Hollywood's Campaign Contributions: 15 of the Best Election-Themed Movies
9:29 PM PDT 8/9/2012 by Sophie Schillaci, Aaron Couch, Kimberly Nordyke, Kyleen James
THR looks back at some of the most memorable campaign-centric films, from Reese Witherspoon's run for high school class president in "Election" to John Travolta's portrayal of a Clinton-esque commander-in-chief in "Primary Colors."
Kevin Kline stars in Gary Ross' dramedy as a presidential impersonator, who ultimately lands the job when the president falls ill. In the end, Kline's character decides to run his own campaign for city council.
Warren Beatty stars in the politically-themed film, which he also co-wrote, co-produced and directed. Playing the title character, Beatty becomes an unlikely favorite to win the presidency amid a downward spiral of substance abuse, thoughts of suicide and frank, potentially offensive remarks in public.
'All the President's Men' (1976)
While not a true election film, the movie did portray the events surrounding the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and the inauguration of Vice President Gerald Ford in 1974. The Oscar-winning movie starred Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post journalists whose investigation into the scandal revealed Nixon's connection to the burglary in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Washington, D.C., complex.
In one of her earlier -- and most memorable -- roles, Reese Witherspoon broke out as an overzealous teen running for class president. Matthew Broderick and Chris Kline also starred.
'Air Force One' (1997)
The country nearly lost a president in this movie. Harrison Ford plays President James Marshall in the action-adventure, in which a terrorist team hijacks the president's plane. But Marshall, a Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, calls upon his military training to save the day. Gary Oldman stars as the leader of the terrorists, while Glenn Close plays the vice president.
'Head of State' (2003)
Before Barack Obama moved into the White House, Chris Rock took on the role of first black president in Head of State, which he also wrote and directed. Bernie Mac also starred.
'Ides of March' (2011)
Ryan Gosling is a junior campaign manager for George Clooney's Democratic presidential candidate in Ides of March. The dark political drama was co-written, co-produced and directed by Clooney.
'Man of the Year' (2006)
Robin Williams plays a Jon Stewart-type comic, hosting his own satirical political news show, who ultimately -- at the urging of four million fans -- runs for the presidency.
'Manchurian Candidate' (2004)
Denzel Washington stars as a Gulf War veteran, while Liev Schreiber plays a war hero turned vice presidential candidate who may be the unwitting pawn in a global conglomerate’s plot to take over the White House via brainwashing. Director Jonathan Demme’s film, based upon a 1959 novel and its 1962 big screen adaptation, also stars Meryl Streep as a villainous senator with a serious love of micromanaging.
'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' (1939)
Frank Capra's Oscar-winning classic starred James Stewart in the title role of a young idealist named Jefferson Smith, who, following the death of a U.S. senator, is chosen by a corrupt governor to be the replacement in the hopes that Smith will become, essentially, the governor's puppet. But Smith proves otherwise, launching in the film's climax into a lengthy filibuster that not only prevents the passage of an appropriations bill -- which is in reality a dam-building graft scheme -- but also saves his own job.
'Primary Colors' (1998)
John Travolta stars as an affable southern governor with a reputation for womanizing. Based on the novel recounting events from President Bill Clinton’s 1992 White House bid, the film came out less than two months after the Monica Lewinsky scandal rocked American politics. While Travolta said he based his character primarily on Clinton, his onscreen wife, Emma Thompson, said her role was not Hillary Clinton-inspired.
'Swing Vote' (2008)
Kevin Costner takes the adage that every vote counts to new heights in Swing Vote, in which he plays an apolitical everyman whose vote ends up deciding the presidential election. (It’s complicated.) As the candidates, played by Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci, court Costner’s character, the man's uninformed utterances are dissected and misinterpreted by the media, who want the scoop on whom he will choose.
'The Contender' (2000)
The veepstakes is in full force after the death of the VP dies and Jeff Bridges’ presidential character must choose a new No. 2. He wants to give the nod to a senator played by Joan Allen, but her supposed college-age sexual indiscretions come to light thanks to a rather despicable congressman played by Gary Oldman. Will this put the kibosh on the potentially glass-ceiling breaking nomination?
'The Distinguished Gentleman' (1992)
Fresh off his 1992 hit film Boomerang, Eddie Murphy hit theaters again that same year in this political-themed comedy, in which he starred as a con man named Thomas Jefferson Johnson who gets himself elected to Congress. There, he hopes to cash in on lucrative donations and campaign contributions, but after he is double-crossed by a veteran politician, he ends up using his con skills to get revenge -- and help out some small-town residents in the process.
'Wag the Dog' (1997)
After a sexual scandal involving the Commander in Chief hits just before a presidential election, a spin doctor played by Robert De Niro creates a fake war to divert the public’s attention. He enlists a talented producer, played by Dustin Hoffman, to orchestrates the drama. The Barry Levinson film was released one month before President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky came to light. Clinton’s subsequent bombings of targets in Afghanistan and Sudan had political adversaries claiming he was—well—wagging the dog.