Top Ten Political Titles Nominated for the Red White & Blu

Posted Fri Oct 31, 2008 at 12:00 PM PDT by

A new installment in our series highlighting the top titles that remain nowhere to be found on Blu-ray. This week's topic: Political Titles!

On November 4th, voters from Virginia to California and Florida to Alaska will take a break from their hectic lives to determine which presidential hopeful will influence, affect, and inspire those hectic lives for the next four years. But if you're anything like me, you've set aside time this weekend to watch a few political classics to set the right mood for Tuesday's big decision. Unfortunately, to get my cinematic fix, I had to rely on more DVDs from my collection than Blu-ray discs. I decided to sit down and write about ten favorites -- dramas, comedies, documentaries, and TV series, among other things -- that I'd love to see hit the domestic BD market.

When you're finished looking over my list of personal favorites, be sure to stop by our Forums and discuss which films you'd want to see earn a Blu-ray debut. Most of all, get ready to have a hand in one of the most important elections of our time. Get out and vote!



Based on the 1974 non-fiction book by writers Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, 'All the President's Men' follows an unlikely pair of Washington Post reporters as they work to uncover the truth behind the Watergate scandal. Yep, the very same Watergate that led to then-president Richard Nixon's resignation. Not only does the Academy Award nominated film include convincing recreations of events that forever changed the country, but both Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford arguably deliver the performance of their respective careers. While the film may not be as inclusive as 'Nixon' or as extensive as other films on the subject (after all, it focuses squarely on Bernstein and Woodward), 'All the President's Men' tells a fascinating and powerful story that has become a true classic in the genre.


My wife and I aren't big fans of romantic comedies, but we both adore 'The American President,' a disarmingly sweet and charming presidential-romcom starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning. However, it's not just a believable budding romance between Douglas' president and Benning's environmental lobbyist that makes the film work so well. It's the quiet moments between the President and his Chief of Staff (played with subtle stoicism by Martin Sheen), the loving exchanges between the newly-widowed President and his teen daughter, and several glimpses of his resolve and decency, even in the face of aggressive attacks from a senator (a perfectly cast Richard Dreyfuss) trying to foil his bid for reelection. By the end, you may just find yourself wishing you lived in 'The American President's America.


There are two groups of people reading this right now: those who are familiar with 'Battlestar Galactica' and understand exactly why it's here, and those who have yet to experience its multi-layered stories and are confused as to why a so-called sci-fi space-romp is sitting pretty on my list. To cut to the chase, 'Battlestar Galactica' is an incredibly intellectual drama that deftly deals with presidential politics, the current division amongst voters in the US, the balance of religious ideals and political pursuits, and the policies of a nation living in fear of obliteration. Whether focusing on presidential power, political coups, revolutions, insurgencies, the struggles between the government and military in a time of war, or the differing morals of its people, 'Battlestar Galactica' is one of the most sharply-written political epics of all time.


Plenty of dramas have dealt with the assassination of a president or government official, but very few have dealt with the more grounded and common occurrence in Washington: character assassination. 'The Contender' is a riveting character study that challenges its audience to decide how much a person's past should affect their present pursuits. The did-she-or-didn't-she victim in this intense game of political cat-n-mouse comes in the form of a Vice Presidential hopeful (Joan Allen) who gets dragged through the proverbial mud as a pompous senator (Gary Oldman) tries to paint her as a promiscuous flag-burner. In an election season that has seen some of the most dubious personal attacks and accusations in recent memory, 'The Contender' is a shockingly relevant film that's far more powerful than you might expect.


Don't be fooled by 'Dave's aw-shucks approach to its subject matter: the film may be a light-hearted comedy, but it tackles more issues with greater tenacity than most of its political brethren. From ballooning government spending, to behind-the-curtain maneuvering, to the delicate cons pulled by some of Washington's finest, 'Dave' skewers political dishonesty, sleight of hand, and self preservation. It makes a clear case that our country needs leaders who will focus on the needs of its citizens, rather than itself. Kevin Kline is perfect in the title role as a man must to fill the president's shoes without letting the public in on the secret. Sure, the setup requires some hefty suspension of disbelief, but Kline really sells his character as an average guy encountering, questioning, and ultimately affecting his country for the better.


