10 Best Movies About Elections That You Should Watching Update 02/2024

Movies About Elections

Today is election day, as you may be aware. It’s tough to emphasize the importance of voting, regardless of your political leanings, and Bill Hader thinks you’d be “a moron” if you didn’t. Our flawed election system has been the subject of numerous outstanding films throughout the years, many of which laud it while others ridicule it or expose its flaws. After you’ve done your civic duty by voting in the midterm elections today, take a moment to relax by watching one of these 10 films instead.

1. “All the President’s Men”

All the President’s Men

A dim cigarette light, Ben Bradlee and Carl Bernstein, and the rat-tat-tat of a typewriter announce the President’s resignation in the shadows of a garage. Alan J. Pakula’s adaptation of Bernstein and Woodward’s book about the events that led to the end of Nixon’s presidency has so many memorable visuals and sounds. That all of them feel like they belong in telling the story of the biggest American political scandal of the twentieth century is to Pakula’s credit; there’s no extraneous adornment to his craft as if Pakula himself, like the best of journalists, believed that clarity and precision were the highest virtues. All following depictions of investigative newspaper journalism, from “Spotlight” to “The Post,” are held to the high standard set by “All the President’s Men.” — Christian Blauvelt

2. “The Candidate”

It’s Robert Redford’s role in the film as the idealistic son of a former governor of California who the Democratic Party chooses to run as a sham candidate in an election to oust a well-liked and well-connected Republican senator. In the belief that he will lose, Redford’s character, Bill McKay, chooses to enter the race so that he can say whatever he wants to say about it. Because McKay’s candor is so refreshing, he begins to win over the electorate and has a good chance of winning. McKay’s brand is being hijacked by special interest groups at this point. Even if the candidate isn’t sure whether or not he wants to be president, Michael Ritchie manages to make this film feel like a documentary. —CB

3. “Citizen Ruth”

Citizen Ruth

His directorial debut is one of the most overlooked Alexander Payne films, and his political humor never achieved the same level again (even in “Election”). Even though she already has four children in foster care, Ruth Stoops (influenced by Laura Dern) finds herself in the family way in the hilariously self-destructive film Citizen Ruth. Mary Kay Place and Burt Reynolds, local anti-abortion activists, use her as a mascot before luring her to the left side with Swoosie Kurtz and Kelly Preston. Ruth, on the other hand, recognizes that she’s just a piece in a game that both sides are playing. This is a dark comedy, with topics that are as important today as they were when it was released. “Citizen Ruth” has a lot to say about the impact of political divisiveness on everyday Americans, and it’s a lot of fun. Jude Dry,

4. “Election”

“Larry, this isn’t a papal election. What happened? Just tell me. ” The former Ferris Bueller stars against a never-better Reese Witherspoon in Alexander Payne’s biting second movie. The fact that he’s portraying a high school teacher who doesn’t understand the significance of students electing a president will be his undoing. When Tracy Flick and Paul Metzler’s election came down to two wasted ballots, the consequences may have appeared overdone a year earlier; nearly 20 years later, it’s quaint. But this isn’t a dig at “Election”; it’s still entertaining and topical, and it serves as a constant reminder that every vote counts. Vote for Flick when you go to the polls! Michaeal Nordine

5. “Game Change”

Game Change

Who better to portray Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live than Tina Fey? Julianne Moore’s portrayal of the former Alaska governor converted her from cartoonish figure to frightening foreshadowing of the populist tsunami to come. Woody Harrelson and Sarah Paulson star as John McCain’s campaign managers Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace, respectively, in this 2008 biopic starring Ed Harris. At one point, they even suggested that Palin be McCain’s running mate, only to realize what a monster they’ve created (Wallace finally decided not to vote for McCain, a moment captured in the film by an emotional Scarlett Johansson as she says, “I…couldn’t do it”). Jay Roach’s HBO film depicting Sarah Palin’s candidacy as shown in the film appears like a prelude to the Trump era because Schmidt and Wallace have become two of MSNBC’s most prominent anti-Trump voices. —CB

6. “The Manchurian Candidate”

In my life, I’ve never met a more selfless, courageous, warm-hearted, and amazing person than Raymond Shaw. So why do all of the veterans who served with Shaw in Korea feel the need to disparage him in this way? And that’s when they enter a trance-like state? The political ambitions of Shaw’s parents are the focus of this tale of brainwashing and gaslighting: his father, a Senator in the mold of Joe McCarthy who peddles fierce anti-communist sentiment, and his wife (Angela Lansbury), an actual communist agent who uses her husband’s bluster as the perfect shield. When discussing foreign powers’ influence on a presidential candidate, “The Manchurian Candidate” is frequently mentioned. However, the film’s most powerful insight may be in its depiction of Lansbury’s character: the idea that she projects onto her opponents everything vile that she does herself, which may be the most important part of the film. —CB

7. “Napoleon Dynamite”

Napoleon Dynamite

You can never forget the delicious smell of democracy like a fiercely competitive student body election. A surge of “Vote For Pedro” T-shirts has made Pedro Sánchez the most popular fictional candidate ever to run for office. We have no doubt Jon Heder would be happy to dance to Jamiroquai to sway this election. We may be sentenced to spend the next two years like Tina the Llama, forced to “eat the food” by a tyrannical teenager if we don’t come out and vote, as Napoleon Dynamite reminds us. —JD

8. “Shampoo”

On the day of the 1968 presidential election, Warren Beatty is said to have come up with the idea for “Shampoo.” Beatty said that Nixon’s triumph was “when the American people came face to face with who they really were” while he was star, co-writer, and producer of Hal Ashby’s tragic and frothy sex comedy. In many ways, it’s the perfect setting for his character, a Los Angeles hairstylist in need of a makeover. This gorgeous man with an amazing mop of hair has had sex with just about every woman in his path (including Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant, and possibly even a young Carrie Fisher in the span of just one day!) but George, this Vietnam War-era Casanova who fears commitment, is doomed to a lonely existence. It’s hard to believe that George isn’t one of those people who didn’t vote; he just goes with the flow and is still able to express his displeasure with his current situation. As “Shampoo” reminds us, the future belongs to the people who truly desire it. For more information, see David Ehrlich

9. “The War Room”

The War Room

A documentary about a presidential campaign with the title “The War Room” sounds too serious, but you haven’t seen it. Rather than Bill Clinton himself, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s story of Clinton’s rise to the White House centers on James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, the brain trust that brought him to the Oval Office. Although the political maneuvers on show in “The War Room” may appear tame after the two most recent election cycles, “It’s the economics, stupid,” as the old saying goes, is certainly true. —MN

10. “Weiner”

While it’s difficult to fathom how or why Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s “Weiner” even exists, the documentary (and bonafide Sundance sensation) closely documents the (second) implosion of ruined political animal Anthony Weiner from within the closed ranks of his own home and campaign. After a previous run for mayor of New York City in 2003, long before his name had been tainted by scandal, Kriegman and Steinberg’s film picks up during Weiner’s 2013 campaign, with the former congressman eager to jump back into the political world and remind people of all the good he could do while doing so. Films like this should have been about a man’s journey back to the top, but instead it’s about a man who has never understood that the personal and the political are intertwined, and have always been. His life falls apart as he stumbles into another embarrassing election, and the only thing Weiner has left is one of his pissed-off cats, who shows up in the middle of a tense meeting scene to give the fallen politician an emphatic stink-eye. He’s our best bet for representing the American people.