Politics makes for an excellent theme in movies. We are all deeply affected by the intricate networks keeping countries and society alive. Although, we hardly understand it. These 20 best political movies will give you a deeper yet entertaining look inside the complicated world of politics.
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
English 1h 35m IMDb
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
Dr. Strangelove is one of the classics when it comes to political movies. The direction by Stanley Kubrick shines a level of absurd humor in the black and white comedy film. With a BAFTA award and a couple of Oscar nominations under its belt, you can ensure that the film can provide an artistic and enjoyable look at war and politics.
Peter Sellers stars as three characters, including the titular Dr. Strangelove. With the orders from the paranoid General Jack D. Ripper, the cast might do anything to stop the nuclear attack.
2. The Great Dictator (1940)
English 2h 5m IMDb
Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie
This classic comedy parody from Charlie Chaplin is one of World War II’s most controversial media pieces. With the rise of Adolf Hitler, Chaplin takes on a film mocking the dictator. Although the film has been banned in various countries since its release, it’s no surprise that The Great Dictator stands are one of the famous pieces of cinema.
The film shows a Jewish barber’s life in the regime of the dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. The film follows the barber as he does his best to avoid torment under the brutal rule of Hynkel.
3. Citizen Kane (1941)
English 1h 59m IMDb
Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore
Coming from the mind of Orson Welles, Citizen Kane cements itself as an essential part of mid-20th century cinema. Although the film had poor reception upon its release, it’s considered one of the most influential films in American cinema decades later. With an Oscar win and various other awards, the film is a hit in the cinema sphere.
Citizen Kane features the life and death of the millionaire business tycoon, Charlie Foster Kane. On his deathbed, he utters the word ‘rosebud,’ prompting intrigue from the reporters. As the probing continues, the tragic life of Kane also starts to unravel.
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
English 2h 9m IMDb
Director: Frank Capra
Stars: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains
Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) is a naïve yet passionate leader of the Boy Rangers. After getting a senatorial seat, Smith finds himself against corrupt officials. They start collecting dirt to ruin Smith’s name and keep him on track. With the scandal on his back, Smith must fight back to change the system.
Despite having a profound topic, Mr. Smith serves a more fun tone in the movie. The Oscar-winning film serves a healthy dose of hilarious scenes while keeping its critique of politics.
5. Being There (1979)
English 2h 10m IMDb
Director: Hal Ashby
Stars: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas
This Oscar-winning film by Hal Ashby tackles the inside of Washington politics through the lens of a naive gardener. With his home taken away from him, Chance (Peter Sellers) is thrown on the streets. Through some unlikely events, Chance is thrust upon the wealthy business tycoon and becomes his confidant.
While most political films on this list take a more thriller or serious approach, Being There blends the theme with comedy. As the story continues, the film’s sadder tone and optimistic nature also grow.
6. The Fool (2014)
Russian 1h 56m IMDb
Director: Yuriy Bykov
Stars: Artyom Bystrov, Natalya Surkova, Yuriy Tsurilo
The Fool tackles the fickle and corrupt bureaucracy set in a Russian city. The film follows Dima Nikitin (Artyom Bystrov), an honest and average plumber. When one of the residents calls for his help, Nikitin discovers the decrepit state of the building.
With the lives of 800 people on the line, Nikitin must face the authority to save the tenants. The film surpasses its local cinema scene in terms of its reach. With various nominations and awards worldwide, The Fool sets a critical look at Russian society.
7. JFK (1991)
English 3h 9m IMDb
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon
The assassination of John F Kennedy takes many political questions to a notch. This dramatized film by Oliver Stone poses the question of the nature of the president’s assassination. Although it’s not a true-to-life film, JFK still poses many questions about the Kennedy presidency.
JFK follows the story of Jim Garrison, a New Orleans attorney who sees more to the level. Gathering a group of people, he manages to uncover various secret files to piece the story. Through discovering the state secrets, Garrison faces a slew of backlash from the government.
8. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
English 2h 6m IMDb
Director: John Frankenheimer
Stars: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh
With the Cold War in the background, America needs to strengthen its forces through military agents. This drama and thriller film by John Frankenheimer follows Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), an American intelligence officer. As they return from Korea, Marco is plagued by nightmares leading to an alarming discovery.
Much like many political films, The Manchurian Candidate deals with the anxiety about the communist forces. The movie has a Golden Globe Award and Oscar nominations for its excellent filmmaking. It also belongs to the National Film Registry for preservation.
9. All the President’s Men (1976)
English 2h 18m IMDb
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden
All the President’s Men features the Watergate scandal at the forefront of the movie. The authentic yet enjoyable film shows the chaos from the view of reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. With the scandal uncovered, President Nixon had no choice but to resign.
As a recount of a historical event in American politics, the film is one of the most popular political films in the country. The movie has wide critical and commercial acclaim. It won four Oscars and various nominations.
10. Pride (2014)
English 1h 59m IMDb
Director: Matthew Warchus
Stars: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West
Pride features unlikely friends in the fight against the forces that keep the local British miners on the ground. Along with the help of a group of gay and lesbians, the strike to help miners is on. As they go against the political forces, their teamwork proves a true-to-life moving tale of acceptance and bond.
Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford team up to do Pride. Despite being an independent film, it received a BAFTA award and many nominations.
11. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
English 2h 9m IMDb
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alex SharpSacha Baron Cohen
In the middle of the historical 1968 Democratic party scandal, seven people are under trial. With the rise of activist retaliation, the Nixon administration put them on criminal charges. To survive the case, the seven men must band together.
The film garnered wide critical acclaim. It received over a hundred nominations, including Oscars and BAFTA, and many awards. With the fantastic acting of the brilliant cast, and excellent screenplay, this film is a great study of the past government.
12. Leviathan (2014)
Russian 2h 20m IMDb
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Stars: Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Roman Madyanov
Although this Oscar-nominated film is Russian, the tale of a passionate citizen fighting against corruption is a tale that trudges the distance. When the mayor plans to take their home, Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) decides to fight back. With the help of his attorney friend, the two sets out to collect dirt on the mayor.
Most of the time, political movies hinge on national-level politics. Leviathan shows that even micro-corruption can ruin the lives of average citizens.
13. Henry V (1989)
English 2h 17m IMDb
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Simon Shepherd
Monarchs and politics provide an excellent blend of intrigue and fun. Henry V is directed and starred by Kenneth Branagh as it follows the titular character’s journey. It’s a historical account of Henry the V’s life as he fought against the French forces.
Henry V provides an excellent submersion through costume and set work as a period film. The film even got an Oscar for Best Costume Design due to its dedicated team of costume designers. If you are interested in old British history, this film is a must-watch.
14. BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)
French (France) 2h 23m IMDb
Director: Robin Campillo
Stars: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel
The AIDS pandemic was an extremely stigmatized epidemic during the 1980s. With the government’s disregard for the disease, ACT UP Paris demands action. Through a series of programs to push their advocacy, the lives of those involved are changed.
This French film promotes an excellent look into the politics inside one of the most infamous diseases. You can feel the emotions with a special message as the characters plow through the challenges against the companies, government, and society.
15. Lincoln (2012)
English 2h 30m IMDb
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn
Set in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) struggles against his inner turmoil and the cabinet members. His mission to free the enslaved people is getting more complicated as backlash rises. Lincoln must fight against the system that kept the people for so long. However, the Southern States and his men pose a colossal task for him to overcome.
Lincoln tackles the issue of racism with striking accuracy. With a hundred wards under its belt, including two Oscars, you can ensure you will watch a strikingly brilliant film. This film mixes historical accounts and entertaining elements with a nice mix of drama.
16. The Death of Stalin (2017)
English 1h 47m IMDb
Director: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor
The Death of Stalin is a comedy film that tackles Soviet politics with a level of absurdity. With the untimely death of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, his men scrambled as they tried to take power. With their struggle to fight one another, funny shenanigans ensue.
Although tackling one of the most brutal dictatorships can be controversial, The Death of Stalin takes on a more lighthearted tone. It features many funny scenes and a brilliant performance from the cast. The film received many nominations and various BAFTA awards.
17. Team America: World Police (2004)
English 1h 38m IMDb
Director: Trey Parker
Stars: Trey Parker(voice), Matt Stone(voice), Elle Russ(voice)
Although this film was released two decades ago, it’s still a surprisingly timely political media. Coming from the creators of South Park, Team America: World Police offers a cynical yet poignant commentary against the American political system. Like the television series, this film uses a lot of absurd humor to drive its themes.
The film follows Broadway actor Gary Johnston as he joins the titular anti-terrorism group. He must battle terrorists and world leaders to save humanity with the world at stake.
18. Munich: The Edge of War (2021)
English 2h 10m IMDb
Director: Christian Schwochow
Stars: George Mac, KayJannis Niewöhner, Jeremy Irons
Munich tells the journey of opposing forces as they struggle to find peace. With the Nazis closing in, Hugh Legat (George MacKay), a British civil servant, travels for a conference. Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner), a German diplomat and former colleague, joins Hugh as they struggle to find solutions.
This new film serves as an accurate adaptation of the biographical book by Robert Harris. If you are a fan of Munich, then it’s a guarantee you will love this film.
19. Worth (2020)
English 1h 58m IMDb
Director: Sara Colangelo
Stars: Michael Keaton, Amy Ryan, Stanley Tucci
The 2001 attack is one of the most historical events in modern times. Worth tells a story about the journey of Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton). As he tackles the politics to help the victims of the September 11 bombings, the task takes a turn for the worst.
Netflix’s Worth is a true-to-life account of what the 9/11 bombings entail. Along with the people willing to fight for the victims’ rights, the forces stop it from happening. The characters are stuck finding worth within the struggle against authority and the cost of life following the attacks.
20. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
English 1h 35m IMDb
Director: Jason Woliner
Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova, Tom Hanks
Following a world plagued with the virus, this 2020 satirical film by Sacha Baron Cohen takes on a stride. Through the titular character Borat, the film takes on the topic of national elections, the COVID-19 virus, and the Americans. It has a blend of mockumentary and prank videos, offering hilarious scenes.
Although the return of Borat is well-awaited, the performance by Maria Bakalova takes the cake. Bakalova is nominated and won many awards despite being a newcomer. If the standard World War politics isn’t cutting it for you, this timely film offers a hilarious yet true look into politics.
With this list of 20 best political movies, you can have enough films to last a couple of marathons. Whether you are looking for a comedy, thriller, or drama, there is a political movie for you. The film serves as a poignant and more profound look at the intricacies of the world of politics.