The 20 best election movies
Paramount Pictures

The 20 best election movies

With election day nearing it seems the current state of the presidential race is progressing in a way Hollywood could not do justice. In preparation for what should be an eventful day, why not prime oneself by checking out some of the top election-themed/related films of all time.

Here's a look at some of our favorites.

 
1 of 20

"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)

"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)
United Artists

Frank Sinatra stars in this cold war, psychological thriller that was also remade (starring Denzel Washington) in 2004. His character's control of Robert Shaw (Laurence Harvey), a brainwashed former war hero who eventually is set up to assassinate a presidential candidate, showcases a couple of strong acting performances. There's plenty of intrigue and twists in both versions of the film, but the original is still the one to seek out. 

 
2 of 20

"The Best Man" (1964)

"The Best Man" (1964)
United Artists

Former secretary of state William Russell (Henry Fonda) and United States senator Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson) star in this 1960s' political drama with a screenplay written by Gore Vidal. The two are vying for the presidential nomination of their political party, and, of course, both go to interesting and somewhat questionable lengths to be victorious. 

 
3 of 20

"Medium Cool" (1969)

"Medium Cool" (1969)
Paramount Pictures

John Cassellis (Robert Forster) is a hardened television cameraman who is covering the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While on the job, Cassellis takes a liking to a single mom (Verna Bloom) and also befriends her son. With the volatile convention as a backdrop, Cassellis lets his guard down while giving into feelings he wasn't aware he possessed.

 
4 of 20

“The Candidate” (1972)

“The Candidate” (1972)
Warner Bros.

Bill McKay (Robert Redford) is thrust into a presidential campaign by a rather controlling democratic political operative (Peter Boyle) in this popular comedy-drama that produced an Oscar-winning screenplay. McKay is a good-natured guy, who might not seem cut out for the rigid and dirty world of politics. Though, he manages to progress during the process and make a run toward a potentially surprising victory. 

 
5 of 20

"Shampoo" (1975)

"Shampoo" (1975)
Columbia Pictures

We're including this on the technicality that the setting of this Warren Beatty-vehicle is on the day of the 1968 presidential election - in which Richard Nixon won. The only electioneering that's done in movie is that of sexual and social politics. Julie Christie and Carrie Fisher, in her film debut, fare well opposite Beatty's hair-dressing heartthrob George Roundy. 

 
6 of 20

"All the President's Men" (1976)

"All the President's Men" (1976)
Warner Bros.

Regarded as one of the great political films of all time . Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman deliver memorable performances as reporters for The Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, respectively. Together, the two unveil the deep undertaking of the infamous Watergate scandal involving President Richard Nixon's re-election committee. The intrigue and drama is pretty much non-stop, and appropriate viewing for this time of year.

 
7 of 20

"Bob Roberts" (1992)

"Bob Roberts" (1992)
Columbia Pictures

Based on a little-known Saturday Night Live  character played by Tim Robbins, when he hosted the popular sketch comedy show. Robbins wrote, directed and donned the title role in this mockumentary film about an ultra-conservative, rich, folk-singing United States senate candidate. Wholesome on the surface, but essentially a fraud underneath, Roberts and this film have flown under the radar for years - but are worth checking out. 

 
8 of 20

"In the Line of Fire" (1993)

"In the Line of Fire" (1993)
Columbia Pictures

Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is a present-day secret service agent still fighting the demons of being on the detail when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Now, he's trying to keep the current president, who happens to be on the campaign trail, safe from a dangerous and demented former CIA agent (the evilly delicious John Malkovich) looking to do similar harm. 

 
9 of 20

"The War Room" (1993)

"The War Room" (1993)
Democratic National Convention via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

The only documentary to make this list. The War Room, directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, chronicles Bill Clinton's campaign for president in 1992. Political junkies of any party will enjoy the honest and in-depth look of life on the campaign trail. While Clinton is the obvious focus, aides James Carville and George Stephanopoulos are the real stars of the project. 

 
10 of 20

"The American President" (1995)

"The American President" (1995)
Columbia Pictures

While we don't exactly see the results of the presidential election, the build up to the State of the Union address is the theme of this Rob Reiner/Aaron Sorkin classic. Widowed President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is aiming for a second term, but he's also fallen in love with a feisty lobbyist (Annette Bening). That opens the door for opponent Rob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss) to stir up a tasty character debate.

