Seven Political Films To Watch Before the Election
Escape from the news cycle with some retro classics, from the sweetly romantic to the deeply cynical.
For this special edition of W Movie Club, our editors pulled together some of our favorite election- and political-themed films. Escape from the news cycle with these retro classics.
The American President (1995)
Editor in Chief Sara Moonves watched this romantic dramedy over the weekend as an antidote to election stress, inspiring us to put together this post. A very ‘90s Aaron Sorkin classic starring Michael Douglas as a U.S. president up for reelection and Annette Benning as his lobbyist love interest, it’s a perfect bit of retro-escapism. — Andrea Whittle
Dan Hedaya’s most memorable role will always be as the dad in Clueless, but for one hour and 34 minutes in 1999, he was Richard Nixon. The movie Dick, starring a young Michelle Williams and an even younger Kirsten Dunst, was a reimagining of the Watergate scandal—two 15-year-old girls stumble upon the robbery midway through, and are witnesses to the crime. As a result, Hedaya-as-Nixon is forced to bring the teens in to work as the official White House dog-walkers. The trio is hilarious, but the fashion alone makes this film worth a watch; the PVC neon-colored raincoats, American flag bra tops, and bell-bottoms reference both the 1970s and the 1990s. — Maxine Wally
There’s a thread of creepy, misogynistic darkness that runs through this movie, but it’s a satirical classic for a reason. Reese Witherspoon plays an unsettlingly ambitious high school student who believes she deserves nothing more than to be the school president, and Matthew Broderick plays a government teacher who hates her and will stop at nothing to make sure she doesn’t get elected. Come for their messy, slapstick feud, stay for the surprisingly satisfying ending. — AW
Shampoo is not really about electoral politics, but it does take place on election night in 1968. It was Carrie Fisher’s first movie, features Goldie Hawn in her prime, and has Warren Beatty starring as Hollywood’s leading ladies’ man (and playing a late ’60s promiscuous Beverly Hills hair dresser based on Jay Sebring and Jack Sahakian). I honestly don’t know how well this film has aged, but at this point I would rather watch Shampoo than any presidential debate. — Brooke Marine
This farcical ‘90s rom com is part Weekend at Bernie’s, part The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and probably the most bizarre of the bunch. When the president suffers a stroke in the middle of an illicit affair with a White House staffer, his administration brings in an impersonator to take his party trick to the highest office, and, as you can imagine, hijinks ensue. — AW
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)
Legally Blonde 2 is a movie about one woman’s quest to have her gay dog’s mother attend her wedding that somehow includes four Oscar winning actresses amongst its cast (a pre-fame Octavia Spencer has a small role as a security guard outside a Versace store). It is somehow also a movie about overcoming the deep fractures, corruption, and cynicism that runs through electoral politics through the power of optimism, some light espionage, and, of course, the bond of gay dog love. If any move has the power to bring both red state and blue together, it surely is the one that somehow features both Lou Reed and LeAnn Rimes on the soundtrack. (In short: Yes, this movie is incredibly dumb, but no dumber than what’s actually currently happening in D.C.) — Kyle Munzenrieder
The Post (2017)
Looking for political hope in Meryl Streep’s filmography is like looking for a club banger on a Joni Mitchell album. She either plays characters helplessly caught up in massive corruption or careless cynicism (Silkwood, Lions For Lambs, The Seduction of Joe Tynan) or a woman enacting it (The Manchurian Candidate, Rendition, The Iron Lady). Even outside of her well-known feelings about Trump, you begin to get the feeling that the actress is not much of a sunny political optimist. So, her all-star team-up with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg stands out as one of her few politically-adjacent films that leave you with a bit of hope. Streep plays the late Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, caftans and all, as she puts her faith in her journalistic staff to take on an unpopular war and ultimately a corrupt president through the power of the free press. — KM
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