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Movie Mom

List: NPR on Movies about Politics

posted by Nell Minow

Just in time for the political conventions, NPR lists the best political movies. Bob Mondello divides them into three categories: manipulating the media, manipulating the candidate, and manipulating the process. Well, if someone isn’t manipulating something, there’s no need for a hero. I was glad to see one of my favorites like The Best Man, based on a play by Gore Vidal and starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. Today’s viewers might be confused by the idea that the candidate was not actually selected until the convention but the strategies and moral conflicts will seem very contemporary.

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Another one of my favorites is All the President’s Men, based on the true story of the young reporters who investigated the Watergate break-in and found layers of deception and cover-up that led to the only Presidential resignation in US history. And I was glad to see the only Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn movie directed by Frank Capra on the list, State of the Union. He plays an industrialist encouraged to run for office by a manipulative political operator and she is his estranged wife, brought into the campaign because — in those days — a candidate had to have an intact family. I’d also recommend another of their lesser-known collaborations, “Keeper of the Flame.” He is a reporter writing about her late husband, a revered statesman with what turns out to be a very ugly secret. A Congressman once told me the movie that seemed most authentic to his experience in politics was The Seduction of Joe Tynan, with a sensational early performance by Meryl Streep. And I would also add Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and the musical about the political meeting that started it all for the United States, 1776.

  • jestrfyl

    The only one I would add to this comprehensive and exhaustive list is “Wag the Dog”. We were especially amused to wtch this movie in a theater (Merriefield, VA)barely a mile from the warehouse where the film was supposed to take place,

  • Nell Minow

    I love that movie, jestrfyl! It is a shame it did not get more notice when it was released because of bad timing. But it is a comic gem with some brilliant satire and performances.

  • Alicia

    I was thinking of showing “Mr. Smith” at my movie club in October. This is a good list and gives me some ideas for upcoming film club movies. (I think I’ll skip “Election,” though. It was a good movie, but so painful to watch.) There’s also “Citizen Ruth,” which deals with the abortion issue in a fairly challenging and even-handed way.

  • Warren

    Robert Redford’s “The Candidate”.

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