Today, Americans from far and wide will go to their respective polling centers to decide the fate of this country. The political atmosphere has been so thick in the world, that you can almost cut it with a knife. To ease the tension a bit, here are some honorable and funny political films to think about. I’m sure there are many that shoulda, woulda, coulda made it, if there are any politically charged and funny films you love, let us know by leaving a comment!
10. The Great McGinty (1940)
Written and directed by Preston Surges, “The Great McGinty” is about a bum who is recruited to commit voter fraud by casting ballots under fake names in order to make some quick money. When he impresses the conductors of the operation by the amount of votes he contributes, he quickly becomes an ideal candidate for a new “reform” mayor who is forced to marry in order to take the position. Starring Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff, the film was sold to Paramount Pictures for only $10, on the condition that Sturges would direct it. Though the film might seem old fashioned and hardly cause laugh out loud moments for many young people, Tamiroff and Donlevy’s performances, as well as the setting of the Great Depression (which might remind you of today) assures it a spot on this list.
Memorable Quote: The Politician: If it wasn’t for graft, you’d get a very low type of people in politics, men without ambition, jellyfish!
9. Primary Colors (1998)
You remember this one, don’t you? The one where John Travolta stars as democratic Southern Governor Jack Stanton, who in the midst of a presidential campaign is dealing with a sex scandal, but nonetheless soldiers on, with his staff and wife’s support and is hailed as the greatest thing since JFK. Sound vaguely familiar? Maybe you’re remembering former president Bill Clinton, as his story more or less mirrors Stanton’s, or vice versa, whichever you prefer. The movie is mostly told through the eyes of Stanton’s campaign manager Henry Burton who firmly believes that Stanton is the ‘real thing.’ With a supporting cast that includes Emma Thomspon, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates. “Primary Colors” was nominated for two Oscars. The critical reception of the film is quite bipolar, with many hailing it a great political satire and others calling it a comedic tragedy.
Memorable Quote: Libby Holden: I am a gay lesbian woman! I do not mythologize the male sexual organ!
8. Dave (1993)
Initially hired as the President Bill Mitchell’s body double, Dave Kovic finds himself in an unusual situation when Mitchell suffers a stroke and becomes incapacitated. Although normal American politics dictate that the vice president takes over if something renders the president incapable of his responsibilities, Mitchell’s Chief of Staff Bob Alexander, in an effort to protect himself, convinces Dave to continue to pretend to be the president, as he believes the vice president would most likely get rid of him. However Alexander has bigger plans and decides to take the vice president down to pave the way for his own presidency. Meanwhile, Dave is now completely enamored with the First Lady and comes to a head on confrontation with Alexander when he restores funding to one of her projects that Alexander cut off. Kevin Kline stars as the kind-hearted and simple Dave, along with Sigourney Weaver as First Lady Ellen Mitchell, and the presidents men are played by Frank Langella and Ben Kingsley. This “feel good” film is definitely one worth watching more than once.
Memorable Quote: Ellen Mitchell: Why couldn’t you die from a stroke like everyone else?
7. My Fellow Americans (1996)
Jack Lemmon and James Garner star in this comedy about feuding ex-presidents who eventually come together when they realize they are the focus of a scandal orchestrated within the current president’s administration. To clear their names, they go on a search that takes them across the Southern Appalachians where they meet a homeless couple, stand up against kidnappers and participate in a gay pride parade and see first hand how their policies might have affected every day citizens. With a supporting cast of Dan Akroyd, Lauren Bacall, John Heard and Sela Ward, “My Fellow Americans” is a definitive politically comedic hit. Although originally Walter Matthau was meant to star alongside Jack Lemmon as usual, he became ill and James Garner came in – either way, it’s a great film to catch, especially since Jack Lemmon did all of his own stunts.
Memorable Quote: Russell Kramer: I was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.
Matt Douglas: So was Hitler.
Russell Kramer: Not twice.
Stanley Kubrick‘s film has not only earned the number 25 spot on IMDB’s list of greatest films of all time, it has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and has the rare distinction of receiving a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Although it will most probably appear in any “top 10 political film” list, this film deserves a special mention here, as it’s roots are planted deep within comedy and satire. Starring Peter Sellers, and George C. Scott, “Dr. Strangelove,” is a story set around a mentally unstable U.S Air Force General, Jack Ripper, who sends a nuclear attack on the U.S.S.R. The Soviet ambassador then tells the president that this might trigger a “Doomsday Machine” which will destroy all life. Actor extraordinaire Peter Sellers, portrays not one, but three men who might avert this crisis. It’s up to U.S President Merkin Muffley, British Group Captain Lionel Mandrake or former Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove to save the world, but can any one of them succeed? Although this black comedy might be hard for present generations to grasp, that’s hardly a reason to dismiss it. Considering the fact that Peter Seller’s ad libbed most of his dialogue, this is a must see for film lovers in general.
Memorable Quote: President Merkin Muffley: Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.
