This past week, we had a lot of fun (and a lot of arguments) over the candidates for the best conservative-themed movies from the last 25 years. For the upcoming inauguration of Hollywood’s latest hero, Barack Obama, let’s try this again with an easier question. What have been the worst explicitly political movies of the last 50 years, roughly the lifetime of our new President? In order to qualify, the film has to have had a theatrical release, been considered a major motion picture (no cheapie, American International, drive-in flicks or straight-to-video nonsense), and dealt with explicitly political and/or policy themes. They could be conservative or liberal, although good luck finding many of the former; it just has to stink.
I have a few in mind already, which will hopefully give some guidance:
- The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – Utter cheese-fest of hysteria, bad writing, and bad science, but it’s Al Gore’s Citizen Kane. Global warming meets Irwin Allen, and the dumbest moment comes when Americans become illegal immigrants into Mexico. How ironic!
- JFK (1991) – Oliver Stone takes the most ridiculous of the Kennedy assassination conspirators and glorifies him as some truth-teller to power. Loaded with Stone’s paranoia, it’s fronted by Kevin Costner in his dead-wood period. Requires equal parts Dramamine and No-Doz.
- Nixon (1995) – Oliver Stone strikes again, this time in demonizing Richard Nixon. A better director might have made a compelling portrait of the most reviled president in American history, but instead, Stone trowels on his hatred and stylized direction to turn this into an utter disaster.
- The Dreamers (2003) – Three young adults get naked and have a lot of sex in order to rebel against the stifling culture … of Paris in 1968. Complete with the glorification of the 1968 riots that led France into a Socialist economic coffin for four decades.
- The China Syndrome (1979) – Another hysteria-driven film, but this one managed to kill nuclear power for decades when an accident at Three Mile Island occurred at the same time as the movie hit theaters. Neither the movie nor the accident killed or injured anyone, but it handcuffed American energy production, and it’s still handcuffed to this day. It misrepresents the safety procedures and the fail-safes in American reactors of the time.
- Ishtar (1987) – Notorious bomb involves Americans caught up in the cold war, jihadis, and really bad singing. What were Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty doing in a remake of Spies Like Us?
- The Scarlet Letter (1995) – If Demi Moore had just stuck with the source material, perhaps the scenery-chewing would have been less egregious. Instead, Hollywood changed Hawthorne’s plot to give us a happy ending. Demi Moore explained this by saying a happy ending was okay, because not too many people had read the book. Uh … right. Terrible, terrible, simply awful version of the story without a performance to make it worthwhile despite the high-priced talent. (Yes, it’s political.)
- The Deer Hunter (1978) – Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it won an Oscar for Best Picture. It’s still a dreadfully boring movie shot by self-indulgent director Michael Cimino. In 1978, any movie about Vietnam was considered high art. When Cimino essentially remade this film two years later in Heaven’s Gate and set it in the Wild West, it bombed, and Cimino’s career went into the tank.
That should give us a good start. Add your own suggestions in the comments, and be sure to explain your reasons for adding them. Tomorrow, I’ll take your suggestions from the comments section and whittle them down into a poll. I’ll announce the “winners” on Tuesday’s Ed Morrissey Show.
Update: Lots of good suggestions in the comments. Anything Michael Moore does automatically qualifies, but Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 911 should get special mention for their rank dishonesties. A couple of more thoughts:
- The Contender – While I hate the politics of the movie, I have to offer the small defense of it being perhaps the most realistic depiction of the tone in Washington. Also, I thought about this film a lot during the ten weeks that Sarah Palin campaigned for VP. Watch the film again with that in mind, and almost everything that happens in the movie has an analog with Palin, only with the bad guys and good guys reversed.
- The American President – If we could divorce the politics from the movie, it would make a cute romantic comedy. Unfortunately, Rob Reiner has all of the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and Michael Douglas gives an almost fascist speech at the end which Reiner expects us to cheer, including an explicit threat to go door to door to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans. Bonus points for bad with Richard Dreyfuss in the Snidely Whiplash Conservative role. Yes, really.
- Munich – Well made and simply awful. I wrote a review of it when it first came out three years ago, and I was being kind.
- V for Vendetta – Haven’t seen it, although it’s on my Netflix queue just so I can make up my own mind about it. I heard it’s pretty objectionable on its politics.
- The Constant Gardener – Sheer, unadulterated dreck. My review can be found here. Nothing but a stream of left-wing sloganeering, complete with laughable reliance on the UN as the only incorruptable presence in the Third World.
- Children of Men – Another film filled with anti-Bush propaganda, although it seems a little out of place …. in 2027. I reviewed this one, too, when it first hit theaters.