‘Politics of the movies’ or ‘movies about the politics;’ both are inseparable in our time of political dramatization. While every general elections around the world become a performance ritual, it’s natural for the viewers to blur the line bordering politics and cinema. Contrary to the politically turbulent 70s, when movies assimilated the urgency of the political situation into their narratives, contemporary politics assimilate the exaggerated reality, rhetoric and melodrama into the political narratives. With both the cinema and politics search for new forms, the political movie lovers can wait for more intense and gripping films in the near future. Streaming platforms like Netflix have an impressive repository of political movies. So, here’s the list of really good political movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now.
10. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick’s enigmatic political drama, ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ takes us for an apocalyptic odyssey through a near-futuristic society. The teenager Alex DeLarge is the gang-leader of a band of ‘droogs,’ who celebrate ultra-violence, sexual torture and sadistic acts on their victims. The group find ecstasy in pain and suffering of others and take excessive amounts of drugs. Besides leading the band in its horrible acts, Alex is a die-hard fan of Ludwig van Beethoven’s music. He plays it during the band’s attacks to intensify his orgasmic pleasure. Being the marked alpha male in the group he never lets anyone question his leadership. But during a sexual assault of an older woman, Alex is cornered and caught by the authorities and subjected to a newly designed rehabilitation therapy. The therapy catapults Alex’s attitudes and preferences and he becomes a mere victim of his old ‘droogs.’
Kubrick’s brilliant take on fascist societies power exerted on every layer of the hierarchical society, whose supreme power is the ruling machine, is a true masterpiece of political cinema.
9. V for Vendetta (2006)
‘V for Vendetta’ is a shocking portrayal of Great Britain as a fascist state in the near state. When the young British woman Evey Hammond, played by Natalie Portman, is saved from the noose by a mysterious man in a Guy Fawkes mask who calls himself V. She becomes curious about his whereabouts; she finds more details about him, which reveals the image of a guerrilla rebel who fights against the fascist elements to free Great Britain. She joins hands with him in the fight against fascism and together, they start to hunt down those who are responsible for surrendering Great Britain to a set of fascist heads. ‘V for Vendetta‘ is director James McTeigue and writers The Wachowski Brothers unleashing their fury towards everything institutionalized and undemocratic in nature. The movie hints at an uprising of violent vigilantism when all the democratic institutions fail.
8. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)
‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas‘ is a heartbreaking tale of war crimes and cruelties committed during World War 2. The movie follows Bruno, the 8-year-old German boy, whose family escaped a Nazi Berlin to settle in a European countryside. His family includes a mother, an Elder sister and the SS Commander father. His father finds a job as the chief electrical worker at the nearby concentration camp for Jews. Bruno befriends a boy of his age named Shmuel in the camp during one of his secret expeditions. Everyone, including young Shmuel, seems to be wearing striped pyjamas in the camp. The two establish a bond of friendship and when Bruno’s family decides to return to their home in Berlin.
As a farewell gesture to his closest buddy, Bruno embarks on a dangerous mission inside the camp area. But from the moment he enters the camp, the horrible fate looming over thousands of Jews like Shmuel falls on Bruno. While Nazi father acts as the conductor of a death opera, Bruno and Shmuel face their destiny written on the walls of the concentration camp. The Mark Herman directorial is considered as one of the most moving human documents on war crimes.
7. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Sergio Leone’s gangster epic ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ chronicles the lives of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York City for a period spanning over 40 years. The movie tells their story by moving back and forth through their lives. Leone intercuts between flashbacks and flash-forwards, as the movie centres around the small-town hoodlum David ‘Noodles’ Aaronson, played by Robert De Niro, and his loyalist crime-buddies Max, Cockeye and Patsy.
The movie closely follows the quartet from growing up in the notorious Jewish neighbourhood of New York of the 20s to the last years of Prohibition in the early 30s and then to the late 60s where a seasoned David returns to a radically changed New York as a stranger, only to evoke bittersweet memories of the quartet. Even though the movie received mixed reviews upon release, it has earned a cult status in the years followed for its raw portrayal of the brutality of the ruling machine, especially on the immigrants. Many critics hailed the movie as a masterpiece blowing up the great American Dream to reveal the history of violence buried under.
