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The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part II

Yesterday, we ran down 10 political movies that did not make our ballot back in February when we asked people to vote, but that one or more readers thought should have. Today we're going to add an additional baker's dozen worth of films to the list.

Incidentally, we got a few complaints that these capsules only include directors and performers, and not screenwriters, producers, etc. We did that because too many little bits and pieces of information make it hard to read, and we thought that directors and performers are the people that are generally of most interest. The title of the movie, in each case, is a link to the IMDB page for that movie, and all of the cast and crew are listed there, of course.

And with that out of the way, let's get to the films (these are once again in alphabetical order):

12 Angry Men (1957)

Directed By: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden

What's It About?: One persistent juror turns a 1-11 vote into 12-0 for "not guilty." It's not an overtly political film, in that all the characters are private citizens, but the film certainly does raise some of the core dividing issues of modern America, most obviously immigration, xenophobia and capital punishment. In particular, the Begley character would be right at home in a MAGA hat.

Representative Quote: "It's always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don't really know what the truth is. I don't suppose anybody will ever really know."

A Bit of Trivia: One of the relatively rare films that features no women with speaking parts.

Air Force One (1997)

Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Wendy Crewson, Paul Guilfoyle and William H. Macy

What's It About?: The President of the United States, who is a decorated combat veteran, does battle with Russian terrorists who have seized control of the presidential airplane.

Representative Quote: "Your national security advisor has just been executed. He's a very good negotiator. He bought you another half hour."

A Bit of Trivia: Bill Clinton gave filmmakers access to the real Air Force One, and enjoyed the finished film so much that he screened it twice at the White House. Though he pointed out that the "escape pods" that appear in the film are pure fantasy.

Being There (1979)

Directed By: Hal Ashby

Starring: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden and Richard Dysart

What's It About?: Through a series of misunderstandings, a poor, simple-minded, naive man whose only interest is gardening becomes a key advisor to the president, and the frontrunner to become the next president.

Representative Quote: "Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer...

"I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy."

A Bit of Trivia: When star Peter Sellers died about a year after this film was released, a key line from the film ("Life is a state of mind.") was engraved on his tombstone.

Bob Roberts (1992)

Directed By: Tim Robbins

Starring: Tim Robbins, Giancarlo Esposito, Ray Wise, Gore Vidal and John Cusack

What's It About?: A mockumentary about the 1990 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race betweem conservative Republican folk singer Bob Roberts and incumbent Democratic senator Brickley Paiste.

Representative Quote: "Bob Roberts is yet another of that faction that lives to destroy whatever good came out of the 60s, to rewrite the history of that important period. A period where the American people actually were informed and aware, and realized that they had a voice. They demanded that a war end. Bob Roberts is Nixon, only he's shrewder, more complicated, this Bob Roberts. Now here is a man who has adopted the persona and mindset of a free-thinking rebel and turned it on itself. The Rebel Conservative! That is deviant brilliance. What a Machiavellian poseur."

A Bit of Trivia: Tim Robbins, an outspoken liberal, refused to allow the sale of a soundtrack for the film because he didn't want anyone to hear the songs of the conservative "Bob Roberts" out of context and take them seriously.

The Campaign (2012)

Directed By: Jay Roach

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Katherine LaNasa and Dylan McDermott

What's It About?: Rep. Camden Brady (D-NC) is caught having an extramarital affair, and two corrupt businessmen persuade dopey tour guide Martin Huggins to challenge him, with the idea that Huggins will be their puppet once elected to Congress.

Representative Quote: "Bizarre news coming out of the 14th district congressional race in North Carolina. Now, get this: Cam Brady, four-time congressman, punched a baby...

"This is likely to hurt him with the Christian right, social conservatives. Really any group that opposes baby-punching."

A Bit of Trivia: The corrupt businessmen who back Huggins are the "Motch Brothers." Hard to imagine who that might be a reference to.

Casablanca (1942)

Directed By: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains and Conrad Veidt

What's It About?: An American expat named Rick Blaine manages his Moroccan cafe, dealing with tensions between French resistance soldiers and Nazi sympathizers, and also with his feelings for his ex-girlfriend, who has inadvertently reentered his life. As one reader who suggested this film noted: "You didn't say it had to be limited to American politics."

Representative Quote: "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."

A Bit of Trivia: The Epstein Brothers, who wrote the film, could not come up with a compelling reason why Rick Blaine could never return to America, without undermining his heroic status. So, they decided to just not give one.

Dick (1999)

Directed By: Andrew Fleming

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dave Foley, Harry Shearer and Dan Hedaya

What's It About?: A pair of high schoolers inadvertently stumbles across the Watergate break-in, which initiates a series of events that cause Richard Nixon's staffers to believe the duo are media spies. In an effort to buy their silence, they are given a job as the presidential dog-walker, and in that capacity they actually do acquire inside information that puts them at odds with the administration, causing things to add badly for all involved.

