The closest any movie came to affecting the course of a presidential campaign may have been Frank Capra’s State of the Union. It came out in the middle of the 1948 race, premiering in Washington at an event sponsored by the White House Correspondents’ Association and drawing both Capra and President Harry Truman.
Pointing to that premiere, Variety in 1949 called State of the Union the “film that changed history.” Said an advance man for Truman: “The most important film of 1949—if importance lies in influencing people and events—was Frank Capra’s State of the Union.” It was influential because it showed how “a presidential candidate beats the political bosses by going over their heads with a dramatic appeal to the people.” Truman watched the film repeatedly and, contended Variety, “he did exactly what the movie candidate did—he went to the people.”
If that’s true, State of the Union stands alone. For most movies about politics, candidates just hope not to be damaged. As John Glenn said in 1983 when asked about The Right Stuff, “If President Reagan survived Bedtime for Bonzo, I guess I can survive.”