Seeking jittery thrillers about political corruption being found out
January 9, 2021 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to ease out of how tense I've been after the coup attempt this week, but I can't do anything but scroll Twitter. I'd like to at *least* switch my attention to fictional politics, a movie/TV show where political wrongdoing is found out and the "bad guys" get their comeuppance - more All The President's Men than Veep or House of Cards. Any recommendations?
posted by rogerroger to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Bad Education is a dramatization of a true story, but it definitely fits the bill.
posted by mcbaya at 5:46 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Miss Sloane
Dick (Nixon, but fictionalized plenty and a good pressure release valve imo)

Been a long time since seeing/reading but I think the Pelican Brief?

The second Lincoln Lawyer book, The Brass Verdict, and the plots all kind of get jumbled in my memory but I think it's the 20th Bosch book Two Kinds of Truth.
posted by phunniemee at 5:59 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Well, the action movie Shooter (2007 with Mark Wahlberg) keeps coming to my mind while I watch the news. Especially with the juxtaposition of partially competent, mostly evil politicians and mostly competent law enforcement, all playing for keeps. No spoilers. Film got only average rating, but it seems on topic to your question.
posted by forthright at 6:06 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Three Days of the Condor - 1975 Political thriller directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:09 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a homage to these kinds of movies, with bonus fascist-punching.
posted by praemunire at 6:15 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Also, this is actually the plot of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
posted by praemunire at 6:21 PM on January 9

It's not exactly a jittery thriller but My Fellow Americans meets the other criteria and is so much fun.

The Manchurian Candidate is definitely a thriller. (The 2004 version is waaaay better than the 1962 one.)
posted by evilmomlady at 6:22 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you so much for these suggestions so far!! Also by the way I am totally open to thrillers not set in the U.S.
posted by rogerroger at 6:28 PM on January 9

Enemy of the State with Will Smith and gene Hackman. I think it counts even with the ambiguous ending. Not sure how to explain without spoiling it.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:40 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]

The Dead Zone with Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen?
posted by dismas at 7:09 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Not quite politics, but politics-adjacent: Shattered Glass is the based-on-a-true story of the rise and fall of a star journalist who published incredible stories that were complete fabrications.
posted by mekily at 7:13 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Older films: Seven Days in May, and the downfall of a charismatic media figure (with similarities to Trump): A Face in the Crowd.
posted by gudrun at 7:14 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

That is, if 45 sang, and played the guitar. Great film.

Also came in to recommend "Seven Days In May." Fascinating production.
posted by Rash at 7:25 PM on January 9

The Ides of March with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling was a good campaign movie.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:35 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

I've been enjoying Quantico on Netflix for exactly this reason this week. It's so good. It doesn't necessarily involve as much politics directly, more indirectly, but it's absorbing.
posted by limeonaire at 8:32 PM on January 9

Not primarily politics, but if you want some corrupt bad guy comeuppance with a heaping helping of heists every episode, Leverage delivers.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:01 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

a movie/TV show where political wrongdoing is found out and the "bad guys" get their comeuppance

You get the former but not the latter in The Parallax View, which Pakula made before All The President's Men. Definitely jittery. The by-line in ads for it, when released:
Trust No One. No One.
posted by Rash at 9:25 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

The Manchurian Candidate is definitely a thriller. (The 2004 version is waaaay better than the 1962 one.)

So, let's agree to disagree on that.

Enemy of the State with Will Smith and gene Hackman.

It's pretty great on its own, but makes a good part 2 of a double feature with The Conversation (1974), the movie Francis Ford Coppola made between the first two Godfather movies. Gene Hackman arguably plays the same character in both movies.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:45 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]

"In the name of the people" (人民的名义) is a show about the folks tasked with investigating corruption in a fictional Chinese city. It was very popular and while it of course shows this branch of the government in a very good light (related to Xi's own curruption related purges), it's an interesting show and not set in the US.

More recently "The Long Night" (沉默的真相) is smaller scale but all about a group of people willing to go very far to upend corruption and get justice. It's also much shorter so could be good to dip your feet in as it were. Again, with the benefit of not being set in the US :)
posted by wooh at 11:18 PM on January 9

All the President's Men (1976) is the story of Watergate, so not fiction, but is pretty exciting and very, very satisfying.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:28 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Stranger (비밀의 숲) on Netflix is pretty absorbing. (Disclaimer: I know like, nothing about the Korean legal system or politics in real life or as typically portrayed in dramas.) I liked this one because the plot was pretty intricate, the characters were interesting and most of them are likeable, there's no real romance, and there's a strange sort of balance between realism (in corruption, incompetence, greed, people's general cruelty/shittiness, the weariness and difficulty of trying to do the right thing) and the lovely fantasy of the incorruptible lawyer and goodhearted detective who work together to do their best.
posted by automatic cabinet at 2:40 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

If you are like me and salivate over Clive Owen, you might like The International. It is light and enjoyable, with a very memorable shootout scene/setting.
posted by Morpeth at 4:15 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Oh gosh, No Way Out.
posted by evilmomlady at 5:21 AM on January 10

Brain Dead puts a sci-fi twist on the whole thing, but it's a ton of fun, with great music by Jonathan Coulton.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:51 AM on January 10

Netflix in the US has the Danish series "Borgen," which is a woman-centered story set in the world of Danish national politics.

What's refreshing for me on this show is how their relatively mild problems are taken and seriously, as opposed to maybe West Wing where the scale of the problem always seemed to be war and assassination and such.

Features some actors you've probably seen in better-known UK and US productions!
posted by GamblingBlues at 7:26 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Only partially what you're asking for, but I think it still counts and it's a heap of fun: Sneakers
posted by Mchelly at 9:46 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]

Clear and Present Danger, in which Harrison Ford plays Jack Ryan, the deputy director of the CIA, who discovers a plot by high-level officials, including POTUS, to start a war in...well, you get the idea. (spoiler alert: the prez gets it in the end, so to speak.)
posted by mule98J at 10:47 AM on January 10

The Barrier, a television show on Netflix. So good, it held my attention this past week and distracted me from the news.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 2:16 PM on January 10

State of Play the British TV series upon which the Hollywood movie is based on. I haven't seen the movie but I really enjoyed the TV show.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 6:54 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]

^Came in to to recommend "State of Play," but the UK TV series (the US movie version is pretty bad)
posted by thivaia at 5:47 PM on January 11

I think you would really enjoy No, a movie about the (of all things) advertising campaign that helped end the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile in 1988. Characters are fictional but all the TV spots shown in the movie are real. Very tense but also quite funny, and (not a spoiler if you know any history) it ends well.
posted by mekily at 9:29 PM on January 11

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