Films and Series That Will Get You Interested in Politics


“Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.” Kevin Spacey’s flawless delivery of lines like this has had me chowing down on episodes of House of Cards this week. However, my interest in politics has never been particularly strong. As a result, many of the films and series that revolve around the subject have held little appeal for me.

But there are a few gems that take place in the political world which have not only been enjoyable, but have lead me to take more of in interest in politics as a whole. And I’ve found the most significant of these don’t focus much on politics at all, but on the characters playing the political game.

The Ides of March


With its great cast, this one remained surprisingly low-key. It came during a Ryan Gosling boom, with Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love just behind it, and gave a heavily conflicting range of people at different levels in the political world. From George Clooney as a presidential hopeful, to campaign manager (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), with Gosling as his second in command, and finally Evan Rachel Wood’s lower level party worker (also the daughter of the head of the National Democratic Party). Opposing and corrupting this team is Paul Giamatti, playing the advisor of the competing candidate.

While the film’s backdrop is that of the campaign to win Clooney’s governor the presidency, the real conflict of the film boils down to the corruptibility of those in power, and the potential for small secrets to cause big problems. The way the characters spent their time and effort trying to trap both their enemies and those close to them was a joy to watch, and made the political setting exciting, though perhaps not entirely appealing.

Game of Thrones


Obviously a very different kind of political approach, but nevertheless a show wrought with the struggle for power brought about by a barbaric patriarchal system. Similar to Ides, GoT’s brilliance stems from the conflict apparent between every character as the entire world looks toward the throne with either respect, disgust, or greed.

This show does for politics what Harry Potter did for boarding school. It may be far removed from our own society, but it manages to bring out that schoolyard enthusiasm in what can otherwise be a rather unexciting subject.

Wag the Dog


Not bad, Focker. 

A satirical look at a presidential scandal and its inherent cover-up, this took us deep behind the political scenes. Obviously dramatised for entertainment purposes (more so than some of the others on this list, at least), there was still more than a hint of certain real life situations. Similar to Argo, this story used the tactic of burying a sensitive operation beneath an overly extravagant plan involving the film business. No doubt, the combination of Hollywood and Washington is what had me sitting up and paying attention to the creative politics in play here.

The Newsroom


The excellently high-paced drama that doesn’t feature any political characters (except perhaps in interviews), but still manages to create intrigue in the who, what and why of governments in power. Many films/TV shows/books have characters discussing politics, and for the most part, it’s just white noise.

The Newsroom stands out in this regard for a few reasons. Firstly, episodes often revolve around real life incidents that have affected the whole world. And secondly, Will McAvoy’s mixture of incredible passion and blunt delivery consistently strikes hard and true. If a character speaks passionately and honestly on a subject, whether or not I’m in agreement, I’m interested. If you’re yet to check it out, just watch the opening scene of the pilot and you’ll see what I mean.

Definitely, Maybe


This fairly tame rom-com took us though a few relationships over a few years, with occasional stop offs with the Clinton election. It wasn’t a heavy handed political satire like some of the others, but the fact that Ryan Reynolds’ enthusiastic political consultant formed his decisions and life around the campaign (at least in the beginning) had me invested. His numerous girlfriends also had hands in governmental work, so even the romance aspect had political underpinnings.

Obviously, there are host of filmmakers and show-runners with political interests, and many of them are great at capturing the essence of elections, scandals and debates. But my naivety on the subject makes for a rusty surface, and the above stories have managed to sand away the grit and give me the shine I need to enjoy and appreciate a world from which I am usually far removed. And I know I didn’t actually include House of Cards in the end, and that’s because despite it having inspired the article, I’m much more interested in watching Kevin Spacey et al. do their thing than getting wrapped up in the politics involved. You may feel different though. There are certain shows I know I should see, like The West Wing, but I haven’t got there yet. So I’m keen to here what else you’d include!

If you like the things I write about, we’d probably be good friends. You could find me in any random London cafe most days, or on Twitter if you prefer that kind of thing.

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  1. People like to hate on the Newsroom because it eviscerates garbage politics on both sides of the aisle (which I can tell you from experience makes one few friends), but damned if that isn’t one of the best shows on TV.

  2. LOL Wag the Dog is nothing like Argo, don’t give people the wrong idea! It’s an entirely satirical and cynical view of politics and there’s certainly no noble cause behind any of it. I did quite enjoy that one though.

    I have to add in a shout-out to Dave with Kevin Kline. It’s unbearably cheesy and sentimental but it has some touchingly funny moments and some real heart.

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