25 Top Political Films

by Daniel Williams | created - 25 Jul 2012 | updated - 25 Jul 2012 | Public

25 films all poli-sci students need to watch while procrastinating a paper. Not just politically related, but politics and policy are central to the themes and plots. Almost better than a real political science degree. Films are listed in no particular order.

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1. The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)

PG-13 | 107 min | Documentary, Biography, History

8.2
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87 Metascore

The story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon

Votes: 20,558 | Gross: $4.19M

2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

PG | 95 min | Comedy, War

8.5
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96 Metascore

An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn

Votes: 381,466 | Gross: $0.28M

3. In the Loop (2009)

Not Rated | 106 min | Comedy

7.5
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83 Metascore

A political satire about a group of skeptical American and British operatives attempting to prevent a war between two countries.

Director: Armando Iannucci | Stars: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini, Harry Hadden-Paton

Votes: 47,774 | Gross: $2.38M

4. A Man for All Seasons (1966)

G | 120 min | Biography, Drama, History

7.9
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The story of Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller, Robert Shaw, Leo McKern

Votes: 25,848 | Gross: $28.35M

5. Casablanca (1942)

PG | 102 min | Drama, Romance, War

8.5
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100 Metascore

In Casablanca in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate encounters a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains

Votes: 433,048 | Gross: $1.02M

6. Thirteen Days (2000)

PG-13 | 145 min | Drama, History, Thriller

7.3
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67 Metascore

A dramatization and a fictionalized account of the Kennedy administration's struggle to contain the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

Director: Roger Donaldson | Stars: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Shawn Driscoll, Drake Cook

Votes: 48,272 | Gross: $34.59M

7. Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

R | 102 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

7.1
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69 Metascore

A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.

Director: Mike Nichols | Stars: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams

Votes: 95,200 | Gross: $66.66M

8. Shake Hands with the Devil (2007)

R | 112 min | Drama, History, War

7.7
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57 Metascore

The story of General Romeo Dallaire's frustrated efforts to stop the madness of the Rwandan Genocide, despite the complete indifference of his superiors.

Director: Roger Spottiswoode | Stars: Roy Dupuis, Owen Sejake, James Gallanders, Michel Mongeau

Votes: 2,892

9. The Killing Fields (1984)

R | 141 min | Biography, Drama, History

7.9
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A journalist is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot's bloody 'Year Zero' cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million 'undesirable' civilians.

Director: Roland Joffé | Stars: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich, Julian Sands

Votes: 45,077 | Gross: $34.70M

10. The Ides of March (2011)

R | 101 min | Drama, Thriller

7.1
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67 Metascore

An idealistic staffer for a new presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.

Director: George Clooney | Stars: Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling

Votes: 200,560 | Gross: $40.96M

11. Nuremberg (2000– )

180 min | Drama, History, War

7.4
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The dramatized account of the war crime trials following the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Stars: Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox, Christopher Plummer, Jill Hennessy

Votes: 4,859

12. All the President's Men (1976)

PG | 138 min | Biography, Drama, History

8.0
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80 Metascore

"The Washington Post" reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Director: Alan J. Pakula | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam

Votes: 83,219 | Gross: $70.60M

13. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010)

Not Rated | 115 min | Action, Crime, Drama

8.1
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71 Metascore

After a prison riot, former-Captain Nascimento, now a high ranking security officer in Rio de Janeiro, is swept into a bloody political dispute that involves government officials and paramilitary groups.

Director: José Padilha | Stars: Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, André Ramiro, Milhem Cortaz

Votes: 71,546 | Gross: $0.10M

14. Wag the Dog (1997)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Drama

7.1
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73 Metascore

Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a Presidential sex scandal.

Director: Barry Levinson | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, Denis Leary

Votes: 71,496 | Gross: $43.02M

15. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

PG | 216 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

8.3
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100 Metascore

The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins

Votes: 217,314 | Gross: $44.82M

16. Restrepo (2010)

R | 93 min | Documentary, War

7.6
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85 Metascore

A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.

Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger | Stars: The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Juan 'Doc Restrepo, Dan Kearney, LaMonta Caldwell

Votes: 18,758 | Gross: $1.33M

17. The Good Shepherd (2006)

R | 167 min | Drama, History, Thriller

6.7
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61 Metascore

The tumultuous early history of the Central Intelligence Agency is viewed through the prism of one man's life.

Director: Robert De Niro | Stars: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin

Votes: 90,986 | Gross: $59.95M

18. Reporter (2009)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary

7.6
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Journalist Nicholas Kristof travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate the growing humanitarian crisis.

Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar | Stars: Eric Daniel Metzgar, Nicholas Kristof, Samantha Power, Gail Collins

Votes: 86

19. Advise & Consent (1962)

Not Rated | 139 min | Drama, Thriller

7.8
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Senate investigation into the President's newly nominated Secretary of State, gives light to a secret from the past, which may not only ruin the candidate, but the President's character as well.

Director: Otto Preminger | Stars: Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Henry Fonda, Walter Pidgeon

Votes: 5,298

20. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Not Rated | 129 min | Comedy, Drama

8.2
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68 Metascore

A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold

Votes: 86,521 | Gross: $9.60M

21. The Crucible (1996)

PG-13 | 124 min | Drama, History

6.8
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A Salem resident attempts to frame her ex-lover's wife for being a witch in the middle of the 1692 witchcraft trials.

Director: Nicholas Hytner | Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen

Votes: 31,249 | Gross: $7.34M

22. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

R | 202 min | Crime, Drama

9.0
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85 Metascore

The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton

Votes: 897,150 | Gross: $57.30M

23. Duck Soup (1933)

Not Rated | 68 min | Comedy, Musical, War

8.0
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Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale.

Director: Leo McCarey | Stars: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx

Votes: 49,850

24. Thank You for Smoking (2005)

R | 92 min | Comedy, Drama

7.6
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71 Metascore

Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son.

Director: Jason Reitman | Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello, Joan Lunden

Votes: 200,036 | Gross: $24.79M

25. Gandhi (1982)

PG | 191 min | Biography, Drama, History

8.1
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79 Metascore

Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is able to drive the British out of the subcontinent. And the stubborn nature of Jinnah and his commitment towards Pakistan is portrayed.

Director: Richard Attenborough | Stars: Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox

Votes: 190,866 | Gross: $52.77M