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Top 10 Political Movies to Watch During Donald Trump’s Presidency

15 November 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Chris van Dijk


Many people didn’t see Trump’s election coming. It was even laughed about up until people walked into the voting booths, regardless of the fact that Clinton’s numbers had been dwindling steadily for the past few weeks.

Now this is the world we live in whether we like it or not, and as we have seen over the past few days, many certainly don’t. And as Trump is filling his cabinet with less than promising candidates, it will surely be both an interesting and unsure time for both the United States and the world.

One must remember that time goes fast and things have been happening for quite some time that have caused this result. There are no easy answers. Nothing is black and white, it’s all painfully grey.

The author certainly doesn’t want to give the impression that the complexity of the current zeitgeist nor geo-politics will be perfectly portrayed in this article. What can be concluded that definitive change is happening with both Brexit and Trump, and we are seeing that the elites, our previous masters, cannot be sure of their position anymore.

In this list we are going to look at a few movies that explain some of the reasons for Trump’s presidency as well as his general appeal. An acknowledgement has to be made that this article will not cater to both the left and right.

Some statements might inflame either side, so keep that in mind. However, we hope that people can look at this article objectively and are able to discuss the themes in a respectful manner.


10. Being There


”Life is a state of mind.”

The story of a simple-minded gardener becoming a political icon had been Peter Seller’s pet project for years. The reason why Sellers had been so fascinated with the original source novel by Jerzy Kosinski was because he saw himself as the main character; an empty vessel, a person without a defining personality.

Seller’s interpretation of Chauncy might have been right, yet one must not forget the central point of the story: that we are easily led by our own hubris. One could therefore state that Sellers’ perception of the character might very well have been what Sellers wanted him to be. This is something we all do, especially with our leaders.

Chauncy’s diatribes about gardening are perceived to be profound statements about the state of the economy, even though Chauncy is simply talking about gardening. Compare this to Donald Trump; his comments about making America great again are interpreted by people’s own bias of the myth of America.

White supremacists harken back to the days of Jim Crow, Evangelicals dream about a Christian utopia, blue-collar workers want to live in an America where there were jobs aplenty, others want an America that wasn’t ruled by political correctness, and others saw Trump as a weapon against the elites. People saw Trump as a man of the people; someone who wasn’t like those Washington fat cats, who could really make a difference. Most of these groups are, just like Chauncy’s followers, victims of their own hubris.

Trump is part of the elite, born into wealth, yet many see him as the quintessential self-made man – notwithstanding that the businesses Trump managed, inadvertently like Chauncy or with Machiavellian wit, tapped into the myths of people. This is what politicians do, but Trump’s character had been perfect for this political climate where people want definitive change.

This is a common thing that happens throughout history. The facts are all there, but people want to see him as they want to see him; the same way people started viewing Clinton as a progressive candidate even though she was anything but. In the end of “Being There”, when Chauncy walks over water, many interpretations have been made, from Jesus allegories to the filmmaker just having fun with the audience. In the end, just as one could be befuddled by people’s interpretation of Trump, we can only sigh and say: life is a state of mind.


9. They Live

They Live

The Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

As many know, it’s the ‘protest vote’, that partly cost Clinton’s election. Those people knew that Clinton wouldn’t exact any real change (aside from her being a woman), so they either voted for a third party candidate or voted for Trump, hoping his shake-up would prompt real change. Many of them do not desire a 1950’s Americana; many of them really do want a certain revolution.

If you desire revolution strongly enough, eventually you might think that sacrifices will have to be made. Some might have perceived a Trump presidency as having a negative impact on the lives of many in America (and even the world) but considered it necessary, just as Karl Marx viewed it necessary too. The plight of revolution can often turn sinister and it certainly doesn’t always work out.

The sad thing, however, is that Trump’s cabinet is full of the puppet masters that people fear. Over the years, thanks to the abuse of power but also due to the propaganda of right-wing forces, federal government is often perceived as a legion of puppet masters.

Many don’t seem to understand that those who are holding the strings are involved in both government and in business. Many times, these two are inextricably linked. These ties need to severed in some areas, but in the end, both of these forces need to work together. The world can’t run on small business anymore, and government always needs to be around there to monitor them before things turn ugly.

When people talk about Trump taking on money on Wall Street, people don’t seem to understand his economic vision, which is prompted by that magic word ‘deregulation’, but won’t stop the puppet masters from holding the strings. Trump supporters might think they are wearing the magic sunglasses that takes the veil of this fake reality just as in “They Live”, but in the end they just replaced it with other sunglasses.

