The 10 Best at Playing Politics on the Screen

By Tom Titus

Before we lift the curtain on this blogger’s choice for the best movies of all time, let’s turn to a subject most of us have had enough of this year – politics.

Herewith, the top 10 political movies, as chosen by yours truly, starting at number 10 and working our way up.

10. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Jimmy Stewart should have gotten his Oscar for this one rather than for “The Philadelphia Story.” This oldie from director Frank Capra pits a green congressman against the system and he filibusters his way to victory.

9. “The Candidate.” Can outsider Robert Redford campaign his way into Congress? Sure he can in this watchable exercise in political stumping.

8. “Dave.” Could a look-alike citizen replace the president temporarily? Kevin Kline gives us the answer in this light-hearted political comedy.

7. “Nixon.” Anthony Hopkins “cannibalizes” the script of Oliver Stone’s searing account of political bloodshed in the top ranks of government. If Meryl Streep can play Margaret Thatcher, then why not a Brit as Tricky Dick?

6. “The Best Man.” Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson vie for their party’s presidential nomination in Gore Vidal’s literate look at politics. Lee Tracy as the former prez and Shelley Berman as a wild card spice up the roiling brew.

5. “The American President.” Can POTUS (Michael Douglas) enjoy a romantic life while in office with journalist Annette Bening? Martin Sheen is his chief of staff, getting his feet wet in the Oval Office before his own turn comes on TV.

4. “Advise and Consent.” Henry Fonda, Walter Pidgeon, Don Murray and a show-stealing Charles Laughton play politicos at the crossroads over a controversial secretary of State appointment. Watch for George Grizzard’s dogged dissenting voice.

3. “Seven Days in May.” Burt Lancaster is a power-mad general aiming to run the president (Frederic March) out of office by force and Kirk Douglas is his top aide and strong opponent. Of the many pictures Burt and Kirk made together, this is the finest, with a terrific script from Rod Serling.

2. “Lincoln.” Daniel Day-Lewis earned his second Oscar as the 16th president, pushing his Emancipation Proclamation through Congress as the Civil War rages. Another feather in director Steven Spielberg’s war bonnet.

1. “1776.” The founding fathers fight over independence, musically, with John Adams (a great performance by William Daniels) leading the way. This cinematic version of the Broadway hit is first in war, first in peace and first in Intermission’s political poll.

Next up, a look at the top romantic movies before the best flicks of all time are revealed.

– tt

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