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the ides of march

Reel Life With Jane’s Ten Best Election-Themed Movies

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Guess what? It’s election day! The day we’ve all been waiting for and can’t wait to be over, so all the election ads and commercials will go away until the next election.

But I love our country and our freedom, so in the spirit of that, here are my top ten election-themed movies.

Dave, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver

1. Dave. This is one of my favorites, because at the core is a story of heart and hope. After a cheating president (Kevin Kline) suffers a stroke, his lookalike stand-in, Dave, takes over the country indefinitely. Turns out he’s a pretty good president, probably because he’s not swept into the political beltway. The president’s estranged wife (Sigourney Weaver) thinks so, too.

2. In the Line of Fire. Clint Eastwood delivers his usual kick-ass performance as a Secret Service agent seeking redemption three decades after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated under his watch. John Malkovich steps in as a would-be assassin, determined to make Eastwood’s job tough in the days leading up to an election.

3. Wag the Dog. Real-life headlines played out on the big screen? Maybe. In an effort to bury a president’s sex scandal in the weeks before an election, a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) is hired to divert the country’s attention to a fake war. Robert De Niro and Anne Heche also star.

4. The American PresidentMichael Douglas for president? Ok, I’m in. He brings his ultra-charm to this role as a widowed president who, much to his opponent’s delight, begins dating again (a lobbyist, no less), played by lovely Annette Bening, as he seeks re-election.

the ides of march5. The Ides of March. What’s not to love about George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in the same movie? Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, an idealist who is second in command at Governor Mike Morris’s (Clooney) presidential campaign. In the middle of the Ohio primary, the campaign manager of Morris’s opponent offers Meyers a job. At the same time, Morris’s negotiations for the endorsement of the man in third place, a North Carolina Senator, hit a snag.

6. The Manchurian Candidate. Perhaps the finest conspiracy film of all time, this 1962 movie starring Frank Sinatra got a remake in 2004 with Denzel Washington in the title role. The story hits all the right notes, as it tells the tale of a decorated war hero who isn’t quite sure why the government is honoring him.

7. Napoleon DynamiteVote for Pedro! This good-natured 2004 film stars Jon Heder as a high schooler advising his best friend Pedro on his campaign for class president. When Pedro freezes up at the podium, Napoleon steps in to demonstrate his skills to help Pedro win.

8. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. This 1939 classic starring Jimmy Stewart explains clearly how things get done in our nation’s capital — with tons of red tape. Stewart plays a man who finds himself smack in the middle of the American political scene while struggling to keep his spirits up.

9. All the President’s Men. As a writer, this one gets my vote because of the journalism story, as well as the political story. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford are spot-on as Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. The story follows them as they unearth Richard Nixon’s corrupt election tactics leading up to the 1972 vote.

10. The Campaign. I didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did, but I basically have a big crush on Zach Galifianakis’ wackiness and will watch any movie he’s in. In order to gain influence over their North Carolina district, two CEOs seize an opportunity to oust long-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) by putting up a rival candidate. Their man: naive Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), director of the local Tourism Center.

Got a favorite election movie? Post in the comments below. 

Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more. Follow her on Twitter at @reellifejane.

Jane Boursaw has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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12 comments

  1. My favorite is “Election,” even though it’s about a student election.

  2. Brette Sember

    I love The American President. I totally forgot about Dave. ANd if only the presidential candidates had to put on a dance to win our vote like in Napoleon….

  3. WHat a great list! I’ve seen many of these and they were all so enjoyable. Now, watching the real thing unfold tonight…I’m not so sure how enjoyable THAT will be!

  4. Dave is definitely my favorite. I wish Washington could run so smoothly. I like All of the President’s Men as well. The Watergate scandal was a huge part of my childhood, especially since I came from such a politically involved family.

  5. Great post — with three of my favorite movies — Wag the Dog, Napoleon Dynamite and All the President’s Men. But don’t forget Primary Colors.

  6. I LOVE Napoleon Dynamite.

  7. Napoleon Dynamite brings back some great memories. Loved that movie.

  8. I’d never thought of Napoleon Dynamite as an election movie, but you’re right. Vote for Pedro!

  9. Dave is a popular movie in my household. If only politics could be that simple and uplifting.

  10. I just discovered this list – such a good one! Will keep these in mind. A fun way to host an election-results party, if one is inclined.

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