Though they aren't really as popular as other genres, election themed movies still are pretty well-liked. Whether it's because of the drama, the dystopian-ism, or just the realistic scripts, there's a lot of reasons why people love watching these movies from time to time.
If you love watching the real drama behind elections, or just want to see what a dystopian election could look like, then the best election themed movies will be a surefire hit with you.
The Ides of March (2011)
Perhaps one of the best election movies out there, The Ides of March makes you get a realistic look at how affairs and other underhanded political tactics can mar an idealistic campaign manager's views on the world.
In this movie, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) starts his job as a junior campaign manager, only to realize that his candidate (George Clooney) is not as squeaky clean as he appears to be. He tries to handle everyone's dirty laundry, ends up getting called a traitor, has to deal with blackmail, and somehow miraculously navigates the grimy world of politics.
Every contact in The Ides of March has his or her own dirty laundry. That alone tends to make you feel like you need a shower after watching this film.
If you love depressing and mildly disturbing election themed movies that slowly reveal how politicians become corrupt shells of themselves, you'll love The Ides of March. In terms of sheer depressing ragefuel, The Ides of March is one of the best election themed movies out there.
Unlike other election themed movies on this list, Recount is a dramatization of a real-life election. The movie follows the numbers, the voters, and the campaigns of both candidates from the 2000 presidential election.
This dramatic documentary regularly is cited as one of the best election themed movies of all time thanks to its honesty and wide perspectives.
What makes this movie so awesome isn't just the fact that it's based on history. It's insanely realistic, makes the people human, and is brilliantly acted. It's gritty, reveals why the recounts often didn't seem to cut the mustard, and also just is incredibly honest about US politics.
Primary Colors (1998)
Tour-de-force Primary Colors is a roman à clef based on what happened during Bill Clinton's presidential campaign.
The movie follows Jack Stanton (John Travolta), a charming and talented governor who's running for president, as he gets advice from a "new kid on the block" by the name of Henry Burton (Adrian Lester). Stanton's arrest during a 1968 anti-war protest gets pulled into the spotlight, and it's up to him and his advisors to overcome this issue and make it to the White House.
It's funny at points, it's poignant, it's intense, it's one of the best election themed movies you'll ever see. We love it, and so will you.
The Candidate (1972)
The Candidate is one of those political movies that really grips you with its funny, honest, and intelligent dialogue. It's also pretty interesting to see how politicians gain votes, improve odds, and just get things going in this movie.
Bill McKay (Robert Redford) wants to run for Senate of California - but he has no chance at winning the campaign as the numbers are. How will he fix the system in his favor? How does he gain votes? You'll only know if you watch The Candidate.
Simply put, what makes this movie so good is that you can actually see how Bill McKay's election campaign evolves in a manner similar to most modern political election campaigns. Every politician is Bill McKay - whether they want to admit it or not!
If you have a thing for watching people get votes, then The Candidate is one of the best election themed movies you'll ever see.
Bob Roberts (1992)
This docu-drama draws loosely from the facts. Bob Roberts, as a movie, was meant to be a satirical interpretation of several politicians, such as George H.W. Bush – but not too much so. It is an election themed movie that satirizes the election process.
Can a conservative folk singer by the name of Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins) charm Pennsylvania voters into electing him over a Democrat?
Most of Bob Roberts is political campaign chaos. There's a conspiracy theorist reporter, a diva-like Republican candidate who refuses to perform songs he was booked to play on TV, and of course, an assassination attempt.
In terms of election themed movies, few films can get you laughing out loud like this one can.
Financially wrecked and disillusioned former senator Jay Bulworth (Warren Betty) is stuck in the middle of a losing campaign. His life is a wreck, and he decides to try to make things better for his family by taking out a $10 million life insurance policy on himself. The plan he makes is to hire two hitmen to "finish him" so that his daughter can get the policy.
The problem is that Bulworth ends up becoming a fan favorite after showing up at his campaign drunk and speaking his honest mind - and that he's become romantically involved with a young black activist called Nina (Halle Berry). Now, he's getting into a major candidacy, dealing with paparazzi, all the while worried about the assassins that are sent on his own "search and destroy" mission.
Yes, it's insane. Yes, it's hilarious. Yes, it's one of the best election themed movies ever made. In fact, in terms of election movies that are comedic, you can't get better.
The Campaign (2012)
Channeling the same snide, satirical snark of Bulworth is The Campaign. In this movie, trying to bring out the intellectual side of political elections really doesn't happen. This political comedy is crude, pokes fun at the fakeness of candidates, and just is designed to make you laugh until your sides hurt.
If you're sick of more cerebral jabs but still want to watch election themed movies, The Campaign is a great choice. In fact, we'll go so far as to say that it's one of the best election themed movies involving that level of crass snark.
The Best Man (1964)
This 1960s political movie is all about asking oneself what happens when winning at all costs becomes the name of the game. The Best Man gives viewers a serious look at all the seedy contact drama that can happen during a presidential campaign.
In many election movies, you might not get a full idea of the emotional toll of the "no holds barred" behavior that political election staffers may need to endure.
There's slander, illegally obtained psychological reports, and way worse going on in these campaigns. In terms of election themed movies, The Best Man may be one of the meanest to watch.
Meet John Doe (1941)
This satirical comedy-drama by Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) may be one of the only election themed movies that features both a grassroots political campaign and a candidate that's literally been based off a fictitious homeless man by the name of "John Doe." (Gary Cooper)
What makes Meet John Doe so much better than most election themed movies made later on is that it's not really about politics. It's not about the vicious sniping, the mudslinging, and the treachery that most other political campaign movies features.
Really, it's all about the magic that happens when people actively try to conquer social problems together. It's heart-warming, optimistic, and fun (even if it does deal with suicidal depression). As a result, it's one of the best election themed movies of all time.
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
A remake of the Cold War-era classic, The Manchurian Candidate blends science fiction with American politics, and the results are dystopian as can be. US politician Raymond Shaw (Liev Shrieber) once served as a member of the army, where he made history by rescuing all but two members of his unit.
Fellow unit member Al Melvin (Jeffrey Wright) contacts another unit member, Ben Marco (Denzel Washington), to tell him about the "strange nightmares" he's been having, as well as the doubts about the memories he has from their days in the war. Marco himself was having similar dreams.
Melvin and Marco start to search for the truth, only to realize they were brainwashed about what really happened in their time in the army. It only gets uglier from there - and makes us all wonder what will happen when technology becomes too intrusive to trust.
Not many election themed movies get this dark, which makes The Manchurian Candidate a great pick if you enjoy realistic dystopian films.
The Contender (2000)
Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) is a contender to become the first female to hold the office as Vice President of the United States. As promising as she is, random disinformation has arisen that could derail her from her VP dreams. Can she still get into office amidst all the lies?
If you've ever wondered how treacherous even being nominated for office can be, The Contender is a great film to watch. It's also refreshing to see election movies that focus in on a woman rather than a man. So, there's that, too.
Many people can tell you that this is one of the best election themed movies recently made, and that it might just be one of the best films Joan Allen has starred in. Once you watch it, you'll understand why. It really is that raw, that gritty, and that intense a ride!