Political Films Editor's Picks


As the General Election draws near and politics is all around us, Film & TV's Editorial team have picked out our favourite pieces of political cinema to mix up your political intake.

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Leah Martindale, Editor

Do the Right Thing's politicised graffiti covers Mayor Koch to Tawana Brawley's rape case | IMDb / 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

My favourite film of all time, Do the Right Thing is an explosive and inherently politicised wild ride in beautiful colour for a glorious, equal-part harrowing and hilarious 120 minutes. The film’s message was so effective that in 1989 New York Mayor Ed Koch - star of 'Dump Koch' background grafitti - was ousted from his position.

Over three decades on, Spike Lee’s stance on films such as Green Book (2018) serves as a benchmark for liberal African-American sociopolitical attitudes. Lee found concerns that the film’s content would incite black viewers to rioting ‘outrageous, egregious and, I think, racist’, and encapsulated much of the controversy surrounding the film.

| Cinema can never truly be 'apolitical'

In The Loop (2009)

Louie Bell, Deputy Editor

Tom Hollander plays the incompetent Simon Foster | IMDb / Nicola Dove

A film about a government Press Officer trying to piece together the shrapnel of one failed BBC interview wouldn’t immediately jump out to audiences, but Armando Iannucci’s In The Loop proves its worth, ringing out as comedically brilliant and fascinatingly poignant.

Starring Peter Capaldi as the infamous spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker, the note-perfect satirisation of the road to the Iraq war makes us laugh until it hurts and in doing so brings home the ridiculous nature of the system that British politics has come to embody. However, with an election approaching, I wonder if a film like this could be made anymore.

It is ridiculous but hilarious and gives you a good chance to unwind and forget about all the tension there is in the world

Milk (2008)

Laura Aish, Digital Editor

Sean Penn plays San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk 'masterfully' | IMDb / Focus Features

Milk was directed by filmmaker Gus Van Sant, who is also known for Good Will Hunting (1998) and Last Days (2005), and is a biopic about politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk who worked tirelessly to obtain better rights for the gay community. During the 1970s, he became the first openly gay elected official in California.

Milk is portrayed masterfully by Sean Penn, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor, with James Franco and Emile Hirsch also starring. The film is definitely well-worth a watch to learn more about Milk’s work and life, and immerses you in the extraordinary story of a man who was such an inspiration to so many.

| World on Fire shows British politicians more honestly than our history lessons

The Interview (2014)

Tom Goulde, Deputy Digital Editor

Franco and Rogan play the 'farcical' interviewers in the controversial The Interview | IMDb / Ed Araquel

In this highly charged political atmosphere, everyone deserves to have a good laugh from time to time. I am not going to pretend that this is the best film ever made, and some parts may not work for you but the stupidity of it all will have you creasing.

The premise is pretty simple, James Franco, with the help of Seth Rogen backstage, are famous for interviewing celebrities and manage to land an interview with Kim Jong-Un. They fly to North Korea and things begin to get farcical. Franco and Rogen, as always, work well together; it is ridiculous but hilarious and gives you a good chance to unwind and forget about all the tension there is in the world.

With an election approaching, I wonder if a film like this could be made anymore

The Garden (1990)

Siavash Minoukadeh, Entertainment Subeditor

The Garden is an experimental critique of the status-quo starring Tilda Swindon (middle) | IMDb / Basilisk Communications

This experimental film by Derek Jarman wouldn’t seem to be explicitly political but given his status as a prominent AIDS patient, he uses The Garden to make a radical critique of the heterosexual, homophobic and capitalist Britain of Margaret Thatcher.

Featuring a leather-clad Judas advertising credit cards and Jesus being played by a gay couple, Jarman is clearly not afraid to provoke. Jarman is a skilled director and his experimental, lyrical style is absolutely gorgeous to watch. Helped by the divine Tilda Swinton, we never lose the raw emotion that makes The Garden so compelling.

Featured: IMDb / Universal Studios

Will you be watching any of these political pieces to celebrate - or mourn - the election results?