The Best Election Movies of All Time, From ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ to ‘State of the Union’

[Editor’s note: this list was originally published in November 2022. We’re recirculating it to coincide with the release of “The Girls on the Bus.”]

It’s an election year in the United States. So, uh, how you doing, buddy?

More from IndieWire

Even in a world as spectacularly screwed up as ours [insert long list of alarming, urgent problems we have no practical solutions for, ending with some half-assed joke about the planet being on fire that you’ve definitely heard before!], the American political landscape is especially rocky terrain. In a post-Trump-presidency U.S., democracy is on the ballot and faith in both our electoral system and fellow humans is at an all-time low.

But, you knew that. And as we gear up for a 2020 election repeat showdown between Trump and Biden, it’s difficult not to feel fatigued by the circular nature of our political landscape and the lack of real progress made on a number of major crises boiling over at this very moment. Even international bystanders are probably dreading the death march to Election Day this year, and the sea to shining shit storm it will likely be. So to keep your head above water as we head into election season, IndieWire staffers have pulled together some of the most memorable election movies. Why? Because if we can’t stop thinking about the election, we might as well doomscroll with a thematically-relevant masterwork on in the background.

Black-and-white classics like 1949’s “All the King’s Men” and 1962’s “The Manchurian Candidate” rank high on this list, as perfect crystallizations of the toxic greed that fuels so many’s pursuit of power. The ’90s were a banner decade for the election comedy, from the international trickery of “Wag the Dog,” starring the late Anne Heche, Robert De Niro, and Dustin Hoffman as three unlikely Washington fixers, to the small-time student government antics of “Election,” in which a 22-year-old Reese Witherspoon dazzles as an ambitious (read: practically feral) high schooler who will stop at nothing to win over her peers. Later works, from George Clooney’s tense “Ides of March” to the delightful Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron-starring “Long Shot” explore elections at all angles, finding the fear and fun in the most unlikely moments.

Without further ado (and with plans to grab a strong drink after this), here are the 18 best election movies. And hey, if you haven’t already: find out how to register to vote.

With editorial contributions by Christian Blauvelt, Jude Dry, David Ehrlich, Alison Foreman, and Michael Nordine.

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.