157 user 119 critic

Primary Colors (1998)

R | | Comedy, Drama | 20 March 1998 (USA)
1:20 | Trailer

Watch Now

With Prime Video

A man joins the political campaign of a smooth-operator candidate for president of the USA.



(novel) (as Anonymous), (screenplay)
4,177 ( 831)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 28 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

The families of children who died sue two companies for dumping toxic waste: a tort so expensive to prove, the case could bankrupt their lawyer.

Director: Steven Zaillian
Stars: John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Kathleen Quinlan
Mad City (1997)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A disgruntled security guard holds a school trip group hostage, while a news reporter forms a bond with him.

Director: Costa-Gavras
Stars: John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Alda
Michael (1996)
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

Two tabloid reporters checking out a report of the Archangel Michael living with an old woman find that it's true. But that's not the only surprise.

Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: John Travolta, Andie MacDowell, William Hurt
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

When the daughter of a well-known and well-respected base commander is murdered, an undercover detective is summoned to look into the matter and finds a slew of cover-ups at West Point.

Director: Simon West
Stars: John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell
Phenomenon (1996)
Drama | Fantasy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

An ordinary man sees a bright light descend from the sky, and discovers he now has super-intelligence and telekinesis.

Director: Jon Turteltaub
Stars: John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker
Get Shorty (1995)
Comedy | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A mobster travels to Hollywood to collect a debt and discovers that the movie business is much the same as his current job.

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito
Lucky Numbers (2000)
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

A television weatherman scams a local lottery.

Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

Scott Barnes (Travolta) is an alcoholic turned social worker hellbent on saving a young boy named Tommy (Lawrence) from self-destructing when he finds out he has begun selling crack in an ... See full summary »

Director: Rod Holcomb
Stars: John Travolta, Marilu Henner, Joey Lawrence
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side even as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment.

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid
Wag the Dog (1997)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

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
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Henry is a lawyer who survives a shooting only to find he cannot remember anything. If that weren't enough, Henry also has to recover his speech and mobility, in a life he no longer fits ... See full summary »

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Harrison Ford, Annette Bening, Michael Haley
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

A divorced father discovers that his 12-year-old son's new stepfather is not what he made himself out to be.

Director: Harold Becker
Stars: John Travolta, Nick Loren, James Lashly


Cast overview, first billed only:
Mamma Stanton
Rebecca Walker ...
Lucille Kaufman
Tommy Hollis ...
William McCullison (Fat Willie)
Izzy Rosenblatt
Arlen Sporken
J.C. Quinn ...
Uncle Charlie


Jack Stanton is running for president. The election is seen through the eyes of young Henry Burton. Along the way Stanton must deal with a sex scandal. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


What went down on the way to the top. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong language and sexual references | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




| | | |


Release Date:

20 March 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mit aller Macht  »

Box Office


$65,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$12,045,395 (USA) (20 March 1998)


$38,966,057 (USA) (19 June 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| | |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The house used as the Picker house is Oak Alley Plantation - same site of Louis' house in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994). See more »


Near the beginning of the film, Stanton's tie is back to front, but in the next shot it's round the right way. See more »


Susan Stanton: That's how history is made, Henry - by the first-timers.
See more »


Features Larry King Live (1985) See more »


Over There
Written by George M. Cohan
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

An excellent political satire.
6 January 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The much under-rated Primary Colors represents the zenith of its genre: a consistently excellent political satire armed with a stellar cast, an involving, intricate plot, and some of the finest direction in recent times from the sporadic (yet always reliable) Mike Nichols. John Travolta's portrayal of a Clinton-esquire Southern governor with a weakness for women and doughnuts is note perfect, encapsulating the flawed yet undoubtedly brilliant Jack Stanton with effortless flair and charisma. Travolta is ably supported by English character actors Emma Thompson and big screen debutant Adrian Lester, as well as an Oscar nominated Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton and a resurgent Larry Hagman.

The film is, in essence, a chronology of Stanton's rise of the political ladder and the struggles encountered by his vibrant team in keeping their man in the race, despite numerous setbacks and tragedies along the way. The script gives Travolta a perfect platform to express the very human emotions that both constrain and encourage us: his early speeches (particularly at an adult literacy centre) are punctuated by salient (yet entirely falsified) anecdotes, and were are given equal insight into Stanton the man and Stanton the politician. Thus the film's fundamental paradox arises: the audience is clearly conditioned to sympathise with Stanton as a result of his remarkable eloquence, yet we are frequently undercut by revelations of sex scandals, endless untruths and the often heartless pragmatism he embarks upon. This conflict for the audience is superbly manipulated so that, at the film's conclusion, we are unsure as to what our own emotions should be. Few films manage to pull this off: fewer with the nuanced skill of Nichols' political odyssey.

I want to add a few words about the female performances in the film. Emma Thompson, as the Hilary Clinton of the the cast, nails both the accent and mannerisms of her model with a convincing determination. Her character is often the mediator among the campaign team, yet there is a ruthlessness about her, a quiet conviction in her actions that her husband is clearly sustained by. Kathy Bates is the unhinged lesbian media consultant who is drafted in to nullify the potent threat of negative media reporting. She clearly gets all the best lines (a prize shared with the equally crazy Billy Bob Thornton character) including a memorable reference to Stanton's string of lovers as "sorry trash bins": scrupulous editing on my part here. At the film's conclusion, Bates comes to the fore, spelling out the impossible conflict between what is politically right and what is humanly right with an intensity that few actors could accomplish. Her subsequent Oscar nomination was well deserved and she was unlucky to be pitted against a triumphant Judi Dench in the Best Supporting Actress category.

That said, this is Travolta's movie. This is a career-defining performance from an actor unfortunately sullied by a series of mind-numbing duds (Battlefield Earth, anyone?), yet had he chosen his roles more wisely (as, say, Pacino has done) a more creditable media image would most certainly have been forthcoming.

Don't be put off by its subject matter: this is film making at its best and is a credit to its highly talented cast and crew.


65 of 77 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
So, how close is Stanton to clinton? Godlesslouisianalady
Travolta softened his Clinton act for Scientology tax-exemption? Blaargh_42
Kathy Bates ROCKS Arietro
Who are the character's real-life counterparts? MovieDood
When you're feeling sad after watching W. ryan-1370
Iowa Caucus Ignored! gregher
Discuss Primary Colors (1998) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: