With American primaries and presidential elections lasting sometimes up to 18 months, it’s no wonder Hollywood cannot seem to get enough of campaign-trail dramas. From quirky comedies, to serious thrillers based on real events, there seems to be an infinite amount of scripts and stories to tell, each offering a different angle on the subject of electoral shenanigans and political intrigue.

The UK may not do elections on the same mammoth scale as its American cousins, but like it or not, right now we do not seem to go more than a year without one major political race or another.  With a surprise general election taking place today what better time for us to take a look at some of the most memorable films about elections ever made?

5- The Adjustment Bureau (George Nolfi, 2011)

The Adjustment BureauThis Philip K Dick inspired sci-fi B movie delivers way more than is expected from it, and manages to stay with you for much longer than you bargained for. Matt Damon is a young congressman running for senate in New York. Everything seems to be going his way until a week before the election, when an embarrassing story about his past shutters his dreams of winning.

The night of the election, David meets Elise (Emily Blunt), a contemporary dancer, the couple kiss and David falls in love with her almost immediately. Sadly for the couple, a group of mysterious men conspire to keep them apart no matter what.

David soon finds out that he must do what is asked of him, or risk losing everything he’s worked for all his life. Perhaps not the most serious film on the list, but writer director George Nolfi does a great job in recapturing the iconic Phillip K Dick 1950s aesthetics. Damon and Blunt are hugely likeable, as is Anthony Mackie as a sympathetic mystery man. While Mad Men’s John Slattery is more than at home in the film’s beautifully executed 1950s setting.

4- The Ides Of March (George Clooney, 2011)The Ides of March

This political thriller which stars George Clooney and Ryan Gosling was directed and co-written by Clooney himself. Gosling is the wide-eyed optimistic junior campaign manager  for the Governor of Pennsylvania (Clooney), who is attempting to get nominated in the primaries of the presidential elections. Things start to go wrong when a dark secret from the supposedly squeaky clean presidential hopeful’s past starts to come to light. Gosling’s character has to choose between his political loyalties and a successful future in politics and personal integrity.

The film manages to cleverly avoid the usual campaign trail tropes, by using smartly written dialogue and a brilliantly sedate mise en scene to depict inner turmoil and political deceit. Ryan Gosling excels in this role and is able to convey a genuinely unnerving depiction of a man on the look out for the truth at any price. Clooney does a great job directing this dark and moody thriller that will have you hooked till the very end.

3- Bulworth (Warren Beatty, 1998)

BulworthWarren Beatty writes, directs as well as stars in this brilliantly bonkers drama about a political candidate who has had more than enough of lying for a living. After years of toeing the party line and playing by the rules, a seasoned politician who finds himself down in the dumps sees a surge in his popularity when he decides to be completely honest with the press and voters alike.

Beatty is magnificent as a man who can no longer stand to repeat rehearsed speeches and instead resorts to telling the ugly truth for the first time in his life. Bulworth may have a comedic strand running through its narrative, but at the heart of the story lies the essence of a genuinely thought-provoking social commentary idea. Beatty’s screenplay manages to hit the right note by turning a thoroughly unsympathetic character into someone you find yourself wanting to root for.

2- Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008)

Harvey-MilkSean Penn won an Oscar for his brilliant depiction of the legendary Harvey Milk, a veteran of the LGBT movement in America and one of the first openly gay politicians to ever be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

This brilliant biopic directed by Gus Van Sant spans over a decade in the political and personal life of Milk, and focuses on his rise from researcher on Wall Street to one of the most iconic figures in the San Fransisco LGBT movement. The director focuses a good portion of his narrative on the relationship between Harvey and Dan White (Josh Brolin), a political rival who will later be convicted of Milk’s assassination. Van Sant also focuses some of the narrative on Harvey’s relationship with his boyfriend Scott Smith,  played magnificently by the excellent James Franco.

1- Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)

reese-witherspoon-electionAlexander Payne’s excellent dark comedy about a high school presidential race is one of the most underrated movies of the late 1990s. Reese Witherspoon stars as the overachieving Tracy Flick, a deviantly intelligent and highly ambitious high school student with more determination than your average presidential candidate, while Mathew Broderick is the well-meaning liberal teacher who is exasperated by her.

Payne’s film had very little attention at the box office when it first came out, but home viewing quickly made this brilliant movie into the cult film it has now become. Broderick is fascinating as a man possessed by the need for revenge and a misguided belief that he somehow holds the moral high ground over his student.

Witherspoon excels in a rare unsympathetic role which went a long way into taking her away the usual goody-two-shoes roles that made her famous. Election may not be considered by many as the archetypal political movie, but credit must be given to a genuinely inspired screenplay by Tom Perrotta (The Leftovers, HBO). On the whole, the film will forever be credited for giving Mathew Broderick’s career the push it deserved after years in the wilderness.