’s Men (1976) / Director: Alan J. Pakula / Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden

The best film ever about how thrilling the nexus of politics and journalism can be, this is the tale of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Hoffman), who uncovered the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation. The film — with its focused, follow-the-money approach to journalism — is practically a primer for the profession and was an effective recruiting tool for a generation of starry-eyed journalists to follow. The cast is brilliant; Jason Robards won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Post editor Ben Bradlee, and William Goldman won for his adapted screenplay.

Election (1999) / Director: Alexander Payne / Stars: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein

Where do overachieving do-gooders on the make come from? Consider Tracy Flick (Witherspoon), a perky, conniving senior running for student body president… and so much more, no doubt, in the future. Mordantly funny, the film is all the more insightful for taking place in a suburban high school rather than in a capital arena.

Wag the Dog (1997) / Director: Barry Levinson / Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heck

A spin doctor (De Niro) and a movie producer (Hoffman) fabricate a “war” to distract the American public from a Presidential sex scandal.

Milk (2008) / Director: Gus Van Sant / Stars: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin

The story of Harvey Milk (Penn), a supervisor in San Francisco and the state’s first openly gay elected official, who was gunned down (along with the mayor) by a twisted political opponent (Brolin). A second Best Actor Oscar for Penn, and Best Screenplay to writer Dustin Lance Black.