The 35 Best Political Movies of All Time

Many people often associate political issues more with heavy fare or even boredom. However, a wide variety of filmmakers have always managed to produce films in this field that bring issues of politics to the screen in an absolutely entertaining way. In the following 40 political movies, you will find a mixture of suspense, action, and sometimes even humor. They are the best proof that political topics don’t have to be dry and boring at all.

1. Selma (2014)

In 1965, the U.S. civil rights movement found one of its high points with the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. In the end, the right to vote was also granted to the black population of the U.S. South. Ava DuVernay takes up this important event in his film Selma.

It brought to theaters in moving pictures the story of Martin Luther King and his dangerous struggle for the right to vote for the African-American population of the United States. The opponents are ready for violence, and until King achieves his important goal, some people have to give their lives. Many memorable scenes make Selma a poignant film that provokes thought and discussion.

2. Milk (2008)

The U.S. film biography tells the story of Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn). New York-based lesbian and gay civil rights activist moves to San Francisco with his partner Scott. The two live in the Castro neighborhood, inhabited by many homosexuals, where Milk decides to become a politician.

Candidates for state legislature fail; he runs for city council and begins a relationship with Mexican Jack Lira. In the end, the election victory and the fight against a ban on gay teachers. An altercation with city councilman Dan White ultimately costs Milk his life: White shoots him and Mayor Moscone.

Praised by critics as the “first major film” to examine civil rights from the perspective of the gay rights movement. A film that also grabs the audience emotionally.

3. V for Vendetta (2005)

V for Vendetta is set in futuristic London in the year 2020. Great Britain is led by totalitarianism. This government came to power through the promise of security at a time when a virus raged, and civil war raged in the United States. The unknown masked V fights against the authoritarian state and prepares a political and social upheaval. In order to put his plan into action, he does not hesitate to kill leading regime members. V also has another personal motive: he is the only survivor of a forced experiment.

The film is based on a comic of the same name and won several awards—a thrilling and action-packed film not to be missed.

4. Frost/Nixon (2008)

In 1977, talk show host David Frost conducted a legendary interview with former U.S. President Nixon. In 2008 Ron Howard turned it into a great movie History film, which was even nominated for an Oscar.

The plot: After the resignation of Richard Nixon due to the Watergate affair, talk show host Frost plans a series of interviews with Nixon, which should bring him high ratings. But the requests bounce back—three years of silence on the ex-president’s part. Only in 1977, after several requests, does he respond to Frost’s request.

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When several attempts to sell the interview to T.V. stations fail, he has the interview produced by sponsors and his own money. But before the interview becomes a legendary event, the initially insecure Frost has to overcome some hurdles. A film that gives a thrilling exchange that even people who are not very politically educated can easily follow.

5. The Last King of Scotland (2006)

To escape his father’s domineering influence, young Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan is drawn out into the world. In Uganda, he seems to find happiness when a coincidence makes him the personal physician of the dictator Idi Amin. However, his following pleasant life is based on oppression and terror of unimaginable scale. In the beginning, Garrigan ignores these atrocities. But soon, he himself becomes a target of the dictator, and a fight for survival begins.

Even though the plot is fictional, it is related to actual events during the cruel reign of dictator Idi Amin. The film grips the viewer, especially through the impressively monstrous portrayal of the cruel Amin by Forest Whitaker.

6. The Kings Speech (2010)

The British film biography about Duke Albert of York, who was troubled by his stuttering, won four Oscars. The plot tells of Albert’s speech therapy with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. Logue works with rather unconventional methods and renounces any etiquette towards the Duke. Initially, this leads him to abandon the therapy, but he later realizes that this was a mistake.

He resumes therapy. In the course of time, it becomes clear that the stuttering was caused by trauma. Slowly the viewer learns all kinds of cruel things about Duke Albert’s childhood and about the bad relationship between him and his brother. The interest in the film was so great that later a play was also performed several times.

7. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty is a feature film that could also be a documentary. It is based on actual events, and the main character Maya is also real with minimal changes to protect her identity. In the film, the search for Osama bin Laden is shown, which ultimately ends successfully with his killing. But before that, hard times are ahead, especially for CIA analyst Maya.

If she is initially shocked by torture methods, she later uses torturous methods herself to get information. She survives a bombing and loses a good friend before, on 2. May 2011 successfully ended its mission.

Original audio recordings of terror victims of 11. September 2001, controversial torture scenes and well-researched background information make this one of the best political films of all time.

8. Lincoln (2012)

Based on the nonfiction book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Steven Spielberg produced a film focusing on the final months of Abraham Lincoln’s life. In the foreground is the political struggle to abolish slavery in the USA. But the private side of Lincoln also comes up in the film, which won two Oscars. Thus, the marriage suffers from the workload, and the death of a common child also plays a role.

Filming on original locations and twelve years of research work by Spielberg bring the viewer the events of that time up close on the screen. A one-minute prologue, included specifically for theatrical release outside the U.S., teaches the basics of American history, ensuring a good understanding of the film.

9. JFK – Tatort Dallas (1991)

In Oliver Stone’s film drama, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison seeks to investigate the circumstances surrounding the murder of John F. Revealing Kennedy. This is played by none other than Kevin Costner. The film is based on books by Jim Marrs and Jim Garrison, which assume a vast conspiracy related to the assassination.

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The film begins for viewers on the day of the assassination with a flashback to the years before Kennedy’s time as president. The Zapruder film with the assassination can be seen afterward. From then on, the setting changes to New Orleans. JFK – Crime Scene Dallas received many awards but also criticism because of the conspiracy theories. It is worth seeing for yourself.

10. Vice (2018)

Vice is a satirical film biography about former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. At the age of 22, Dick, an unskilled laborer, is barely making it through life. His drinking binges cost him his studies at Yale and accompany him through his everyday life even now. Only when his marriage is at stake does he pull the ripcord and gets an internship in Washington. An unusual political career takes its course and seems to end with Dick Cheney as Secretary of Defense under George Bush Sr. to have reached the climax. But it goes still further steeply uphill.

Not only do many awards and nominations show the quality of the film.

11. All the Way (2016)

As the successor to assassinated President John F. Kennedy Wants Lyndon B. Johnson to rebuild the rattled nation. The film deals with the first year in office of Kennedy’s successor. The main focus during this time is on the Civil Rights Act, which he has to get off the ground. Not an easy task for the new president of the United States of America. All the way offers viewers a fascinating portrayal of the rather complicated Johnson.

12. Long Shot (2019)

Political films can also be funny and romantic. The film comedy Long Shot is the best proof of that. Once, she was the childhood sweetheart of the currently unemployed journalist Fred Flarsky. But at a reunion, he now comes face to face with the top diplomat and U.S. Secretary of State. His one-time love now even wants to run for president and unceremoniously hires Fred as a scribe for her campaign speeches. Working closely together, old feelings resurface, leading to all sorts of chaos.

This image is also generally accepted as a film that perhaps points to the future, in which women shine with superiority.

13. On the Basis of Sex (2018)

This film biography by Mimi Leder is dedicated to the rise of jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1993. In the presentation, the film is divided into three time periods. Beginning in 1956, where Ginsburg completed her first semester at Harvard Law School. In a male-dominated environment, she graduates at the top of her class.

The story continued in 1959. She moves to New York City with her husband. There she is confronted with the problem of getting a woman’s job and becoming a law professor in New Jersey. Here she specializes in the topic of “gender discrimination and the law.” It follows the jump to the year 1970.

In one particular case, Ginsburg sees an opportunity to change the direction of jurisprudence regarding differences between the sexes. The film is understandable to legal laypeople and presents the powerful story of the lawyer, who died in September 2020, in a compelling and revealing way.