That’s what both parties do in the end. Both parties are corporate tools. In the end, maybe there are no puppet masters, just a bunch of people fighting imaginative puppet masters who, in turn, make the puppet masters all the more stronger.


8. Bulworth

Warren Beatty in “Bulworth”

”You got to be a spirit! You can’t be no ghost.”

One thing you hear a lot from Trump supporters is that they’ve finally found a politician who isn’t politically correct, who tells it like it is. Factually, this could not be less true; the range of misinformation and downright lies that have been disseminated has been higher than most campaigns of the last two decades.

This isn’t to say that lying has never been part of the political process; it certainly has, as it’s all part of the game. Everybody knows this very well, hence the reason people look at politics with sneers of cynicism. So when Trump came along, nobody had ever seen a candidate like that, and when people called him out for his nonsense, people perceived this to be the political elite trying to take him down.

In “Bulworth”, we have a corrupt Democratic candidate, who in a fit of suicidal depression, begins to tell the awful truth. Notwithstanding that the film is one of the most underrated political underrated satires ever made, the central concept seemed like something we should have seen before. This is a dream come true; finally, a politician who lets us know what is really going on.

The sad thing is, Trump is not like Bulworth at all. He might tell the truth as he sees it – which is admittedly refreshing – but he twists the truth in ways that benefit him. He doesn’t care about the truth; it can be altered as long as it suits him and his interests. An egomaniac never serves the people; he will only serve himself.

Yet, Trump speaks in a language people understand; he’s impulsive, blunt, and crass, and his words have little to no census to it. Sadly, these characteristics have him confused as a truth-teller.

Compared to the careful, corporate-approved language of Clinton, he just seemed more exciting. Bulworth found redemption in the end, even though it ended in death. Trump is beyond redemption. Even if he makes many mistakes, his ego will always escape the ultimate judgment.


7. Wag the Dog

Wag The Dog (1997)

”What difference does it make if it’s true?”

Like “They Live”, “Wag the Dog” is another perfect companion to fulfill your paranoid worldview that the people in charge are screwing us over. That’s not say either of these two film have any truth to them; they certainly do.

“Wag the Dog” even had more unintentional truth than it had originally predicted. The story of a spin doctor trying to take attention away from a presidential sex scandal by planning a fake war was made before even the outbreak of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The fact that Clinton was accused of bombing the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical company to distract the American public certainly did not help.

Even though Bill Clinton had been a fairly popular president, the dark side of his presidency has been out in the open for some time now. Certainly Bill’s legacy has a massive impact on his wife’s eventually campaign.

When Christopher Hitchens released an inflammatory critique of Bill’s character with his book ”No One Left to Lie To”, it did not help the right’s perception of the left’s immense hypocrisy. There’s certainly a truth to that. The left has indeed kept their eyes closed to many of Clinton’s policies and indiscretions.

The Clintons have been perceived as masterful politicians with a sinister edge to them. With the release of documents by Wikileaks showing Hilary’s corrupt dealings behind the scenes with the DNC, Trump’s victory can certainly be partly blamed on the Clintons.


6. Lincoln


”Do you think we choose the times into which we are born? Or do we fit the times we are born into?”

Whatever one could say about Clinton’s character, there’s no denying that Trump’s victory was a smack in the face of minorities. Not only was he a proponent of the unconstitutional Stop and Frisk; not only does his family name have a history of racism; and not only did his comments have zero racial sensitivity to them, but he has retweeted white supremacist propaganda, and his campaign was joyfully endorsed by the KKK. And we haven’t even started about his plans for Mexicans to pay for The Wall.

There has always been racial tensions in the United States, but over the last few years, the tension has certainly risen; there’s no denying that Trump’s critique of Obama not being born in the US had a lot to do with innate racism as well. Many feel – understandably so – that Trump’s racist sentiment is shared by many.

Seeing Trump sitting next to a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t help the sadness many felt at such a development, to go from a black president to a president-elect endorsed by the KKK. In such times, it would be a good idea to look at Steven Spielberg’s historical epic “Lincoln”.

Lincoln’s trials and tribulations in abolishing slavery was met with both disgust for the racism behind the slave holders, but also with hope for those progressive voices who worked hard to make it happen.

It’s good to remember that America contains these beautiful moments of victory, and that despite setbacks throughout history, there will always be people fighting for what’s right. Maybe even if it’s just a pretty dream, the universe will eventually bend back to justice.



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