Who doesn’t love a good edge-of-your-seat thriller? Well, if you’re looking for a wild ride into the political arena, here are 9 of the best ones ever made.
Stephen Gaghan’s 2005 Syriana is a blistering powerful film about the power of the oil industry and the greed to control the world’s supply.
The movie is filled with nuanced performances, particularly George Clooney’s which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
It’s a timely piece that weaves narratives into a tangled plot that comes to a head at the explosive climax.
8) In the Line of Fire
Wolfgang Petersen’s 1993 In the Line of Fire offers up two epic performances by Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich.
The cat and mouse thriller features Frank Horrigan (Eastwood), a secret service agent who is plagued with guilt since the assassination of John F. Kennedy on his watch.
The plot is set in motion when an unhinged former CIA assassin Mitch Leary (Malkovich) is planning to kill the current President. But Horrigan has no intention of letting that happen.
Eastwood’s charismatic charm is undeniable once again and Malkovich’s cerebral performance is undoubtedly one of the best of his career.
Oliver Stone’s 1991 three-hour epic JFK contains a who’s who of talented actors that includes Kevin Costner, Jack Lemon, Gary Oldman, Joe Pesci, Walter Matthau, Tommy Lee Jones, John Candy, and Kevin Bacon.
It examines America’s biggest mystery. Who shot JFK? Was there a second gunman? And was this a massive conspiracy?
Jim Garrison (Costner) is the District Attorney of New Orleans and grows skeptical that Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and his killer, Jack Ruby, acted independently of each other.
Garrison conducts his own investigation that brings political backlash from powerful people. The skilled direction is top-notch and the actors’ portrayals of these real life figures are brilliant.
6) The Hunt for the Red October
The best-selling Tom Clancy novel was turned into a brilliant thriller in 1990. Directed by the incomparable John McTiernan, The Hunt for the Red October was his follow-up to Predator and Die Hard.
McTiernan created a riveting environment in this political thriller. In November 1984, at the height of The Cold War, a Soviet Union submarine captain (Sean Connery) violates orders and heads for the U.S.A.
But while the U.S. government believes he’s trying to start a war, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) believes he’s coming to defect and now he needs to prove it.
Baldwin phones in his role and the rest of the cast is good, but it’s McTiernan’s direction and Clancy’s story that makes this one of the best political thrillers ever.
5) The Man Who Knew Too Much
Alfred Hitchcock is arguably one of the greatest directors of all time. After all, “The Master of Suspense” was affectionately given to him for a reason. And he even remade his own movie The Man Who Knew Too Much to achieve perfection.
Yes, he remade his own 1937 film of the same name in 1956 with James “Jimmy” Stewart and Doris Day, which was far superior. It’s about an American family vacationing in Morocco who accidentally stumble onto an assassination plot.
But when the conspirators kidnap their son to prevent them from talking, they need to foil the plot to save their son. Hitchcock took suspense to a whole new level with this gem of a remake.
4) The Manchurian Candidate
John Frankenheimer’s 1962 The Manchurian Candidate is a bold prophetic look at the power of the political campaigning process. It’s a part scathing satire and also an excellent spy thriller loaded with mysterious government intervention.
Major Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) is an intelligence officer for the U.S. Army who served valiantly in the Korean War, but he begins to have a recurring nightmare.
And when he seeks out his well-to-do Sergeant, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), from a political family about the nightmares, they find that the entire unit is having similar nightmares.
But there’s a sinister reason why. It’s an outstanding mystery that will keep you guessing.
3) All the Presidents Men
Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men examines The Watergate Scandal – the biggest political conspiracy in American history.
Back when The Washington Post was a respectable institution, they were exposing the corruption in the federal government that went to the highest level – forcing the President of the United States to resign from office.
In the run-up to the 1972 elections, reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) team up on a story with what seems like a minor break-in at the Democratic Party National Headquarters, but as they uncover more details, the trail goes higher and higher.
Pakula’s wry examination is methodical and impressively detailed. At times, the exposition is coming at you at a breakneck pace that will put you on the edge of your seat.
And Redford and Hoffman’s chemistry during this ride is nothing short of master-class.
2) Dr Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Only Stanley Kubrick could read the serious examination of nuclear war in the 1962 novel Fail Safe and re-tell the premise with the most scathing satire ever made.
The ridiculous title Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb should be a good indicator of the immersion into complete absurdity.
A completely insane general who thinks the Russians are poisoning the U.S. populace through water fluoridation triggers a path to nuclear holocaust.
Now the American generals and politicians must convene in the “War Room” to prevent the attack from happening before it leads to world destruction, but they can’t reach contact with one of the planes.
This satirical masterpiece is measured by the absurd notion that a nuclear war could potentially happen because of a simple mechanical error.
But it’s also a political thriller because this film came out around the Cuban Missile Crisis at the height of nuclear weapon paranoia. Kubrick uses this as a vehicle to criticize the nuclear arms race and depicting politicians as being childish.
George C. Scott is fantastic as Gen. “Buck” Turgidson, but Peter Sellers steals the show portraying three characters, British Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, American President Merkin Muffley, and German Dr. Strangelove.
It’s not a typical laugh a minute riot comedy, but the reason why it’s so thrilling and funny is because it’s so terrifying that this could happen.
Alfred Hitchcock’s greatness is undeniable. Notorious is arguably one of the greatest movies of all time. Following the conviction of her German father who committed treason against the United States, federal agent Devlin (Cary Grant) approaches Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) to spy on a group of her father’s former Nazi friends in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Except it gets complicated when they fall in love with each other and she starts to get too involved in her work. This movie has everything – mystery, suspense, eroticism, espionage and post-war period mystique.
Grant and Bergman light up the screen together with an excellent script by Ben Hecht and are assisted by a fine supporting cast. Hitchcock knocked this one way out of the park and this movie was definitely his coming out party.