Top 5 Movies – Political movies.

Can you tell the difference?

Finally the Bert and Ernie of European politics have exited stage left.  Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan leave behind them a legacy which any third world dictator would be proud of.  A bankrupt country which is for now at least essentially a vassal to the largest of it’s European partners and the IMF.  So with the dynamic duo silhouetted against the sun which is even now setting on Fianna Fail’s future I thought it might be nice to look at some decent political movies.  Unfortunately most of these movies will be from the U.S. except for one glorious example, but more of that later.

5. The American President.

I have to admit having something of a soft spot for this movie. Starring Micheal Douglas and Annette Benning it’s a smart, romantic and entertaining movie.  The President is a widower but who meets a political consultant who’s trying to push a piece if climatic legislation through.  Romance blossoms, his political opponents are shown to be self-serving bastards and they end up happy ever after.

It doesn’t sound like much of a movie but it’s actually pretty funny and enjoyable. Oh and of course it does have the gorgeous Miss Benning throughout which is only ever a good thing. The two best things though about this movie are firstly the writing.  It is terrifyingly good.  Sharp, witty, intelligent but also easy to follow and to the time it was made relevant.  But the best thing is what it led to.

The American President can almost be viewed as a prequel to probably the greatest television series ever made.  The West Wing.  In addition to having the same writer who just happens to be one of my own personal writing idols, Aaron Sorkin, a lot of the West Wing cast make appearances in this movie, not least Micheal Sheen.

Look just rent this one out and watch it.  Yes it’s slushy as hell, it’s sentimental beyond belief but there’s a bloody good movie in there.

4. Primary Colors.

Ah nice to meet you Mister Cli…Tra…uh?

Loosely based on some aspects of former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s first campaign this movie is frankly brilliant.  John Travolta’s portrayal of a bumbling southern politician running for president was so comparable to the real life southern presidential hopeful that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a lot of people thought it was biographical.

Now the humour in this movie is not in any way subtle nor does it display much in the way of depth.  But despite that I think this is one of those frequently overlooked gems for one reason Kathy Bates.  Nominated for best supporting actress for the part of Libby Holden she absolutely is the stand out part of this movie and on her own is worth watching it.  Add in that it’s just a fun movie which pokes fun at one of the more benignly interesting presidential campaigns in U.S. history only makes it that much better.

3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Jimmy Stewart at his very very best.

This movie is American schmaltz at it’s best.  James Stewart plays Smith who literally does go to Washington as a Senator.  I’m sure you’ve seen this movie at some point soI won’t go into the plot more than that.  I will say the following.

This is Frank Capra’s greatest movie, forget “It’s a Wonderful Life” this is THE Capra movie.  Watch it as if you’re living in the 40’s and 50’s and it’s easy to see that it was a hard-hitting movie for its time with a real potential for controversy.

Stewart is simply wonderful in this part and to this day I do not understand how he is remembered better for what is a mediocre Christmas movie instead of this piece of flawless political Americana.

2. House of Cards.

The man Machiavelli calls “The Guvner” Francis Urquhart.

Yes I know this is a television series not a movie but I simply couldn’t write this list without including the work which gave us the immortal line “You might very well think that; but I couldn’t possibly comment.”

This series was and is the pinnacle of British political film.  The main character Francis Urquhart played by Ian Richardson is at once the most loathsome and yet human character I have ever had the pleasure to watch on a screen.  It’s all about his machinations while he tries to rise to the leadership of the ruling political party of the day and ends with one of the most visually shocking moments in British television history.

Watch out for this to make a repeat appearance when I start on Top 5 television lists.

1. All The Presidents Men.

An amazing display of acting by both actors and my all time favourite movie fo both of them.

This is THE American political movie.  It covers the first seven months of the Watergate Scandal.  Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as Woodward and Bernstein this is an utter tour de force for both actors and I believe to this day represents the best screen work either of them has ever done.

I won’t go into great detail on this movie because I really hope you will go and watch it and as such I don’t want to colour your experience.  But watch out for such insane attention to detail such as the phone books which no longer existed at the time the movie was shot being reproduced to make the movie as authentic as possible.  Watch out for Ned Beatty and the brilliant F. Murray Abraham acting at the very top of their game.

Even though you will, unless you’ve spent the last 40ish years living under a rock, know how the story ends and yet somehow it manages to keep you permanently enthralled.

Well lets put it this way the first time I watched All the Presidents Men I started watching it bursting to pee and when it ended two hours later I was still bursting to pee.  It is just that good.

Now go enjoy.

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