Film & TV
You don't have to turn to Hollywood for political drama these days, what with the whole world being on fire. But, come to think of it, that’s actually a pretty good reason to turn to Hollywood. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy some political thrills that are less likely to ruin your day? We're here to share 13 best political thriller movies you can watch from the comfort of your own couch tonight.
All the President's Men
Perhaps the greatest political thriller of all time, this film is based on a true story: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's journalistic quest to uncover the secrets of the Watergate scandal and its coverup. The film's examination of the free press and the extent–and limits–of executive power may be more relevant now than at any time since the 1970s.
Bridge of Spies
Set at the height of the Cold War, Bridge of Spies tells the (mostly) true story of a prisoner swap on the border between the then-divided East Germany and West Germany. Tom Hanks stars as an attorney tasked with defending the Soviet agent who comes to be brokered in the swap.
Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Hanks (yes, he's in a few of these) stars as the titular Charlie Wilson in this witty film about a hard-partying Congressman who somehow finds himself leading the charge to involve the United States government in the Soviet-Afghan War. Part comedy, part drama, part thriller, and all political, this one is worth checking out.
The Ides of March
For all of the great political thrillers out there, there are surprisingly few that focus on the greatest public display of politics in democracy: an election. The Ides of March is the exception to the rule. It sets up a compelling web of secrets and election-season intrigue and then hands the keys to George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, and the other members of its star-studded cast.
Even before "fake news" went mainstream, Americans had a fascination with grandiose conspiracy theories. A favorite playground for cloak-and-dagger theorizing was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Oliver Stone is the perfect director for this flick, which cleverly (and more than a bit recklessly) weaves a conspiratorial yarn that is–rather loosely–based on real events.
The Manchurian Candidate
The Manchurian Candidate is a film so iconic that its title has entered the political lexicon. The titular candidate is an American soldier captured in the Korean war. Brainwashed in Manchuria, he is released back to the United States, where–unbeknownst even to him–his programming is poised to turn his nascent political career into a Cold-War checkmate by foreign communist forces.
Steven Spielberg's Munich is one of the best political thrillers to hit the silver screen in recent years. It focuses on the days after the 1972 massacre of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team and a West German police officer. Operating in secret, the Israeli Mossad seeks vengeance on the Palestinian terrorist outfit involved in the deadly attack.
With Steven Spielberg directing and Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep starring, it seemed pretty clear from the start that The Post was going to be a good flick. It delivers on that promise, turning the real-life story of The Washington Post's Pentagon Papers story into a thrilling film that recalls All the President's Men's themes of journalistic courage and executive power.
Syriana's politics take viewers globe-trotting from Texas to the Middle East. Connecting the disparate settings is the oil business, which serves as the driving force in a plot full of intrigue, action, and political tension. George Clooney took home an Oscar for his role. The strong cast also includes Matt Damon.
Three Days of the Condor
This political thriller is a true classic. The action lurches to a start when a CIA researcher returns from a lunch break to find his comrades murdered. Filled with paranoia and thrills, Three Days of the Condor is superbly acted by a star-studded cast that includes Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway.
The underrated Traitor, currently on Netflix, features Don Cheadle as a Sudanese-American soldier who is also a practicing Muslim. His expertise in explosives–along with his background–make the protagonist a prime suspect in a terrorism investigation, but all is not as it seems.
If you like your political thrillers highbrow, you can't go wrong with Z. The 1969 Algerian-French film is a fictionalized account of the assassination of Greek politician. Its winding plot and dark themes mix with satire and suspense to create a film that's as watchable as it is artful.
Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty was supposed to be the true story of how American forces tracked down Osama Bin Laden. The truth of the account was subsequently called into question, with critics citing errors and taking issue with the portrayal of "enhanced interrogation" in the film. This political thriller ended up being a bit political itself, but at the heart of the discussion is an engaging movie with powerful performances from Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt, and James Gandolfini.
Featured still from 'Syriana' via Warner Bros.