From All the President’s Men (1976), dir. Alan J. Pakula (image courtesy Warner Bros.)

It’s nearly Election Day in the US, and certainly the most stressful one in living memory. At this point there’s not much most of us can do besides vote, so while we do that and subsequently await the results (whatever they may be), here are some election-related films that put the “fun” in “definitely functioning democracy!”

All the President’s Men

During the 1972 US election, President Richard Nixon tried to have his goons bug the offices of the opposition party, kicking off a chain of events that would lead to his resignation from the office several years later. This film, made only a few years after that, basically set the standard for how we would continue to make movies about journalism, politics, and conspiracy thrillers would play out for decades to follow. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford play the journalists who broke the story, and who thus set our expectations way too high for the ability of the press to hold the government accountable for its actions. It’s a cracking good time.

Available on HBO MAX and other platforms.

Wag the Dog

Two weeks before the election, the president makes inappropriate advances toward an underage girl in the White House. To distract the public, a high-powered fixer (Robert De Niro) enlists the help of a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman, again) to take manufacturing consent to the next level: they fake a war with Albania. One might be tempted to think that this vicious satire of the media and US attention spans might be too on the nose … but this movie came out a month before Bill Clinton’s sex scandal broke. Draw from that whatever conclusions you will.

On Hoopla and other platforms.

YouTube video

Please Vote for Me

Contrary to what you may have heard, there have been experiments with free elections in China — in the classroom. This documentary follows a class of eight-year-olds in Wuhan as three different students campaign to be their official monitor. Despite their youth and inexperience, they take to making unfulfillable promises and mudslinging against their opponents with alarming speed. It turns out that the best way to get an audience to question the fundamental precepts of democracy is to make it adorable.

On Kanopy.

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here.