14. The American President (1995)

With a snappy script by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, this political romance imagines what would happen if a widowed president (Michael Douglas) running for re-election fell in love with an environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening). While his rival (Richard Dreyfuss) tries to use the relationship to his own advantage, President Andrew Shepherd must decide how to deal with the political fallout. His rousing final speech alone is worth watching.

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15. Marshall (2017)

The story of the African-American lawyer and later judge Thurgood Marshall is the material for the biopic by Reginald Hudlin. In the 1940s, Marshall takes on difficult cases for the NAACP in the U.S. Especially defendants of his skin color put a lot of hope in Marshall in a racist environment. So does Joseph Spell. The black chauffeur is accused of raping the wife of his wealthy and white employer. Spell, however, maintains his innocence.

A film with great entertainment value, but at the same time, a reminder that the subject is still relevant today.

16. Miss Sloane (2016)

Elizabeth Sloane is a political strategist who works for a long-established law firm. Because she is particularly ruthless, her services are primarily sought when an appropriate negotiating strategy is needed. The gun lobby hires her to prevent a law that would allow stricter control of private gun ownership. After a conflict with her supervisor, however, she switches sides and from then on acts as a dangerous opponent of the gun lobby. Director John Madden’s The Invention of Truth is a gripping political thriller.

17. Malcolm X (1992)

Spike Lee packed the life and death of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X into a suspenseful film drama. The well-known black civil rights activist already experiences many disadvantages in school because of the color of his skin. Later, he moves to Harlem and befriends a crime boss who imitates white people.

Malcolm also adapts to the style. He gets into a quagmire of alcohol and drugs. Friends become enemies in the end, and he has to flee to Boston. He ends up in prison, where he meets Baines, a black Muslim who changes his life. The political epic starring Denzel Washington won several awards.

18. Recount (2008)

George W. Bush and Al Gore compete against each other in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. The U.S. film drama deals with the recounting of votes in Florida. Al Gore’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, had called for the recount. For him, the suspicion of manipulation was in the room. The post-election fight leaves its mark, causes a loss of trust, and disgraces the U.S. The recount will ultimately be court-ordered. In the film, the events are served to the viewer excitingly in a mixture of documents and fiction.

19. The Ides of March (2011)

George Clooney directed this political drama that illustrates the mechanisms of politics very well. Young Stephen Myers is the press secretary of the aspiring presidential candidate Mike Morris (played by George Clooney). Myers does not even stop at dubious methods to help Morris win the election. Then he gets an offer to switch sides and is blackmailed by a journalist who wants the story to go public. An exciting film is full of interesting themes such as intrigue, power, betrayal, and corruption.

20. The Post (2017)

The film is set in the 1970s: Meryl Streep shines in the role of publisher Katharine Graham, who has to take over his post at the Washington Post after the death of her husband. From now on, she is the boss there and holds the position of chairman of the publishing house board.

As the first female newspaper publisher in the U.S., she must make her way in a male-dominated industry. After her editor-in-chief gains secret knowledge about the explosive Pentagon Papers, he is determined to publish the new findings despite the threat of legal consequences. On the other hand, Katharine fears for her employees’ safety and future. She increasingly finds herself in a moral quandary.

The film gets by without sex, violence, or long speeches. Despite this fact and a length of almost two hours, the Spielberg drama never loses its suspense.

21. Snowpiercer (2013)

22. Election (1999)

23. The Queen (2006)

24. The Favourite (2018)

25. Children of Men (2006)

26. Bridge of Spies (2015)

27. Irresistible (2020)

28. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

29. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

30. The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

31. Argo (2012)

32. The Three Days of Condor (1975)

33. The Lives of Others (2006)

34. The Interpreter (2005)

35. Thirteen Days (2000)

Maybe you are missing one or another movie title in this list. But one thing is certain: These 40 political films of all time can be used to create many exciting and, at the same time, educational movie nights.

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