The Handbook
The Handbook

It’s one of the biggest TV events of the year, the olympics for geeky people, the Miss World for ugly folks and tonight the two contenders for the title ‘leader of the free world’ go head-to-head in an election that’s sure to be a heart-stopping climax to a tumultuous campaign and four years. The only problem is: it’s going to be really really late.

The first results can’t be expected until around 3am UK time, which means that if you’re planning on staying up to watch the results roll in you’ve got plenty of time to kill. The only question is which US political film are you going to watch while you wait?

All The President’s Men

Veteran political reporter Bob Woodhouse made waves this election cycle with the revelations in his latest Trump biography Rage, revealing recordings where the president admitted to downplaying coronavirus.

But Trump wouldn’t be the first president brought down by recordings at Woodward’s hands; along with journalist Carl Bernstein, he uncovered the murky truths behind the infamous Watergate break-in, all told in detail in the classic cat-and-mouse journalistic movie All The President’s Men. Woodward, played by Robert Redford, and Bernstein, taken on by Dustin Hoffman, will make your election night all the more tense.

Buy or rent on Amazon:

Knock Down The House

An unlikely bogey-person for the American right, progressive activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a likeable, passionate, political outsider and barmaid taking on the establishment.

The documentary follows Ocasio-Cortez, better known as AOC, as she attempts to get elected to the US House of Representatives.

An unlikely bogey-person...

Inspiring, whatever your political colours, Knock Down The House is well worth checking out.

Stream on Netflix:


It’s very possible that this year’s election will end being decided in Florida, potentially after a long and acrimonious court battle. And it wouldn’t be the first time…

The 2000 US election was ultimately decided by a handful of contentious votes in the Sunshine State, as retold in Kevin Spacey’s Recount.

Bringing back all the tension and the legal ins-and-outs of the protracted month-long battle between the two contenders, the film is a great insight into the foibles of the American version of democracy. Let’s hope re-watching this is entertainment and not revision…

Rent or buy on Amazon:


There was a time when there was a smidgen more decency in politics, 2012 to be precise and the Obama/Romney election.

This fly-on-the-wall documentary charts Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat President Barak Obama and his relatively principled approach is noteworthy in the current era.

There was a time when there was a smidgen more decency in politics...

It also probably explains Romney’s late conversion as a vocal anti-Trump Republican in recent months. This film is a helpful guide to the presidential campaign uninitiated, as well as a fascinating insight for the political junkie.

Stream on Netflix:

The Final Year

US foreign policy didn’t used to revolve around trade wars, sucking up to dictators or trashing allies, there was a time when things were different.

While Trump can be rightly applauded for being the first president since Jimmy Carter not to start a war (they just can’t hep themselves), though he came uncomfortably close with Iran, but otherwise his foreign policy is very much the opposite of Obama’s. Which makes The Final Year all the more fascinating to watch in the context of the last four years.

The documentary follows the president and his foreign policy team through 2016 and offers a glimpse into how the diplomatic sausage is made.

Stream on Netflix:

The Post

Before there was Watergate there was the Pentagon Papers. This other political scandal of the Nixon era is retold through the Washington Post as the paper’s legendary proprietor, Katharine Graham (played by Meryl Streep) vies with the equally formidable editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks).

The other political scandal of the Nixon era...

If you liked All The President’s Men then you’ll love this too, with plenty of ‘stop the presses!’ tension and journalistic integrity by the bucketload.

Rent or buy on Amazon:

Charlie Wilson’s War

Tom Hanks stars as one of America’s most colourful and least likely diplomats, an obscure but pivotal figure in the story of the Cold War and a great yarn to boot.

As an influential member of the House Committee on Appropriations Wilson was key to funding America’s covert operations to help the Afghan Mujahideen fight the Russians, an effort that eventually helped persuade the Russians to leave the country.

The film is a lot of fun, a meeting of DC politics and international intrigue, with sex thrown in.

Watch on Amazon Prime:

Primary Colors

Originally an anonymous novel based incredibly closely on Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign, John Travolta plays a spookily accurate Clinton (aka Jack Stanton) while Emma Thompson plays Susan, the Hillary character (if Hillary had been more like Thompson, guaranteed 2016 would have had a different result).

Annoyingly if you’re planning an election night binge you’ll just have to wait for the DVD to arrive as nobody seems to be streaming it, but given we’re quite likely to be hanging around for days for the final result you’ve probably got the time…

Annoyingly you can only buy this on DVD

Ides of March

A young idealistic campaign manager, played by Ryan Gosling, to an inspirational presidential contender, played by George Clooney, stumbles into a series of moral quandaries as his boss’s image and reality fail to match up.

Image and reality fail to match up...

Set in the presidential primaries, the story sees Clooney (writer and star) take a swipe at politicians but the result is eminently watchable.

Watch it on Amazon Prime:

Wag The Dog

Donald Trump may seem willing to stop at nothing to win reelection, but he’s left it a little late to play the one card that nearly always proves effective: start a war.

When a fictional (ahem, Clinton) president needs to create the impression of a war to help his reelection a Hollywood producer (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman) is secretly recruited to fabricate a war in a fictional country to help the president’s cause.

Funny but also scarily familiar to the original 1990s audience. Also, the soundtrack’s by Mark Knoffler and is pretty decent.

Rent or buy on Amazon:

Of course it’s possible that the election result will take long enough that you can watch all these films back-to-back. Given Donald Trump’s stated unlikeliness to accept any election result that isn’t a Trump victory there is a distinct possibility that the result is not apparent for weeks if not months. Which would give you chance to enjoy 156 episodes of West Wing, which is now streaming on All 4 and probably still have time to catch other movies not listed here like The Special Relationship, starring Michael Sheen, or Frost:Nixon, also staring Martin Sheen, any number of JFK movies or something ridiculous like Designated Survivor.

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