POLITICS

10 Great Movies About Politics To Stream Instead Of Watching The News

Sometimes, movies help us escape the real world, while other times, they may help us make sense of it.

If you are tired of the news but still want to get your political fix, why not turn to the many portrayals of politics on the big screen? Sometimes, movies help us escape the real world, while other times, they may help us make sense of it. Here are 10 of the best movies, from all-time classics to underrated gems, that capture various aspects of the political process. Some of them are fabulously absurd, while others are alarmingly real.

Most of the listed films are available to rent and/or purchase on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. We have also noted if they are available to stream on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

For even more viewing options, check out our list of 12 political documentaries.

  • "The Candidate"
    In 1976, Robert Redford starred in one of the all-time great political films, "All the President's Men," a thrilling ada
    Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images
    In 1976, Robert Redford starred in one of the all-time great political films, "All the President's Men," a thrilling adaptation of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's story of the investigation that broke open the Watergate scandal.

    But just a few years earlier, Redford delivered an equally compelling performance in a fictional political drama. In "The Candidate," he plays Bill McKay, a long-shot contender for a U.S. Senate seat in California. Recruited by a grizzled consultant (Peter Boyle), McKay enters the political fray only when assured he will be able to speak his mind and promote his own political issues, rather than stick to conventions. But he learns that in politics, image and perception -- rather than ideas and substance -- are paramount to success.

    In November, when honoring Redford with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Barack Obama called it "perhaps the best movie about what politics is actually like — ever." 
  • "In The Loop"
    Before creating the masterful HBO comedy series "Veep," Armando Iannucci wrote and directed "In The Loop," a satire about a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and the U.K. that goes off the rails because of a series of gaffes.

    Like "Veep," "In The Loop" demonstrates how political leaders can often be inept and bumbling. The film showcases a great cast from both sides of the Atlantic, including "Doctor Who" star Peter Capaldi, future "Veep" star Anna Chlumsky and the late James Gandolfini as a foul-mouthed lieutenant general.
  • "Milk"
    Sean Penn won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of LGBTQ pioneer Harvey Milk. Even though the San Francisco supervisor's l
    Kimberly White/Reuters
    Sean Penn won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of LGBTQ pioneer Harvey Milk. Even though the San Francisco supervisor's life ended tragically -- the film begins with actual news footage announcing his assassination at the hands of a political rival who opposed LGBTQ rights -- the film is ultimately uplifting and optimistic. It celebrates the power of grassroots political movements like the one Milk built, which continues to inspire San Francisco's Castro District and other LGBTQ communities around the country.

    Adding to its political relevance, the film's release in 2008 coincided with the passage of California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively struck down Prop 8, a major victory for LGBTQ rights.
  • "Election"
    Reese Witherspoon stars as Tracy Flick, an ambitious, overachieving high school student hoping to become class president. Running unopposed, Tracy is poised to win the election, until her teacher, Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick), convinces a popular football player to jump in the race, which riles up Tracy. "Election" deftly explores the sometimes extreme lengths people will go to for power and brilliantly satirizes the world of high school.

    The film has a famous fan: none other than former President Barack Obama, who, according to director Alexander Payne, has twice told him personally that it’s his favorite movie about politics.
  • "Selma"
    While the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, is well-documented, director Ava DuVernay's powerful film shows the human side of the civil rights movement. Instead of sugarcoating their difficulties, "Selma" unflinchingly details the opposition King and his followers faced, from FBI surveillance to police brutality. It also demonstrates how political calculus can hinder social change -- President Lyndon B. Johnson delayed passage of the Voting Rights Act to focus on other legislative priorities.

    Scenes of King's fiery sermons are among the film's most exquisitely crafted moments. DuVernay was unable to secure the rights to King's actual speeches, but when watching the film, it's barely noticeable, thanks to the spot-on cadence of the writing and David Oyelowo's magnificent performance as King. 
  • "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington"
    The always-charming Jimmy Stewart plays an idealistic political newcomer determined to make his mark by advoca
    Herbert Dorfman/Getty Images
    The always-charming Jimmy Stewart plays an idealistic political newcomer determined to make his mark by advocating for a cause near to his heart. But he is obstructed by a powerful political machine backing a pork-filled appropriations bill.

    Now considered a classic (in 2007, the American Film Institute ranked it 26 on its list of 100 greatest movies), the film was initially panned by politicians for its stark depiction of corruption and greed. At the time, U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. called it “one of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen done to our country,” and Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley (D-Ky.) said the film "makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks." 
  • "The Ides Of March"
    Boasting great acting from George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and the sorely missed Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Ides of March," which Clooney also directed, centers on a contentious presidential primary. Gosling plays an idealistic junior campaign manager for presidential candidate Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney). But his rosy view of politics and loyalty to his boss are challenged when he becomes entangled in ethical dilemmas, dirty tricks and backroom dealings.

    One of the film's co-writers was Beau Willimon, who went on to create the Netflix series "House of Cards." Willimon's own experiences as a staffer on Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign inspired him to write a play, "Farragut North," on which "The Ides of March" is based. Like "House of Cards," the film paints a cynical portrait of the political process, which can be hard to stomach. But its many twists and turns make for an engaging thriller.
  • "Primary Colors"
    Featuring John Travolta as a charismatic Southern governor running for president while mired in allegations of infidelit
    Universal Pictures via Getty Images
    Featuring John Travolta as a charismatic Southern governor running for president while mired in allegations of infidelity, this darkly comedic 1998 movie bears more than a passing resemblance to the campaign of a certain former president.  

    Based on a novel by veteran political reporter Joe Klein, "Primary Colors" is uneven at times -- some of the jokes don't totally land and some of the acting looks cartoonish. But it definitely delivers on the '90s political nostalgia, and its depiction of politics as an ugly and thankless blood sport paved the way for TV shows like "House of Cards." Bonus: Look for the tough-as-nails political operative played by Kathy Bates, who makes every movie better.
  • "Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb"
    In Stanley Kubrick's blistering satire of the Cold War, a deranged U.S. Air Force general named Jack D. Ripper unwitting
    Express via Getty Images
    In Stanley Kubrick's blistering satire of the Cold War, a deranged U.S. Air Force general named Jack D. Ripper unwittingly orders a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. Political leaders and diplomats must scramble to stop the attack and prevent a total nuclear apocalypse. As the crisis escalates, they propose increasingly ridiculous ideas, in part due to the advice of an idiosyncratic nuclear expert, Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers, who plays not one, not two, but three different roles in the film — and reportedly improvised most of his lines).

    "Dr. Strangelove" contains layers upon layers of comedy, from funny character and place names (Ripper commands the Burpelson Air Force Base) to absurd imagery (the giant maps in the war room). And remember: There's no fighting in the war room.
  • "The American President"
    President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) is a popular president running for re-election. A widower, he falls in love with an environmental lobbyist, Sydney Wade (Annette Bening), but their relationship soon becomes a political liability for both of them.

    The film was written by Aaron Sorkin, so if you love "The West Wing," you will probably like this. It has all of the classic Sorkin trademarks, especially the rapid-fire walking and talking. It even shares some of the same actors: Martin Sheen, President Bartlet on "The West Wing," plays the White House chief of staff in "The American President." Sorkin has also said that when creating "The West Wing," he used dialogue and plot points that he originally wrote but did not include in "The American President."

This article has been updated with new information about streaming and availability.

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12 Fascinating Political Documentaries To Stream