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Wag the Dog (1997)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  9 January 1998 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 65,458 users   Metascore: 73/100
Reviews: 215 user | 127 critic | 22 from Metacritic.com

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.



(book), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
CIA Agent Charles Young
John Levy
Michael Belson ...
Amy Cain


After being caught in a scandalous situation days before the election, the president does not seem to have much of a chance of being re-elected. One of his advisers contacts a top Hollywood producer in order to manufacture a war in Albania that the president can heroically end, all through mass media. Written by Christy

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A comedy about truth, justice and other special effects. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

9 January 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bite the Bullet  »

Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$92,079 (USA) (26 December 1997)


$43,022,524 (USA) (1 May 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the funeral scene, soldiers in the military band are played by members of the Riverside Community College marching band. See more »


One of the first opening shots shows an exterior view of the White House with the rooftop flag clearly raised signifying the President is in residence, yet during the first meeting it is said that the President is in China. Another shot of the White House is shown with the flag raised again. See more »


Winifred Ames: How are we going to explain that when the world is watching?
Stanley Motss: Fuck the world. Try a ten a.m. script meeting, coked to the gills, no sleep and you haven't even read the treatment.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Dustin Hoffman's main title credit is faded in over a close up of a vacuum cleaner. See more »


Spoofs Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) See more »


Written by Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Michael DeRosier and Roger Fisher
See more »

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User Reviews

Short & sharp satire on media manipulation
4 January 2002 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

During the campaign to re-elect the president of America, an underage sex scandal between a girl scout and the president in the oval office. To divert attention spin doctor Conrad Brean is called in to manage the fall out and hold it off for the 11 days till the election. Conrad employs Hollywood producer Stanley Motss to produce a war in Albania to divert the media away from the real story.

This was made before Clinton was accused of misconduct with Monica Lewinsky and the subsequent re-start of military action in Iraq. This seemed to give it a much greater feel of realism and much more credibility. However even before this happened it was still a very sharp and very good satire on political spin, but also managing to have a dig at Hollywood movie types. The story is told in a very stage-play fashion and is dialogue driven with very funny moments throughout. It's not as terrifying as a real look at media manipulation could be because it chooses to be a comedy instead but it still makes plenty of valid points.

The two leads are excellent at the head of an all-star cast. De Niro manages to be a professor-style character while at the same time having an easily accessible sense of menace just beneath the surface. Hoffman is good sending up Hollywood producers well and drawing parallels between the creation of a film and the creation of political news stories. The cast also has a series of cameos and extended cameos who add both humour and quality to the film - Willie Nelson, Denis Leary, James Belsuhi, William H Macy etc.

Recently in the UK we've had huge problems with spin doctors running the Labour Government - to the extent that 11th September was described as "good" by one as it gave them the chance to bury several bad news stories that they had stored up. And more recently with various Governments' waging a media war to win support their stance regarding military action. This film doesn't make hugely serious points but it does make you think about how the media is used to shape public perception and make us think what those in charge want us to think.

Overall a very funny, very clever satire that has a great cast, the only criticism being that it stretches it's point a little too far with the "old shoe" section.

30 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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They did this movie already in 1995 dreamerboi23
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