 
11 of 20

"Black Sheep" (1996)

"Black Sheep" (1996)
Paramount Pictures

Following the success of 1995's Tommy Boy, Chris Farley and David Spade team up for another go-around in this political comedy. Though the laughs are not as side-splitting as achieved in Tommy Boy, it's entertaining nonetheless. Farley stars as Mike Donnelly, a goofball who is trying to help his brother campaign for governor of Washington, and one that delivers some memorable moments worthy of being on this list. 

 
12 of 20

"Wag the Dog" (1997)

"Wag the Dog" (1997)
New Line Cinema

Plenty of Hollywood heavyweights with Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro in the starring roles, and Barry Levinson directing. There's a pre-election, presidential sex scandal brewing at the absolute worst time. Some PR spin is needed, so why not create a fake war overseas as a distraction. In a timely coincidence, the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal broke publicly shortly after the film's release.  

 
13 of 20

"Primary Colors" (1998)

"Primary Colors" (1998)
Universal Pictures

Adapted from the book Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics,  about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential run, John Travolta stars as Jack Stanton, the Governor of Arkansas who is running for president. Naturally, the popular Stanton becomes embroiled in controversy and needs held to get his campaign back on track. Co-star Kathy Bates earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress as Stanton's campaign investigator. 

 
14 of 20

"Election" (1999)

"Election" (1999)
Paramount Pictures

From the brilliant mind of Alexander Payne, we learn that even the race for student body president can be cut throat. Reese Witherspoon shines as the ambitiously annoying Tracy Flick, whose main goal is to be president of the school. That's much to the dismay of popular teacher Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick), who does not want to make it a cake-walk for young Tracy.

 
15 of 20

"Head of State" (2003)

"Head of State" (2003)
Focus Features

Not only did funny man Chris Rock star in this political comedy, but it was also his directorial debut. Rock stars as floundering Washington D.C. alderman Mays Gilliam, who by a series of tragic and made-for-Hollywood events, winds up becoming the democratic nominee for the 2004 presidential race. In time, Gilliam warms to the idea as comedy and some heartwarming moments ensue. 

 
16 of 20

"Napoleon Dynamite" (2004)

"Napoleon Dynamite" (2004)
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Do you have your "Vote for Pedro" t-shirt? Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) might be the most effective campaign manager in comedy film history. Fliers all over the school, including the urinals, and Napoleon's stellar dance moves were enough to help pal Pedro (Efren Ramirez) pull off the upset to stun Summer (Haylie Duff) and win the class presidency. All hail the underdog! 

 
17 of 20

"Idiocracy" (2006)

"Idiocracy" (2006)
Twentieth Century Fox

No doubt, Idiocracy is out there. Then again, creator, co-writer and director Mike Judge (with help from Etan Cohen) is not a conventional kind of guy. Then again, considering the state of the current United States government and its own unhinged president, the dystopian complexion of the Idiocracy world is not too far-fetched anymore. Luke Wilson stars as Joe, a former soldier, who endures a lengthy hibernation to eventually wake up in this out-of-control world and ultimately thrown into a presidential election.

 
18 of 20

"Swing Vote" (2008)

"Swing Vote" (2008)
Touchstone Pictures

What would it feel like to have the weight of a presidential election come down to one U.S. citizen? That's what Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) is dealing with, thanks to his young daughter, who is way more into politics than her indifferent father. While the premise is certainly "out there," it's Hollywood. And, it's entertaining enough to see just how much attention one person gets when the fate of the nation's political future is on the line. 

 
19 of 20

"The Campaign" (2012)

"The Campaign" (2012)
Warner Bros. Pictures

Not necessarily Will Ferrell's best work, but this political comedy is funny enough to make it worth the time to watch. Ferrell's Cam Brady is a somewhat smarmy candidate running to retain to congressional seat in North Carolina, while also embroiled in controversy. His opponent, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) starts out as a pawn in the race, but eventually his campaign picks up steam. Brady's appearance at church of snake handlers is the highlight of the movie. 

 
20 of 20

"Game Change" (2012)

"Game Change" (2012)
HBO

Based on the popular book, Julianne Moore brilliantly stars as Sarah Palin, who's thrust into the national spotlight when she becomes the somewhat surprising pick as John McCain's vice presidential running mate during the 2008 election. Veteran actor Ed Harris is solid as McCain, while Woody Harrelson delivers a strong performance as republican campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, who, in years since, has voiced his displeasure with Palin during the process. 

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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