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Political biographical films always had a remarkable power to capture the audience’s attention, with a grand stage of global history and fascinating stories of the people who changed the world. Recently, documentary movies have experienced a revival that covers diverse subjects, from renowned rock stars to violent gangsters. Hence, it should not be surprising to see political biopics like Christopher Nolan’s return with the latest movie, Oppenheimer.
The World War II drama is all set to integrate a lot of elements that make the political biopic so interesting, but it’s not the first movie in the genre to receive such acclaim. A wide range of classic movies has explored the lives of famous politicians to movies focusing on important figures of human rights movements. All these classics are well worth watching before seeing Oppenheimer in theaters releasing on July 21.
Like Oppenheimer, JFK’s audacious three-hour running time explores the events following the effects of Kennedy’s assassination while highlighting the government’s desperate search for the truth. Kevin Costner, portrayed as Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orlean, looks into the potential conspiracy behind the assassination that went beyond Lee Harvey Oswald’s actions.
Although partially based on the disputed book On the Trial of the Assassinations by Jim Garrison, the movie effectively highlights the chaos that engulfed the landscape of American politics in the wake of the event. Despite its extended runtime, it remains an exciting and thrilling experience that captivates an audience with its fast-paced and high energy.
The majority of political movies tend to focus on some degree of corruption, whether it be an abuse of power or ethical ambiguous rule-bending for the greater good. However, Vice is the only film to have embraced this exploration of corruption with the same enthusiasm and enjoyment.
The biopic Vice blends the history of America with political satire, focused on Dick Cheney’s (Christian Bale) unforeseen influence during George W. Bush‘s (Sam Rockwell) presidency, which saw him launch devastating military invasions in the wake of 9/11. This film stands out with its remarkable editing, captivating performances, and enticingly fun tone. It received eight Oscar nominations and effectively re-introduced Adam McKay as a savvy political satirist.
Despite an outstanding cast, receiving positive reviews, and earning close to $120 million, Charlie Wilson’s War remains an underrated and largely forgotten masterpiece. It takes place in the 1980s and focuses on Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) and his determined efforts to provide Afghan fighters with resources to combat the invading Soviet forces.
Alongside Tom Hanks’s portrayal of Charlie Wilson, the film features Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring, Wilson’s socialite friend and collaborator, and Philip Seymour as Gust Avrakotos, a CIA agent who becomes Wilson’s friend. While the movie refrains from being a scathing revisionist piece, it successfully combines witty comedy and drama to skillfully document historical events, hitting the mark as an engaging and entertaining exploration of the story.
Throughout history, political history was evaluated based on their response to their country’s most critical moments, and Winston Churchill stands out as a great example. His strong defiance against the Nazi regime became an inspiration to a nation on the point of collapse. Darkest Hour reveals the early tenure of Churchill’s first team as a Prime Minister, with Britain struggling as Germany advances toward Dunkirk.
Gary Oldman’s Oscar-winning performance as Churchill, the movie was able to captivate viewers and maintain their interest. Its portrayal of the looming threat Hitler posed to the British Empire’s future only solidifies its reputation as a must-watch movie, especially for viewers unfamiliar with that chapter of English history.
American political history extends far beyond its White House occupants. The Civil Rights movement witnessed the rise of iconic figures like Malcolm X, whose influence was powerful and inspirational as he was polarizing. In 1992, Denzel Washington, portrayed in Malcolm X and directed by Spike Lee, brought the legendary leader to the big screen with stunning results.
Every aspect of Malcolm X’s life is covered in a total of 202 minutes, from his early life as a criminal to his life-changing time in prison, his involvement with the Nation of Islam, and eventually, his shocking assassination. The film addresses the controversies surrounding X, with Spike Lee delivering his work by portraying the extraordinary life that left a lasting and relevant legacy to this day.
Amidst America’s invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe and its nuclear experiments, the political landscape of Germany witnessed intense developments. Downfall is a phenomenal film focused on the last days of World War II, representing Adolf Hitler’s (portrayed by Bruno Ganz) time in his Berlin bunker. The story unfolds through the eyes of his young Secretary, Traudl Junge (played by Alexandra Maria Lara).
The film fearlessly humanized its characters with its captivating performance, emphasizing that those who are responsible for heinous evils are not just monstrous beasts but normal human beings. This powerful movie was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards and became one of the best-known international films ever made.
While Mahatma Gandhi may not seem unrelated to an American wartime film like Oppenheimer, it stands out as an exceptional political biopic with few equals. Sir Ben Kingsley was presented as an Indian Lawyer who delves into Gandhi’s commitment to using non-violent means to pressure Britain into liberating his country.
Sir Ben Kingsley’s extraordinary performance in this movie is hailed as one of the greatest in cinema history. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won Eight of them, including the one Kingsley won; it remains a memorable and celebrated movie of the 1980s.
One of the most well-known politicians in history, Abraham Lincoln, is referred to as the best President in the history of America. Considering his remarkable life and career into a 150-minute film seems like an impossible task, but with the powerful collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln undoubtedly responded to the occasion and delivered a commendable portrayal.
Abraham Lincoln is regarded as the best President and the most respected politician in the history of America. Considering his remarkable life and career into a 150-minute film seems like an impossible task, but with the powerful collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln undoubtedly responded to the occasion and delivered a commendable portrayal.
One of the most tragic chapters in American political history is the Watergate scandal, which remains the most disturbing episode that resulted in the resignation of President Nixon. The two investigative journalists for The Washington Post discovered the truth and covered the story of the Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) scandal in the movie All the President’s Men.
Amidst facing hardships like dead-ends, red herring, and even death threats in their search for truth, the two journalists in the film created a captivating political thriller filled with suspenseful drama and hidden secrets. It later on win four Academy Awards out of eight nominations and is still known as one of the definitive films of ’70s cinema.
In the world of Political/military biography films, few movies can match the influence of 1970’s Patton when it comes to the magnetic performance of George C. Scott. The movie mainly focuses on the controversial and eponymous General during his leadership of U.S. troops in World War II.
During America’s involvement in the war, Patton was a strong and straightforward force who excelled in military affairs but proved to be politically unpredictable. George C. Scott portrayed human nature with such magnitude and presence that it became the defining aspect of the film, making it one of the greatest war films and the most insightful documentary ever made.
Political biopics captivate the important figures’ fascinating tales, making them relatable to human nature and reflecting diverse landscapes of politics.
With outstanding performances and historical truthfulness, these documentary movies continue to be essential in cinematic storytelling because of their understanding of the past and present.
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