10 Politically Themed Films

Instead of political, let’s call them dramas with a political theme, because many people are turned off by something they feel is preachy or heavy ideological content. These ten films are mysteries with political suspense. They take place in a political landscape. I have another blog about Cold War films, this blog casts the net more widely than just Cold War intrigue.  Many of these films involve conspiracy theories, assassinations or journalists on the trail of a complex story.


All the President’s Men

Woodward and Bernstein are the crime detectives out to pursue the threads of a break-in at the Watergate Complex. You know the story, but this you into the details of the investigation and all of the legwork to find the truth. Maybe the best investigative and political film ever. It is a trick to keep an audience interested when they know the outcome and basic events.  Director Alan Pakula creates suspense and drama without pretense or hyperbole.  Starring Robert Redford. Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards.



Absence of Malice

This is more of a newspaper crime mis-investigation. It involves a district attorney, an assistant U.S. attorney, a man under investigation and an overzealous newspaper reporter. Go inside a reporter’s missteps and assumptions based on information fed to her to so she will help ensnare an innocent man. He fights back and turns the tables on everyone. You deserve to know the truth, but what if the “truth” is based on wrong information?  Paul Newman and Sally Field star.  Directed by Sydney Pollack and written by Kurt Luedtke.


The Fourth Protocol

A Russian agent is a few steps ahead of the British MI-5, with time running out to stop the detonation of a nuclear device near a NATO base. Double-crosses and intrigue, across a trail of clues. Who is telling the truth, and who can you trust? Smarty written and acted, the story is believable, and scary.  Starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan.  Based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth.  Directed by John Mackenzie.


Three Days of the Condor

A CIA book reader falls into a web of intrigue as he uncovers a secret plan to take Middle East oilfields. He doesn’t know what he’s discovered but there are forces out to silence him. A cat and mouse game, with the mouse pursuing the cat. Redford (Condor) enlists the help of Dunaway by kidnapping her, but she turns willing accomplice.  Along the way, Max von Sydow, a free-lance assassin tries to make the Condor extinct.  Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway and Cliff Robertson star.  Directed by Sydney Pollack.


The Parallax View

A reporter becomes suspicious after a fellow reporter becomes fearful that her life is in danger because of a thread of information she possesses pertaining to possible political assassinations. After she turns up dead, he decides to go under cover to penetrate the Parallax Organization to find out is they are killing people knowledgeable about the past assassination of a Presidential candidate.  His suspicions may cost him his life.  Starring Warren Beatty and directed by Alan Pakula.


The Package

An Army Sergeant stumbles onto a plot to assassinate the Russian leader who is about to sign a peace accord that will end the Cold War by the elimination of nuclear weapons. The trouble is, military officers on both sides would prefer to keep the status quo, so they are out to escalate tensions on both sides. Sergeant Gallagher, is silenced by an trumped up murder charge, so he goes on the run to stop the assassination and hopefully clear his name.  Starring Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones.  Directed by Andrew Davis.


The Americanization of Emily

This is a war film, but the two main characters, a naval officer and a British driver, enter into a relationship prior to the D-Day invasion. She mourns her husband, brother and father, all killed in war. The naval officer is about an anti-hero as a person can be, he’s just interested in saving his skin, which he must figure out how to do.  He is sent on a mission to be film the landing at Omaha Beach, where he is intended to the be first casualty, a sailor. When she discovers his true feelings about war and gallantry she is disappointed and angry, but overjoyed when he survives the mission he is tricked into going on.  Starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, James Coborn and Melvyn Douglas.  Directed by Arthur Hiller and written by Paddy Chayefsky.



You have a part-time gig as a look-alike of the President of the United States. You are hired to stand in for him at an event, a one-off opportunity. Unfortunately, the real President has a stroke and is incapacitated, so your gig is extended, and it becomes an impersonation. Problems arise quickly, and instead of following orders of the handlers, you go off-script and begin calling the shots. You also develop a relationship with the First Lady, who hates her husband.  Starring Kevin KlineSigourney WeaverFrank Langella and Charles Grodin.  Directed by Ivan Reitman.



Oliver Stone’s pursuit of theories behind the Kennedy assassination. Using source materials from District Attorney Jim Garrison investigation into the assassination, the film is like an LSD trip into the underbelly of political conspiracies. While the dots to not all connect, and Stone takes some liberty with facts, the journey is a wild ride of conspiracy that Stone weaves into soufflé of conjecture.  Starring Kevin Costner and a bunch of other A-List actors.  Written and directed by Oliver Stone.


The Candidate

Suppose you were talked into running against an incumbent U.S. Senator, abandoned much of who you are to eventually win the election, and then had no clue what to do next. Well-intentioned, liberal attorney Robert Redford, is reluctant to cash-in on his family political capital, but agrees to follow a consultant’s advise, even when he feels it compromises him. The film is gritty and documentary-style as it shows the warts and problems of political campaigns. Forty years later, Redford was interested in a sequel and talked with a few writers (including Larry Gelbart) about ideas, but nothing came to pass. The 1972 film stands on its own as a warning. Politics is a dirty business and you won’t stay clean even if you think you are above it.  Starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle.  Written by Jeremy Larner and directed by Michael Ritchie.

Honorable Mention:

Wag the Dog, Primary Colors, Milk, The American President, Syriana, Argo, Missing, Advise and Consent, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Seven Days in May, Thirteen Days

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