Friday, April 14, 2006


Top Ten Political Films

It’s been a bit of a slow news week- with due respect to the awesome topic of Global Warming and the tawdry one of cash for peerages-so I thought, as it’s also a Bank Holiday, I’d do another list – this time on my top ten political films. I’m aware that some films are explicitly political while others are implicitly so but I have judged them all together. No doubt some would challenge whether a choice is really political- but this is where lists become very subjective. I’d also like to say that, apart from the number one choice, most of the others could be in the top five depending on how I was feeling when I ranked them. And I question myself how I could possibly have left out such minor masterpieces as Primary Colours, Reds and American History X. Anyway, 'Get on with it', I hear a distant voice call, so I start, as always, in reverse order.

10. Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
Not an explicitly political film but one which made much fun out of the religion and politics and ideological politics too. Apart from a million other moments I loved the distinction drawn between the ‘Liberation Front of Judea’ and the ‘Judean Liberation Front’ plus the whispered comment of someone leaving one of Christ's orations: “What Jesus doesn’t appreciate is that it’s the ‘meek’ whoare the problem”.

9. Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003)
Wonderful 'straight to camera' documentary of Ford Executive turned Secretary of State for Defence under JFK and LBJ calmly unpicks his policy in South East Asia and perceives looming similarities with the war in Iraq.

8. Wag the Dog (Barry Levinson, 1997)
Spin doctor invents a war in order to distract attention from a Presidential sexual scandal. All too credible I thought.

7. Dr Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)
The Robert Bolt screenplay of the Pasternak novel captures the writer’s plea from an oppressed country, for people, especially the creative ones, to be allowed to live unmolested by the state and the madmen who run them.

6. Goodbye Lenin (Wolfgang Becker, 2003)
Hilarious ‘recreation’ of pre 1989 East Berlin for the benefit of a mother who has come out of a yearlong coma and might have another heart attack if confronted by the shock of the new order's reality.

5. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965)
The French Foreign Legion seek comfort from their Vietnam retreat by torturing Algerians who respond with bombs in cafes killing scores of innocant victims. An astonishingly powerful experience of the dirtiness and horror of this kind of war.

4. Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)
Reese Witherspoon is excellent as the obnoxious high achiever seeking to win the voting approval of fellow pupils in a process involving sexual and other myriad complications. Clever microcosm critique of the electoral process.

3. The Candidate (Michael Ritchie, 1972)
Robert Redford plays Bill McKay, a candidate who tries to fight but is eventually rather overcome by the media’s domination of political life and its requirements for deceit and dissembling.

2. Judgement at Nuremberg (Stanley Kramer, 1961)
All star (Lancaster, Tracey, Dietrich, even Judy Garland) investigation of universal moral truths involved in the trials of Nazi war leaders. Riveting performances and a first class screenplay.

1. Dr Strangelove, or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb(Stanley Kubrik, 1963)
Peter Sellers stars as several characters in this ultimate satire on the horror of nuclear war. The very bestest film about politics and war, in my humble opinion, ever made.

Hello Skipper

This must be a top ten entry.

The Confession (Costa Gavras, 1970) follows the path of Artur London, a Czechoslovakian communist arrested for treason and espionage by the Stalinist regime in late 40s, early 50s Prague.
Thanks anonymous, think I've seen that but it didn't pop up in the old fading memory before compiling my list. I'll put it on my list to see thoiugh as that director is much admired.
Very hard to cut it down to a top ten and it is all very personal. But I think I would include at least some of the following: All the President's Men; The Great Dictator (sentimental, I know); Bob Roberts; Being There (the "In the spring there will be growth" scene is wonderful); Missing. Isn't Casablanca a political movie (among other things)? I know Edge of Darkness wasn't really a movie (although it was shown in some cinemas); but it would be on my list. I have a specal favourite: Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947), with James Mason, which I think makes the cut as a political movie. I agree with Dr. Strangelove and Battle of Algiers, don't agree at all with Life of Brian.
It's just so personal as you say politicaholic, but I'd include all yours in my top twenty; in fact I wish I'd done 20 instead of ten now but it takes too much time and too much space for a post perhaps. Casablanca is political of course but I think perhaps that is not what makes it a great film as it's the relationship between the two main protagonists which has enchanted people ever since it appeared.
I was quite engaged by Primary Colors, the film about a Bill Clinton-style president, which gave John Travolta a meaty part. But I am not sure it was a really "great" film. BTW sorry about the rather OTT style of posting on commenting policies on the part of my fellow blogger BondBloke! Hope it doesn't put you off visiting us again.
Just catching up with this: a good one! I certainly agree with 'Life of Brian' (message: 'think for yourself') and certainly wouldn't dump any of the others. I would include, however -

1. 'The Manchurian Candidate' (Original version)
2. 'The Ploughman's Lunch'
3. 'Battleship Potemkin'
4. 'Lord of the Flies'
5. 'Three Colours Trilogy'
6. 'Danton'
7. 'Bob Roberts'
8. 'The People Who Live Under the Stairs'
9. 'Seven Days in May'
10. 'Paths of Glory'

No Michael Moore, but no Ken Loach, either? Honourable johnny come lately that might stand the test of time - 'Constant Gardener'.
Haven't seen the last nor some on your list, but it's a pretty good list of additional 'must see' films I agree. Not absolutely sure 'Three Colours'is all that political.. but it's all in the eye of the viewer.
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