A-List: Top Five Election-Themed Movies

By J. Don Birnam

March 31, 2016

No current candidate would want to go up against her.

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You may have noticed that there is a presidential election coming up, or that the primary season is well under way. That or you’re living under a rock. Either way, we figured you would like to satisfy that election itch, or start your time of living out from under the rock, with a list of the best election-themed movies of all time.

The rules for this edition of the A-List are a tad difficult to draw with exactitude. Some movies are more about the political system than elections. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, for example, perhaps one of the best government-themed movies of all time, does not really feature any campaigning or an election. The same goes for other amazing movies about politics, from All The President’s Men to the Oscar winner All The King’s Men. Other movies, say, Dave, feature an election in the background, but really are about the President himself. (Or, that may be a bit too kind to Dave, which is really just a rom-com in the Oval Office). The trick, then, is to find movies that are about running for office.

Since the list of those is not necessarily very long (but, if I missed one, be sure to tweet me about it!), I am going to add movies that feature elections for things other than presidential races. So, Legally Blonde, full with Elle Wood’s run for class president, is in. Alas, we will be speaking about another Reese Witherspoon soon, as you may suspect.


Before we get to the top five, I have to give some dishonorable mentions. The Ides of March, the Oscar-touted George Clooney/Ryan Gosling movie from a few years back, is a pet-peeve hated movie of mine. Okay, I get it, this year’s primary shows that crazy stuff can happen, but have we gotten to the point of murder and extortion of that kind? I guess the answer is yes if you believe the House of Cards model, but come on. When a movie passes itself for serious and features non-serious themes, it is bad by definition. The other dishonorable mention is the election-themed movie from last year that I just caught up with, Sandra Bullock’s Our Brand is Crisis. Why Bullock or the movie got a single “z” of Oscar buzz is beyond me. The movie is not worth a DVD viewing.

My only honorable mention is the devilish and stunning The Contender, starring a superb Joan Allen as she jockeys to be appointed Vice-President after the position becomes open. The cynicism of politics hasn’t been expressed as effectively perhaps since Jimmy Stewart did it as Mr. Smith, but like with Mr. Smith Went to Washington, Allen is not technically speaking running a political campaign. Accordingly, the movie, good as it is, is not eligible.

On to the results of our straw poll.

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