Film & TV

Election-Themed Movies to Watch As the Results Roll In

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The 2020 election is a major milestone and it’s more important than ever to get out (or stay in) and vote. Now that we’ve cast our votes, here are some election-themed movies to celebrate with as we anticipate the results.

“Election” (1999)

In a time before Elle Woods made pink a personality, Reese Witherspoon shone as Tracy Flick in this black comedy about a high school election. “Election,” directed by Alexander Payne, is a political and social satire that has aged like fine wine in this ever-divisive and immensely absurd time.

Matthew Broderick (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Inspector Gadget”) plays Jim McCallister, a social studies teacher whose life grows more pitiful by the day. Desperate to avoid a year with Tracy as president, Jim encourages the school’s most popular boy Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run in opposition.

The humor is very balls-to-the-wall and outlandish, but done in a sophisticated way. Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde,” “Big Little Lies”) dominates in her ever-perfected, type-A character mold. The film is a rollercoaster that is hard to predict and it’s a great ride. 

With all the stress of the actual election, “Election” will help get your mind off things, even if just for a bit.

“Election” is available to stream on HBO Max and rentable for $2.99 on Amazon Prime.

“Shampoo” (1975)

Travel back in time to the 1960s, a time of opulence, hairspray and wallpaper-galore. “Shampoo” follows hairstylist and womanizer George Roundy (Warren Beatty) as he juggles his affairs — non-work related. 

Directed by Hal Ashby, “Shampoo” takes place on the days leading up to the 1968 presidential election. The election is more of a backdrop for the film than the focus (think: the hospital in “Grey’s Anatomy”). The supporting cast are all excellent. Goldie Hawn (“Private Benjamin,” “Death Becomes Her”) plays ditzy Jill in top form. 

The relationship dynamics are a musical chair cacophony of confusion and unintentional polyamory. “Shampoo” is a horned-up sexual satire and the politics take a backseat to the social commentary.

For a film with intentional stylization and top-notch fashion, “Shampoo” is a great pick. The election backdrop provides nice contextualization into the time and is a pleasant comparison to the more polarizing times of now. And the sharp writing keeps “Shampoo” relevant even 45 years later.

“Shampoo” is streaming on The Criterion Channel and available for rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime.

“The Candidate” (1972)

Politics hasn’t always been a daily cat-and-mouse game of chaos and headache-inducing scandal. “The Candidate” takes viewers back to a calmer time in American politics as it follows the campaign of Bill McKay (Robert Redford), an unlikely California senate candidate whose charismatic nature flips the race on its head.

Directed by Michael Ritchie, this dramedy is an entertaining pick-me-up to remind viewers of simpler times. With the endless drama, worries and anxiety surrounding the 2020 election, people are understandably overwhelmed and exhausted. Hop off that 24-hour news cycle for a couple hours of sensibility in this imaginary political race. 

“The Candidate” is not a dark, in-depth look into the election process. It’s whimsical, hopeful and comfortable in its take, which is suiting at a time like now. Like a warm cup of tea or a rerun of “Full House,” the film is a soothing, rose-colored flashback to the past. There are no stakes in a fictional election, just escapism.

“The Candidate” is available to stream on HBO Max and rentable for $1.99 on Amazon Prime.

“Napoleon Dynamite” (2004)

Every day in 2020 has felt like a try-hard horror movie: new twists around every corner, jump scares that feel forced and stakes too high to seem sensible. With the election culminating in its climax, cool down with “Napoleon Dynamite,” a film that’s mellow to the extreme.

The film is a comedy directed by Jared Hess which follows an awkward, sullen high school student Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) who lives a quiet farm life with his older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell). After befriending transfer student Pedro Sanchez (Efren Ramirez), Napoleon helps him compete for the title of student body president.

“Napoleon Dynamite” fills the quota of “Election” in being a high school election comedy with zany eccentrism, but the tone is quite different. Whereas “Election” has the energy of a coke addict on a night out, “Napoleon Dynamite” is more reminiscent of someone after taking an Ambien. The incredibly dry, apathetic nature of the film works in its favor, though.

Those needing an escape into a mundane, dry-to-the-bone world, while maintaining an election theme, should look no further than “Napoleon Dynamite.”

“Napoleon Dynamite” is streamable with a STARZ subscription and available to rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime.

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