I put together a list of my favorite political documentaries. The focus is on the upcoming election. It’s not a complete list, it never will be. It’s taking pulse ahead of the conclusion of a polarized campaign year. Maybe it will help you to unwind before you cast your vote (if you haven’t already)!
Make sure to vote on November 3rd. Also make sure to watch The Choice 2020 and Dark Money. Both documentaries offer clear, unfiltered insights into the minds of Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Both documentaries are designed to critically reflect on the impact your vote has on the health of our democracy. Lastly, I recommend taking a look at The Circus too. It’s an entertaining yet jaw-dropping show about the inner workings of campaigns. It’s a reminder that as long as not everybody can afford to run for office, our democracy needs to improve.
Get Me Roger Stone (2017)
This 1 ½ hour long documentary film details the rise and fall of Republican political operative, former Nixon-aide, long-time friend of Donald Trump and convicted felon Roger Stone. The life of Roger Stone is marked by political victories without ever becoming successful in politics. A long-time political fixture in Republican politics, Roger Stone was never accepted by the Republican establishment. Stone is the central piece in this film showing his eccentric character in interviews about his journey from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump. While the stories told are intriguing in nature, the film allocates too much credit to a marginalized political strategist, who merely deployed shock and awe techniques to stun his opposition without much long-term strategy at play.
Watch on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80114666
Dark Money (2018)
The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC was a landmark ruling to pave the way for political interest groups influencing U.S. elections. Dark Money is a 1 ½ hour long documentary film that follows John S. Adams of the Montana Free Press on his journey to investigate how corporate money is undermining American politics. It is a harrowing contemporary film that should rattle all Americans for it details the existential threat to local journalism in being the last check to properly balance corporate exploitation. This shocking story of intentional deceit of the American voters contributes to a larger debate the U.S. electorate must face about how their democracy is eroded when elections are bought and sold.
More infos: https://www.darkmoneyfilm.com
Knock Down The House (2019)
This 1 ½ hour long documentary film follows four female democratic candidates in their 2018 midterm election campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. The candidates are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Amy Vilela (Nevada), Cori Bush (Missouri), Paula Jean Swearengin (West Virginia) each facing a long-term democratic incumbent in their respective campaigns that hasn’t been challenged in decades. The film is a gripping story about the absurdity of election campaigning in American politics. But more importantly, it tells the stories of four women, who not only face a long-term incumbent with years of political experience and a large donor base, but the challenge of overcoming the stigma that a woman can be a leader in an executive role. With the documentary following four candidates, I found too much screen time focusing on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has a polarizing nature but really is only one fourth of this larger, systemic issue. Nevertheless, this documentary is a must-see to get an understanding of the critical failures in diversity and equality that America has turned a blind on.
More infos: https://knockdownthehouse.com
Across four episodes, this 4 ½ hour long documentary series about Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign is chronicling the roller coaster emotions of running a national campaign. It reveals an unseen personal side of Hillary Clinton by looking at milestones in her career and personal life that shaped her thinking as a woman, mother and politician. Archival footage is seamlessly interlaced with contemporary interviews. This documentary delivers a perfect balance of Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary intellectual breadth and impact on foreign and domestic political affairs while keeping it captivating and worth your while.
The Circus: Inside The Craziest Campaign On Earth, Season 5 (2020)
I am not sure if The Circus needs any introduction. Running for five seasons with currently 84 individual episodes each 30 minutes and longer, this epic TV documentary series is a real-time political insider show you simply cannot miss out on. In season 5, the show begins in the aftermath of the impeachment trial against Donald Trump quickly transitioning to the first primary elections for the 2020 U.S. presidential elections in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Then COVID-19 hit the country. The restrictions and nationwide lockdown measures changed this election like it has never seen before in history. After episode 8 in March 2020, the show stops due to the lockdown measures only to resume “The New Abnormal” with episode 9 in August 2020. The long break changed everything yet it didn’t change the tension and excitement that is a run for the highest office in the land of the free. The hosts of the Circus John Heilemann, Mark McKinnon, and Alex Wagner are doing a stellar job in observing the candidates’ campaigns and asking the hard questions while reflecting on the bizarre experience it is to run for president during a pandemic.
The Swamp (2020)
This 1 ½ hour long documentary film follows three Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (Florida), Thomas Massie (Kentucky), and Ken Buck (Colorado) in their efforts to leave a mark on the American political landscape. It details the need for fundraising and donations that are at liberty of interest groups and lobbyists. It is another concerning picture of American politics chained to corporate interests. The documentary is hosted by Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, who founded “Rootstrikers” to reduce the corrosive influence of corporate money in the American democracy.
Watch on HBO: https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/the-swamp
The Choice 2020: Trump vs. Biden (2020)
The name is the game of this 2 hour long documentary film by Frontline. Ahead of the most polarized elections in U.S. history, the film focuses on interviews with family, friends and foes of both candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump. It chronicles how both Biden and Trump handled themselves during times of crisis and how they responded to adversity. It’s about who these men are that are asking for your vote.
Make sure to vote on November 3rd
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2020 U.S. Presidential Election
More infos here: https://www.usa.gov/voting