Top Political Movies, Part 5

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) / Director: Kathryn Bigelow / Stars: Jessica Chastain

An obsessed CIA agent (Chastain) hunts for Osama bin Laden for years. Initially praised for its verisimilitude, the film was harshly criticized by U.S. Senators McCain and Feinstein for depicting scenes that seemed to indicate that the U.S. gained valuable intelligence through torture, when it evidently didn’t.

Seven Days in May (1964) / Director: John Frankenheimer / Stars: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Ava Gardner

U.S. Gen. James Mattoon Scott (Lancaster) plots a coup to overthrow a President who supports a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets, while his one-time protégé (Douglas) has to confront the traitor.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) / Director: Frank Capra / Stars: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Thomas Mitchell

When Jefferson Smith (Stewart) heads to D.C. to fill a Senate seat he is appointed to by a corrupt governor, he is full of idealistic fervor. Then he discovers the nasty reality, so he stages a filibuster to reveal the corrupt nature of the place (… in one of cinema’s most iconic scenes). Through it all, Sen. Smith charmingly never loses his trust in the American people and political system.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) / Director: John Frankenheimer / Stars: Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh

Chinese Communists have brainwashed a scion of an American political dynasty (Harvey) who was captured in the Korean War, and sent him back to the U.S. as a covert assassin controlled by his wicked stepmother (the brilliant Angela Lansbury). Another former prisoner may know how to save him, however (the also great Frank Sinatra). Perhaps the greatest and most thrilling of all conspiracy films, based on the Richard Condon novel. The remake with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep couldn’t capture the original’s menace.

The Parallax View (1974) / Director: Alan J. Pakula / Stars: Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, William Daniels

A reporter (Beatty) investigating the assassination of a senator uncovers a vast conspiracy involving a multinational corporation that covertly controls the world.