Representative Quote: "I hate Dick! It was stupid of me to fall in love with Dick. What was I thinking? Dick just disgusts me now."

A Bit of Trivia: The film essentially implies that the two female protagonists were Deep Throat. That worked in 1999, because the identity of the real Deep Throat was not revealed until 2006.

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Directed By: Ron Howard

Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall and Toby Jones

What's It About?: A docudrama about the (in?)famous interviews that Richard Nixon did with British TV presenter David Frost shortly after resigning the presidency.

Representative Quote: "These men, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, I knew their families, I knew them since they were just kids. But you know, politically the pressure on me to let them go, that became overwhelming. So, I did it. I cut off one arm then I cut off the other and I'm not a good butcher. And I have always mantained what they were doing, what we were all doing was not criminal. Look, when you're in office you gotta do a lot of things sometimes that are not always in the strictest sense of the law, legal, but you do them because they're in the greater interest of the nation."

A Bit of Trivia: Langella became the second actor to be nominated for an Oscar for playing Nixon. The first was Anthony Hopkins for Nixon. Neither of them won, however.

The Last Hurrah (1958)

Directed By: John Ford

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, Dianne Foster, Pat O'Brien and Basil Rathbone

What's It About?: An aged and somewhat corrupt political boss, at the end of the age of the machines, runs for a fifth and final term as mayor of a "New England town" (implied to be Boston).

Representative Quote: "The fact is that the city is no longer yours. It's ours. You have this musty shrine to your bluenose ancestors, but my people have the City Hall and that's what sticks in your craw. You can't swallow it and you can't forget it. Well I'm going to make you eat it. That housing project is going up as planned and it's going to be open on schedule. And you know what day that's going to be? St Patrick's Day!"

A Bit of Trivia: The film is a roman à clef of the life of longtime Boston mayor James Michael Curley; he was paid $25,000 (about $265,000 today) not to sue the filmmakers.

My Fellow Americans (1996)

Directed By: Peter Segal

Starring: Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, John Heard and Wilford Brimley

What's It About?: Two former one-term presidents, motivated by both love of country and desire to reclaim their former office, work to expose the corruption of the current president.

Representative Quote: "I hate these funerals. It's just awful when another good Democrat passes on.

"I believe the deceased was a Republican, sir.

"Oh, well, then it might not be so bad."

A Bit of Trivia: Dan Aykroyd joins Raymond Massey, Walter Huston, Alexander Knox Edward Earle, Stan Jones and Christopher Plummer among the Canadian-born actors who have played U.S. presidents on the silver screen. Hmmmmmmm...

Network (1976)

Directed By: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall and Wesley Addy

What's It About?: This is the film that predicted Fox "News" with somewhat eerie prescience, 20 years before the cable channel went on the air.

Representative Quote: "We'll tell you any sh** you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night... We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you!"

A Bit of Trivia: This film is famous for two bits of Oscar trivia. First, in winning Best Actor for this film, Peter Finch became the first performer to win an Oscar posthumously. Second, Beatrice Straight won Best Supporting Actress despite being on screen for only 5 minutes, 2 seconds. This is the least screen time ever to win an Academy Award.

Seven Days in May (1964)

Directed By: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Ava Gardner and Edmond O'Brien

What's It About?: U.S. President Jordan Lyman is weak and unpopular. After he negotiates a nuclear disarmament treaty with the U.S.S.R., the Joint Chiefs of Staff plot a coup d'etat.

Representative Quote: "And if you want to talk about your oath of office, I'm here to tell you face to face, President Lyman, that you violated that oath when you stripped this country of its muscles—when you deliberately played upon the fear and fatigue of the people and told them they could remove that fear by the stroke of a pen. And then when this nation rejected you, lost faith in you, and began militantly to oppose you, you violated that oath by not resigning from office and turning the country over to someone who could represent the people of the United States."

A Bit of Trivia: John F. Kennedy thought the plot of the novel Seven Days in May, on which the movie was based, was very plausible, and was very interested to see it made into a film. But although he was aware that production had commenced, he did not live to see the final product. In fact, the first ads for the movie appeared, coincidentally, on the day that newspapers announced his assassination.

Veep (2012-19)

Created By: Armando Iannucci

Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott and Timothy Simons

What's It About?: A TV show, not a movie, but we're overlooking that like we did yesterday with The West Wing. Over 65 episodes, the show follows the ups and downs of the political career of VP Selina Meyer, with a blend of both comedy and drama. Oh, and they never make 100% clear which party she is a member of, so if you like your political shows to be somewhat apolitical, this may be the show for you.

Representative Quote: "I'm the Vice President of the United States, you stupid little fu**ers! These people should be begging me! That door should be half its height so that people can only approach me in my office on their goddamn, motherfu**ing knees!"

A Bit of Trivia: The show never made use of real-life politicians, either in cameos, or in passing reference. However, Simons says he based the "charmless," "graceless" and "universally disliked" Jonah Ryan on... Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Tomorrow, we'll start to reveal the actual results of the poll. (Z)

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