Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part III

Last Monday, 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. The next day, we added 13 more films to that list. Today, we're going to cover the 10 films that made our ballot but did most poorly:

Number 25: Primary (1960)

Directed By: Robert Drew

Starring: John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Joseph Julian

What's It About?: A documentary about the 1960 Democratic presidential primary, with Julian serving as narrator. Fair warning, it's in the direct cinema style (low-budget, minimal production, handheld cameras), which was developed in... Canada.

Representative Quote: "Well, f**k." (JFK didn't know the microphones were on at the time)

A Bit of Trivia: There were only 15 Democratic primaries that year, which made the film much more manageable. And since Lyndon B. Johnson skipped them, he does not appear, despite being a major contender for the nomination.

Number 24: W. (2008)

Directed By: Oliver Stone

Starring: Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn and Scott Glenn

What's It About?: A biopic of the life of George W. Bush, from his college years to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It's got comic elements and, because it's an Oliver Stone picture, fidelity to historical fact is not a priority.

Representative Quote: "The only way to win is to leave before the job is done."

A Bit of Trivia: George W. Bush got a DVD of the film as a gift... from Bill Clinton.

Number 23: The Contender (2000)

Directed By: Rod Lurie

Starring: Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges, Christian Slater and William Petersen

What's It About?: After the death of the vice president, the late-in-his-term president has to choose a new #2, and decides to break a then-still-existing glass ceiling by tapping a woman for the job. The confirmation hearings take an ugly and sexist turn.

Representative Quote: "Being the vice president is better than being the president, because nobody wants to shoot the vice president."

A Bit of Trivia: Barack Obama said that Jackson Evans (played by Jeff Bridges) is the best movie president he's ever seen.

Number 22: Nixon (1995)

Directed By: Oliver Stone

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Powers Boothe, Ed Harris and Bob Hoskins

What's It About?: Another biopic, but without the comic elements that W. has. It covers Nixon's whole life, with the emphasis on his final year in office. As with all Stone films, significant liberties were taken with historical fact.

Representative Quote: "They can't impeach me for bombing Cambodia. The president can bomb anybody he likes."

A Bit of Trivia: The role of Richard Nixon was offered to Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman, among others, but no American actor wanted to touch it. So, they went with a Welshman in Anthony Hopkins.

Number 21: On the Basis of Sex (2018)

Directed By: Mimi Leder

Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston and Kathy Bates

What's It About?: A biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, albeit one that focuses on the young, activist phase of her career. Her appointment to the Supreme Court is the final scene of the film.

Representative Quote: "We're not asking you to change the country. That's already happened without any court's permission. We're asking you to protect the right of the country to change."

A Bit of Trivia: Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended the premiere of the film, and loved it, as did her companion at the premiere, Hillary Clinton.

Number 20: The Fog of War (2003)

Directed By: Errol Morris

Starring: Robert McNamara

What's It About?: An interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that serves also as an indictment of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of the Vietnam War.

Representative Quote: "I think the human race needs to think more about killing. How much evil must we do in order to do good?"

A Bit of Trivia: One of two Vietnam documentaries to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The other is Hearts and Minds.

Number 19: Vice (2018)

Directed By: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Tyler Perry and Alison Pill

What's It About?: A dark comedy about the George W. Bush presidency, with Dick Cheney as the focal point.

Representative Quote: "I will not apologize for keeping your family safe. And I will not apologize for doing what needed to be done so that your loved ones could sleep peaceably at night. It has been my honor to be your servant. You chose me. And I did what you asked."

A Bit of Trivia: In a bit of irony, 50-year-old director Adam McKay suffered a heart attack while making the film (he recovered).

Number 18: All the King's Men (1949)

Directed By: Robert Rossen

Starring: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge, Joanne Dru, John Derek

What's It About?: Through the eyes of a reporter named Jack Burden, the audience is shown the rise and fall of a ruthless Southern politician named Willie Stark. Though Stark's home state is never revealed, the movie is clearly a roman à clef based on the life of Huey Long of Louisiana.

Representative Quote: "Now, shut up! Shut up, all of you! Now listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you're hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times like they fooled me. But this time, I'm going to fool somebody. I'm going to stay in this race. I'm on my own and I'm out for blood."

A Bit of Trivia: On most film and theater sets, the name "Macbeth" is not to be uttered. On this set, cast and crew were forbidden from saying the name "Huey Long."

Number 17: Milk (2008)

Directed By: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco

What's It About?: Biopic of LGBTQ trailblazer Harvey Milk, from young adulthood to his assassination in 1978.

Representative Quote: "I ask this... If there should be an assassination, I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out—If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door."

A Bit of Trivia: Sean Penn became the ninth person to have two Best Actor Oscars after winning for this film. Since then, Anthony Hopkins became the tenth.

Number 16: Bulworth (1998)

Directed By: Warren Beatty

Starring: Beatty, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Oliver Platt and Paul Sorvino

What's It About?: A formerly liberal and optimistic U.S. Senator from California has become conservative and corrupt. Deciding that life is no longer worth living, he buys an insurance policy on himself (for his daughter's benefit) and arranges to be assassinated (since suicide would void the policy). With nothing to lose, he starts speaking with brutal honesty to reporters and voters, and his career and life are rejuvenated.

Representative Quote: "I mean—come on! You can have a Billion Man March! If you don't put down that malt liquor and chicken wings, and get behind someone other than a running back who stabs his wife, you're NEVER gonna get rid of somebody like me!"

A Bit of Trivia: In private, the famously buttoned-down Barack Obama would reportedly speak wistfully of "going Bulworth."

In the next installment, it's 10 more! (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates