5. The Butler (2013)
Lee Daniels’ epic chronicles a White House butler who worked for eight consecutive presidents. We see history of racial matters, war, assassination and assassination attempts, and much more that was significant during the time through the eyes of this butler who originally gains his position solely because it was a position only seen fitting for black men at the time he started. We see the changing landscape of America, certainly in racial terms but much broader as well, as we see the butler relate with each of the presidents and their staff members.
4. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
The politics of war have never been funnier. “You can’t fight in here this is the war room!” Political banter is the source of all the humor. From a well-meaning president doing all he can do avoid nuclear warfare to a general so sadistic that he might just secretly want to know what it’s like to experience a nuclear attack, Dr. Strangelove is shows more variety of attitudes toward war than could possibly exist in one room, but each attitude makes the way for remarkably memorable characters and delightful absurdity.
3. The Great Dictator (1940)
In Charlie Chaplin’s greatest performance, he plays Adenoid Hinkel, a thinly disguised (actually not disguised at all other than the name) parody of Hitler. We follow the dictator’s rise to power through speaking to the anger raging in the midst of a small portion of his people. Through winning this minority over and through blaming all of their legitimate problems on the Jews (and other non-Arians) instead of taking the responsibility involved in his position to work towards meeting the real needs at work in the midst. This movie’s nature as a comedy never gets in the way of how accurately it portrays the rise of a tyrannical leader.
2. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Senator John Iselin is hoping to be selected as the Republican nominee for Vice President. But his wife wants it for him even more than she does. Her lust for power knows no limits. She’s involved in the invention of a perfect assassin, who unbeknownst to her throughout most of the movie, is her own son. He is the way she plans to use to see that John is not only selected as the running mate but that the Republican nominee will also be assassinated so that through her husband, an inept leader, she will have the control she’s looking for even at the expense of her son’s life and her husband’s reputation.
1. Citizen Kane (1941)
While far more than a political movie, the politics involved in Orson Welles’ masterpiece are remarkable. We follow the life of one abandoned by his parents, raised by people who control his life. Through attempts at making in politics, Kane tries to not only regain control over his own life but gain control over his constituents. The adage that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is portrayed powerfully in the politics of Citizen Kane.