Your Top Ten Political Films

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Film historian Neal Gabler shared his favorite political films with us last week, and many of you offered your own, so here’s a ranking of tallied responses from the Moyers & Company Facebook page, our Twitter home and Continue sending in suggestions and comments below.

10. Dr. Strangelove (1964)

9. Bob Roberts (1992)

8. Z (1969)

7. The Candidate (1972)

6. All the Kings Men (1949)

5. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

4. Primary Colors (1998)

3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

2. All The President’s Men (1976)

1. A Face in the Crowd (1957)

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  • Delketcham

    Another film I would like to mention is, “Meet John Doe”, 1941 with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwick. It is more cultural and sociological than political but believe it still might qualify. Very thought provoking on a number of different levels.

  • tree turtle

    Add “The Ides of March” (2011) to this list. Also add “The Man” (1972), a film about the first black president starring James Earl Jones, based upon Irving Wallace’s novel.

  • Phidippides26


  • Yael Li-Ron

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

  • Havehopenow

    what about “All Quiet on the Western Front”?

  • Jas conley

    Johnny Got His Gun

  • Gerard Francois

    L’aveu (the confession) also with Yves Montand.

  • Bill Ellis

    “12 Angry Men”, and “To Kill a Mocking Bird”: Two great films and though maybe not purely political, both make important political points eloquently.

  • John

    Many of these choice choices are about politics, and  films like Eraser Head and Soylent Green are political.

  • Chomatoes

    Norma Jean.  The Manchurian Candidate (2004).  Silkwood. 

  • Joseph Psotka

    Good to see “Z” in the list  — brought back great memories.  What about “Grapes of Wrath”?

  • Anonymous

    Being There

  • Robplantman

    How about In the Loop, great political black comedy.

  • Tgshults

    All are great, but Face not quite politics in the same sense. Would sub “Missing” even though that would make two Costa-Garvas with Z, nothing wrong with that.

  • 6fingers

    “Seven Days in May” (John Frankenheimer dir, Rod Serling, screenplay, 1964) ought to be there (great performances by Fredric March, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas)

  • Pension7ed

    Being There

  • Firesong

    What about WAG THE DOG…. Man you really missed a good one.

  • Quixdraw

    The Wire!

  • Weequash

    What about Johnny Got His Gun?

  • Weequash

    Sure, I loved A Face in the Crowd and Dr. Strangelove. But where does the demarcation exist between politics, religion and war?. Is not war the ultimate abnegation of political/diplomatic responsibility? In effect, a political act?

  • Weequash

    And perhaps one of the seminal anti-war films: J’Accuse. Or the recent dark satire No Man’s Land.

  • DonRoberto

    Can we include documentaries?  “Point of Order” was one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve ever seen, primarily because there is no narration — just the actual film or kinescopes of the Army/McCarthy hearings, edited so as to provide a narrative.


    Answer: Yes! And thank you.

  • Neil from Brooklyn

    How about Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”?  Or even “The Great Dictator”?  Those helped him get kicked out of the country. 

    A lot of people also consider the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup” very political.

  • Kate

    Really, A Face in the Crowd?  It’s so much more about big media, not politics, except as a sub-plot.  Don’t forget:  The Parallax View 1974, State of the Union 1948

  • 19obert63

    Encore Top Ten Political Movies

    1.JFK- conspiracy or no conspiracy; that is the question
    2.Dr. Strangelove
    3. Thirteen days-best interactive dvd
    5. The Great Dictator-Charlie Chaplin-Chaplin put his life on the line putting out this movie
    6.Battle of Algiers
    7.All the Kings Men
    8.Freedom Riders (documentary)
    9.Richard the Third-Olivier
    10.Seven Days in May

  • 19obert63

    Yes Silkwood-whistle blowing-nuclear waste-unions-greed and fear-courageous movie.

  • Anonymous

    A Man For All Seasons

  • Anonymous

    How about “Bob Roberts”? A soundtrack album was due for release on Warner Bros. Records, but it was not released because the film’s writer/director/actor (Tim Robbins) didn’t want the songs played outside of the movie’s context.

  • 19obert63

    I checked out All the King’s Men, I’m ashamed that I have not read the book,
    and I must say I was bitterly disappointed. I thought it was a cheap and unfair shot at Huey Long
    when compared to Ken Burn’s documentary which provides a much better balance of the man.
    The movie was so intent to villify the Senator that you had to wonder about its motivational
    impetus. This man was assassinated while serving his country, by a lone nut again, who had tremendous charisma and popular appeal. His main theme” to share the wealth” resonated during the great depression , no matter, his life cut short by avarice. It is amazing that this movie won an academy award as best picture and has garnered (almost) universal praise. I’m quite sure
    that Robert Penn Warren was a brilliant man, Oxford graduate, but the movie , that is based
    on his book, seems too contrived, as if only an insane or inherently selfish man would want America to share the wealth–I don’t buy it; this Kingfish smells-fishy.

  • Ellen Dannin

    The Brother from Another Planet (1984) by John Sayles

  • James Stone

    In the 21st century – “Why We fight”, “‘V’ For Vendetta”, just to name a couple. And no one has mentioned from the last century “1984” (John Hurt & Richard Burton). That’s pretty bizarro, especially since as a futurist film, Orwell came closer than almost anyone in predicting our present corporatist-political structure…

    And who was president at the time of that film? Newly elected? None other than the man whom many say started this economic disaster ball rolling, Ronald “the Gipper” Reagan. I used to watch him on the Death Valley Days TV show, and was living in CA when he was elected Governor. I knew then this country was in for a treat.

    Imagine, he was a staunch union advocate all during the 50’s as president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Maybe that’s how he learned to break ’em up so good!

  • Kaveh Ehsani

    “Salt of the Earth”, one of the greatest American political films ever made, by blacklisted filmmakers and non-professional actors. 

  • Trendisnotdestiny

    – V for Vendetta
    – Inside Job
    – Girl with Dragon Tattoo Trilogy

  • 19obert63


    I finally read the book by Robert Penn Warren that is loosely based on the life of Huey Long.
    Besides being a considered a classic, I needed to read the book to clarify my view of Huey Long as presented by the movie and the documentary made by Ken Burns. Burn’s documentary depicts a flawed but possibly great man who was assassinated while bannering the theme”that America
    should share the Wealth”. The movie portrays Long as a self promoting hypocrite with nothing to offer America but corruption, avarice and individual lack of morality.

    So in a best of three match I read the book, and came away with the feeling that the movie totally distorted the image of Huey Long for whatever political or societal reasons.I would describe Robert Penn Warren as a modernist writer, and one of the main aspects of modernest wrtings is that you can never trust the narrator, no longer a trusting authority figure in literature of the past, the  modern narrator could be lying about everything to to exploit his point, theme or philosophy.
    The narrator, in All the Kings Men is evil, self content, intellectually lazy, non activated individual. The narrator (media) is fascinated by Long’s mass appeal, but is frightened and wary
      of his motives and character. I’m almost certain that Robert Penn Warren used the narrator as a hidden literary device to exemplify  wealthy America’s view of this charismatic and dangerous man-Huey Long.

    Huey Long probably would have run for the presidency but was assassinated under
    unusual circumstances just before campaigning. Perhaps Neal Gabler is baiting the hook
    for a fourth attempt to capture the true Kingfish.