6. The Interview (2014)
In ‘The Interview’, we see journalist Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapoport, played by James Franco and Seth Rogen respectively, land in Pyongyang, North Korea. The purpose of their visit is to interview none other than the mysterious North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who happens to be a die-hard fan of the duo’s celebrity tabloid show ‘Skylark Tonight.’ But, the CIA has a different plan for Dave and Aaron as they are assigned with a secret mission – to assassinate Kim Jong-un!
The movie is an acidic take on the image of the dictator as a mighty ruler who can challenge even the U.S. Upon their arrival in North Korea, Dave and Aaron realize that the real Kim Jong-un is more like a grownup child. But their assassination plan goes awry and the two realize they are in grave danger. ‘The Interview‘ creates an absurd model of the current world politics in which everyone, including the omnipresent CIA and the mighty Kim Jong-un, acts like grownup kids. The movie hints at the futility of armed conflicts, piling up weapon reserves, war cries, and assassination plots that define the world we are living in.
5. Incendies (2010)
Denis Villeneuve’s well-crafted drama, ‘Incendies’ starts from a mother’s last unnatural wishes for her son and daughter, who are twins. The wishes take the twins on a long journey from Canada to as far as the Middle East. According to the mother’s will, the twins had to deliver two sealed envelopes to their father and their brother, whose existence they weren’t aware of, respectively.
While the son neglects the wishes as crazy ones, the daughter takes them into heart and sets on a journey to find their real father and unknown brother. But the quest traces back through her mother’s history, which is full of turmoil, untold secrets and people reluctant to open up. With the help of her brother, she decides to solve the puzzle left behind by her mother. Denis Villeneuve weaves how the political history of nations tangle with and affects the personal history of individuals.
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4. The Immigrant (2013)
‘The Immigrant’ starts when a polish immigrant woman, Ewa, sets foot in the New York of 1921. She represents hundreds of thousands of women among immigrants who are tricked into a life of unending misery and hardships during the glorified American Dream. She has torn away from her sister as doctors quarantine her upon arrival on the American soil. Ewa initiates into the hellish existence of ‘women of low moral standing,’ reserved for poor immigrants. She finds a savior in the hot-tempered Bruno, who takes her to his stable of prostitutes. But things turn ugly when Bruno’s cousin, Emil, who is known as Orlando the Magician, falls for Ewa. A broken and violent love triangle ensues. The movie is a heartbreaking account of the plight of penniless immigrants from Eastern Europe, who crossed the Atlantic full of optimism about the Great American Dream.
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3. Milk (2008)
‘Milk’ is one of the most intense biopics in recent times. The movie depicts the life and struggle of Harvey Milk as an American gay activist in the 70s, when people are aggressively homophobic. Sean Penn seals Milk’s role with a career-best performance as California’s first openly gay elected official. Harvey Milk heralded the change, demanding equal rights and opportunities for all, irrespective of their sexual preferences. He had to battle a prejudiced and violent conscience of society. Using flashbacks and archived footage, director Gus Van Sant traces Milk’s life from his 40th birthday to his death.
The fragmented narrative draws a picture of Milk as a political persona whose words and moves make ripples in society. After several election defeats, Milk becomes the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected to a political office when he wins a San Francisco supervisor seat in 1977.
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2. Ginger & Rosa (2012)
In the London of 1962, Ginger and Rosa, two teen girls full of vigor and adventure, explore life to its maximum. They bunk classes, murmur and giggle about crushes, joke about kissing boys, argue about religion and politics and are inseparable even in disagreements. One thing they share mutually is the hatred of the mundane domestic lives of their mothers. Together, they decide to go past the boundaries and explore the world and its opportunities. As the world edges near to a nuclear big bang, the bond between Ginger and Rosa is strained. While the tensions in international politics culminate into the Cuban Missile Crisis, the two friends take refuge, both emotional and physical, with different people and places. They know their friendship would never be like before, just like international politics.
1. Tears of the Sun (2003)
‘Tears of the Sun’ unfolds its plot in the backdrop of a Nigeria reeling under civil war. When the democratic government of Nigeria is pulled down by a coup d’etat, which is orchestrated by a deadly dictator with the support of the military, the country slips into chaos. While the brutal civil war claims innocent lives, a hardened veteran is assigned to airlift a Doctors Without Borders physician. Bruce Willis‘ Navy SEAL Lieutenant and his team are at a difficult situation as they had to pick between their duty to their chief and their commitment to humanity. Following orders means turning a blind eye towards the brutal violence surrounds them, and to intervene in the internal conflict on a foreign soil means protecting a group of innocent refugees.
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