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The Candidate (1972)

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Bill McKay is a candidate for the U.S. Senate from California. He has no hope of winning, so he is willing to tweak the establishment.



Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Senator Crocker Jarmon
Rick Jenkin (as Quinn Redeker)
Wally Henderson
Paul Corliss
Christopher Pray ...
David (as Chris Prey)
Joe Miksak ...
Neil Atkinson
Tom Dahlgren ...
Gerald Hiken ...
Station Manager


Californian lawyer Bill McKay fights for the little man. His charisma and integrity get him noticed by the Democratic Party machine and he is persuaded to run for the Senate against an apparently unassailable incumbent. It's agreed he can handle it his own way, on his own terms. But once he's in the race and his prospects begin to improve, the deal starts to change. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Nothing matters more than winning. Not even what you believe in. See more »


Comedy | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



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Release Date:

11 August 1972 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

El candidato  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


A prop campaign button from this film is on display at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History in Washington. It is on display with several authentic campaign buttons. See more »


Laying across the couch, McKay's arm & head change positions between camera shots. See more »


Dinner MC: [Introducing McKay to fund-raiser dinner audience] Seriously folks, you better watch your step when he comes out here because he's a man who shoots from the hip and a man who's hip when he shoots. Join me in welcoming Bill McKay!
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Referenced in Scandal: The Candidate (2016) See more »


A Better Way
Music by John Rubinstein
Lyrics by David Colloff
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User Reviews

Timeless political comedy with bite.
25 October 2002 | by See all my reviews

Unobtrusive, documentary-style direction by the underrated Michael Ritchie lends verisimilitude to Jeremy Larner's witty (Oscar-winning) script. It feels like you're really on the campaign trail with a "pretty-boy" senatorial candidate (played with typically effortless charm by Robert Redford), who can barely keep up with a platform being built on the fly and the relentless media blitz that dogs him every step. Events move swiftly to their inevitable, ironic conclusion, highlighted by one of the best closing lines in cinema history.

Terrific support is provided by character actors Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, Melvyn Douglas and others, plus a host of cameos by real politicians of the era such as Alan Cranston and Hubert Humphrey. If you want an idea how modern American politics works, this is still a pretty good primer.

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