As the old adage goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. In 'Fog of War,' a critically acclaimed and award winning documentary from filmmaker Errol Morris, former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara details the policies, decisions, consequences, and effects of a tumultuous period in US history. Morris keeps his camera focused on an unexpectedly candid McNamara who, at the end of his life, has little reason to gloss over the truth. McNamara discusses mistakes that were made, the arguments and debates that were making the rounds behind the scenes, the motivations of everyone involved, and the lessons he learned from his experience. 'Fog of War' is a fascinating documentary -- one I'll unabashedly declare as the best I've ever seen -- whose subject is refreshingly honest and self-critical.


I have to admit, I've always been interested in the events of the 20th century... I even have a soft spot for Civil War history. Even so, I've never been particularly intrigued by the foundations of our country, its democracy, or the events that led to our independence. It's not that I don't find it interesting, I suppose I've just learned so much about it in school that I've come to take the facts of the matter for granted. However, 'John Adams,' a 2008 HBO miniseries starring Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, and a slew of other heavyweights, grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go. It takes astounding care to render very human portraits of its historical figures and even manages to deliver a resonant commentary on our country's 21st century purpose, liberties, and freedom. Simply put, it's a masterwork everyone should see.


Sometimes overlooked as a secondary JFK film that features Kevin Costner, 'Thirteen Days' doesn't concern itself with John F. Kennedy's assassination, but rather with his reaction to and handling of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Played with inspiring resolve by Bruce Greenwood, the president we see in 'Thirteen Days' is very much alive and in control of his responsibilities, decisions, and, ultimately, the fate of an entire nation. Even though its audience knows the outcome of the story, the film still generates palpable tension and, for anyone but the stone-hearted, sweaty palms and a giant feeling of relief as the credits roll. As a result, the film reveals itself as an exploration of rationality under pressure, a careful look into the instincts and options afforded a man with his finger on the button. It's a stirring presidential portrait to say the least.


The sharpest and most clever political satire since Kubrick's 'Dr. Strangelove,' 'Wag the Dog' takes a hilarious yet sobering jab at the tenuous relationship between Washington, the media, and the public. Robert De Niro plays a professional political spinner who calls upon a failing Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to distract the American people from a presidential sex scandal by convincing them the country is threatened by an otherwise harmless country. The film's droll humor shoots for clever laughs and earns every one of them, offering a complex and riotous look at truth as it's perceived by a country's citizenry. The modern relevance should be obvious and 'Wag the Dog' is, in my opinion, has become a more pertinent film than ever. Wanna laugh? Wanna think? Strap in and prepare to do just that.


It always amazes me that shows about lawyers or detectives litter broadcast and cable networks at every turn, but politicians rarely get any serious screen time. Aaron Sorkin's 'The West Wing' not only focuses on key players in Washington, it examines timely issues, political decisions, and the ramifications of misguided behavior, poor policy, and national divisiveness. Granted, it can get a bit preachy at times, but 'The West Wing' soars with compelling characters, tight scripts, satisfying storylines, and a number of truly cinematic episodes. Short of 'The Wire' and 'Battlestar Galactica' (ever think you'd see those two shows paired together?), 'The West Wing' digs into this country's beliefs, struggles, and motivations more than any other television series in the last ten years.


Other Flicks that Nearly Made My List: Air Force One, Brotherhood, Bullworth, The Candidate, Citizen Kane, Election, Max, Michael Collins, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Primary Colors, Recount, Street Fight, Welcome to Sarajevo

Please Note: I did not include any political films in this list that are currently scheduled for a Blu-ray release. I also did not include any that have already appeared on HD DVD since, presumably, they'll all make their way to BD soon enough (the lone exception being 'Battlestar Galactica' whose inclusion is justified since its second and third season have yet to be released in high definition). Finally, I only considered domestic releases -- there may be titles on my list that are available on Blu-ray in other countries outside of the US.

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Tags: Most Wanted Blu-rays, Kenneth Brown (all tags)