5. Bulworth (1998)
Warren Beatty is Senator Jay Billington Bulworth, a Democrat running for reelection in California in 1996. When he begins to lose his bid for continuing his term as a Senator, he also begins to lose himself as he finds he has given up his liberal views with moderate ones. Disappointed and depressed with turning his back on his true beliefs, he decides to order a hit on himself, while negotiating a $10 million life insurance policy to make sure his family is taken care of. With nothing else to lose, Bulworth starts to speak honestly to the people, a quality rarely found in politicians. This inadvertently causes his campaign to get back on track and he instantly becomes a hit. He soon becomes involved with Nina (Halle Berry) a woman living in South-Central Los Angeles who was meant to carry out the hit contract but refused to be involved with the assassination. Bulworth’s candidness (and perfectly blended raps), as well as the brilliant social commentary in the film, make this an all around hit.
Memorable Quote: Bulworth: All we need is a voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of pro-creative racial deconstruction. Everybody just gotta keep fuckin’ everybody ’til they’re all the same color.
4. Wag the Dog (1997)
What is a president that’s up for reelection and caught in a scandal to do? Create a fake war to divert attention of course! Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman star as a Washington spin doctor and Hollywood producer who construct a made for television “war” with Albania (in which they hire wannabe actress Tracey Lime played by Kirsten Dunst to portray a young Albanian caught in the midst of battle) to focus attention back to the courageous way the president handles the erupting crisis. Loosely based on the novel “American Hero” by Larry Beinhart, the film incorporates the themes of mass media and public opinion, with the fictional war taking place in the basement of the White House with the use of blue screens, scripts and scenarios. Willie Nelson even makes a guest appearance as faux-singer “Johnny Dean,” and creates a theme song for the “war.”
Memorable Quote: Stanley Motss: The President will be a hero. He brought peace.
Conrad ‘Connie’ Brean: But there was never a war.
Stanley Motss: All the greater accomplishment.
3. Election (1999)
Although “Election” doesn’t deal with real-world politics, often times, the political atmosphere evidenced in microcosms, such as high school in this case, seem to mimic real life in quite an uncanny way. Matthew Broderick stars as Jim McAllister, a Social Studies teacher at Carver High who aims to get back at Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), an ambitious and annoying girl by convincing Paul (Chris Klein), a football player to run against her. In a surprising move, Tammy, Paul’s lesbian sister who gets dumped by her girlfriend in an effort to date Paul, decides to get back at her brother by running against him. The trouble and drama however, are not contained just in the election, but in their personal lives as well, as both Tracy and Mr. McAllister are having quite unsavoury affairs. Broderick and Witherspoon play their characters to a tee, both trying to out win the other and using typical political gimmicks such as ripping down posters, certifying this as a great political comedy.
Memorable Quote: Jim McAllister: [while counting the votes, he sees Tracy in the hall looking into the room] The sight of Tracy at that moment affected me in a way I can’t fully explain. Part of it was that she was spying; but mostly it was her face. Who knew how high she would climb in life? How many people would suffer because of her? I had to stop her… now!
2. Dick (1999)
Before we actually knew who the real “Deep Throat” was, speculation on the matter was rampant, and as far as writer and director Andrew Fleming was concerned, it was two teenage girls living in Washington D.C who brought down Nixon’s presidency. Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams star in this hilarious tale of Besty and Arlene, best friends who, while trying to sneak out to send a letter to teen heart throb Bobby Sherman, accidentally discover G. Gordon Liddy breaking into the democratic headquarters at the Watergate Building. The next day, while on a class field trip to the White House, they separate from the group and stumble upon Liddy. The girls are taken aside by White House staff and interrogated, during which they meet Nixon’s dog Checkers. In order to keep them silent about the break-in they witnessed, Nixon appoints them as “official dog-walkers” and they begin to visit the White House often, accidentally influencing events such as the Vietnam peace process and the Nixon-Brezhnev accord. After a series of events in which they learn of Nixon’s true nature, the girls decided to reveal everything to The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, played hilariously by Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch.
Memorable Quote: Arlene Lorenzo: We have a very important school report on turquoise jewelry due in two days, and we can’t find any books on it, and the President’s having us followed. It’s too much pressure.
1. Duck Soup (1933)
Starring Hollywood legends of yesteryear, Harpo and Groucho Marx, this slapstick comedy follows the rescue of the small country of “Freedonia” from bankruptcy, when wealthy and widowed Mrs. Teasdale, agrees to donate 20 million dollars if and only if Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is appointed its new president. Rufus, is hardly experienced in politics and quite a tyrant, cutting work hours by reducing employee lunch breaks. His primary goal is to woo Mrs. Teasdale, but he’s not alone in his quest. While Freedonia is experiencing problems of its own, neighboring Sylvania plans to take over the country. Sylvanian Ambassador Trentino is also seeking the hand of Mrs. Teasdale, resulting in Trentino and Firefly become involved in a love triangle that results with their countries declaring war against each other.
The film contains a number of memorable scenes and one-liners, including the famous “mirror” scene, where Pinky (Harpo) from Sylvania pretends to be FireFly’s reflection in the missing mirror. Although “Duck Soup” was initially a flop, it is now considered a Marx Brothers masterpiece and was declared a “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress.
Memorable Quote: Rufus T. Firefly: Oh, I’m sick of messages from the front. Don’t we ever get a message from the side? – What is it?
Bob Roland: General Smith reports a gas attack. He wants to know what to do.
Rufus T. Firefly: Tell him to take a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda and a half a glass of water.
If only every President got this kind of an entrance…