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The best political movies ever made, from ‘Mr. Smith’ to ‘Mean Girls’

Election years are often called “the silly season.” But in 2020, the stakes feel much too high for such lightheartedness. We need inspiration, edification and, quite frankly, a massive course correction when it comes to the American project: its most aspirational ideals, its most perilous pitfalls, and the part strong institutions and informed citizens play in keeping the whole crazy experiment from exploding into hyperpartisan smithereens.

Political movies can help. But first we must define the term. John Sayles — perhaps the greatest American political filmmaker of his or any generation — once wrote in Mother Jones that movies as disparate as “Rambo” and “Adventures in Babysitting” could be described as political, because “they served only to maintain the status quo, strengthen stereotyping, and push people apart.” He makes an excellent point: A political film can be great — or at least jarringly effective — even though it’s not political on purpose.

A few movies like that are on this list. But there’s also the usual collection of thrillers, biopics, satires and straight-ahead dramas. Many are fact-based, set amid the imposing edifices and featureless bureaucracies of Washington. Others are more speculative and metaphorical, taking viewers to the Texas border or an Omaha high school to explore the vagaries of power as they play out within communities and individual relationships.

There are titles not on this list that are sure to launch a million “How could you leave out … ?” objections. Oliver Stone’s “JFK” isn’t here (it’s more profitably understood as a deeply psychological movie than a political one), nor are classics such as “The Great McGinty,” “The Candidate” and “Lincoln” — not because they aren’t worthy, but to make room for films that may be more obscure but are no less revelatory or fun to watch. And we’ve limited this list

Article source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2020/01/23/34-best-political-movies-ever-made/

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