Best Politics & Media Movies

WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley ranks the best politics/media movies of all time in the gallery below.

Not seeing your favorite movie? It’s probably in a different genre! Check out the full list here.

30. ‘Shattered Glass’ (2003) – Billy Ray

Peter Sarsgaard earned a Golden Globe nod as the New Republic editor who investigated his own reporter Stephen Glass in an infamous case of #FakeNews.

29. ‘Meet John Doe’ (1941) – Frank Capra

Barbara Stanwyck’s journalist pays Gary Cooper to pretend that he’ll commit suicide as a protest on Christmas Eve, launching a political movement.

28. ‘The Candidate’ (1972) – Michael Ritchie

Robert Redford runs for the U.S. Senate in California, bucking the party establishment with no hope of winning, until he does. “What do we do now?”

27. ‘Being There’ (1979) – Hal Ashby

Peter Sellers’ sheltered Chance the Gardener only knows the outside world through TV, yet becomes an unlikely political adviser in Washington D.C.

26. ‘The Post’ (2017) – Steven Spielberg

Meryl Streep shined as America’s first female newspaper publisher Katharine Graham, who worked with Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) to reveal the Pentagon Papers, documenting U.S. involvement in Vietnam in a real-life prequel to Watergate.

25. ‘The American President’ (1995) – Rob Reiner

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin honed his chops for TV’s “The West Wing,” as Michael Douglas’ bachelor president Andrew Shepherd falls in love with Annette Bening while swapping stories about traffic in Dupont Circle.

24. ‘Born Yesterday’ (1950) – George Cukor

Washington D.C. journalist William Holden is hired by a tycoon to teach political etiquette to his mistress, played by an Oscar-winning Judy Holliday.

23. ‘Good Bye Lenin!’ (2003) – Wolfgang Becker

Daniel Bruhl’s star was born as a young man trying to keep his recently comatose mother from learning that her beloved East Germany has vanished after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

22. ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940) – Charlie Chaplin

After retiring his Little Tramp character, Charlie Chaplin used his iconic mustache to roast Adolf Hitler at the height of World War II, building to a final monologue to the masses that remains one of the most powerful political speeches ever given.

21. ‘The Parallax View’ (1974) – Alan J. Pakula

Warren Beatty plays an ambitious reporter who witnesses a senator’s assassination atop Seattle’s Space Needle, then uncovers a vast conspiracy involving a multinational corporation controlling the world’s headlines.

20. ‘The China Syndrome’ (1979) – James Bridges

Just months before the real-life meltdown at Three Mile Island, TV anchor Jane Fonda and her cameraman, Michael Douglas, uncover dangers at a fictional California nuclear plant run by Jack Lemmon, who won Best Actor at Cannes.

19. ‘Three Days of the Condor’ (1975) – Sydney Pollack

When Robert Redford’s bookish CIA researcher finds his co-workers dead, he goes on the run trying to figure out who’s responsible, matching wits with Max von Sydow’s foreign agent and romancing Faye Dunaway’s photographer in a case of Stockholm Syndrome.

18. ‘Argo’ (2012) – Ben Affleck

“I need you to help me make a fake movie.” Ben Affleck landed an underdog Best Picture knockout with this true story of a CIA agent who ex-filtrated six Americans from the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran by pretending to be a Hollywood producer scouting a location for John Goodman and Alan Arkin.

17. ‘Nightcrawler’ (2014) – Dan Gilroy

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a TV news cameraman who blurs the line between observer and participant, re-staging L.A. crime scenes to get better footage for the evening news cast with the mistaken mentality: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

16. ‘Anchorman’ (2004) – Adam McKay

A decade before his Oscar for “The Big Short,” Adam McKay directed Will Ferrell as the iconic Ron Burgundy, who taught us all to “stay classy” while battling question marks on the teleprompter. “That escalated quickly.”

15. ‘Broadcast News’ (1987) – James L. Brooks

Albert Brooks sweated the competition of suave TV anchor William Hurt, while both vied for the heart of Holly Hunter’s stressed-out producer in James L. Brooks spot-on look at a TV newsroom, right down to Joan Cusack’s deadline sprint.

14. ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ (2005) – George Clooney

David Strathairn shines as legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, who brought down Sen. Joseph McCarthy during an era of American political paranoia, presented in crisp black-and-white by director George Clooney.

13. ‘Dr. Strangelove’ (1964) – Stanley Kubrick

“You can’t fight in here, this is the war room!” Kubrick’s political satire is genius with Peter Sellers’ uncontrollable Nazi salutes, Sterling Hayden’s “precious bodily fluids,” George C. Scott’s hawkish advice and Slim Pickens’ cowboy straddle of a falling nuclear bomb.

12. ‘All the King’s Men’ (1949) – Robert Rossen

Decades before “All the President’s Men,” Robert Rossen’s “All the King’s Men” won Best Picture charting the rise and fall of Broderick Crawford’s corrupt politician, whose populist appeal is chronicled by John Ireland’s skeptical newspaper reporter.

11. ‘Z’ (1969) – Costa-Gavras

Greek master Costa-Gavras unanimously won the Cannes Jury Prize for this political thriller about the assassination of a prominent leftist and the investigator trying to uncover the truth while government officials attempt to cover it up.

10. ‘The Conformist’ (1970) – Bernardo Bertolucci

You won’t find better cinematography and set design than Bernardo Bertolucci’s political thriller about a weak-willed Italian (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who travels abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political dissident of fascist Mussollini.

9. ‘Ace in the Hole’ (1951) – Billy Wilder

Shunned for its cynicism upon release, Billy Wilder’s searing social statement shines in hindsight. A former big-city newspaperman (Kirk Douglas) exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to jump-start his stalled career with a media circus.

8. ‘A Face in the Crowd’ (1957) – Elia Kazan

Andy Griffith’s performance as loudmouth Lonesome Rhodes practically predicted the rise of Donald Trump, as we watch a non-politician become an overnight media sensation that launches him into the powerful position of a political prospect.

7. ‘Seven Days in May’ (1964) – John Frankenheimer

Two years after “The Manchurian Candidate,” director John Frankenheimer offered another political warning, as Kirk Douglas’ patriotic colonel tries to thwart a plot by Burt Lancaster’s cunning general to overthrow the president (Fredric March).

6. ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (1962) – John Frankenheimer

Eerily foreshadowing JFK’s assassination, Frank Sinatra tries to save his war buddy Laurence Harvey from Angela Lansbury’s Solitaire brainwashing. The brilliant opening shifts from garden club meeting to Communist demonstration.

5. ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (1939) – Frank Capra

Jimmy Stewart delivered his first iconic performance as naive Boy Scout Jefferson Smith, who fills a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, only for his altruistic goals to collide with Claude Rains’ political corruption in Frank Capra’s inspiring classic.

4. ‘Spotlight’ (2015) – Tom McCarthy

Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber carried this Best Picture winner following the Boston Globe’s real-life investigative reporting that uncovered a massive child molestation cover-up within the Catholic Church.

3. ‘Network’ (1976) – Sidney Lumet

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Sidney Lumet steers Paddy Chayefsky’s killer script that predicted the rise of salacious cable news. William Holden diagnoses Faye Dunaway as television incarnate and Peter Finch delivers a posthumous sermon.

2. ‘All the President’s Men’ (1976) – Alan J. Pakula

The standard by which all other political thrillers are judged, this classic mines Deep Throat suspense as James Robards’ Oscar-winning Ben Bradlee steers Woodward and Bernstein (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) to “follow the money” to expose Watergate and bring down Nixon.

1. ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941) – Orson Welles

Orson Welles’ 26-year-old directorial debut not only chronicled a newspaper tycoon’s political rise and fall, it invented cinematic language with deep-focus photography, a non-linear plot and the notion that every single shot has a symbolic idea behind it.

Check out the other genres below!

Action | Adventure | Animation | Biopic | Comedy | Coming of Age | Courtroom | Crime | Documentary | Drama | Epic | Family Comedy | Family Drama | Fantasy | Film Noir | Gangster | Horror | Musical | Mystery | Politics & Media | Prison | Romance | Romantic Comedy | Science Fiction | Showbiz | Silent | Sports | Thriller | War | Western

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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