A genre was born in the counterculture ’60s: the political hot-button movie. Here’s a guide to the films that have been shaking things up ever since, from Strangelove to Syriana.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) A cynical thriller about political assassins brainwashed amidst the Cold War, it virtually disappeared from circulation after JFK’s killing the next year.
DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964) Stanley Kubrick’s satire taught us that you can’t fight in the War Room — but you can laugh about nuclear Armageddon.
THE GREEN BERETS (1968) A politicized movie made in support of the government, John Wayne’s soldier story may have been the only film for U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) Released just 20 months after Nixon resigned, the tense yarn about Woodward, Bernstein, and Deep Throat’s exposure of White House corruption hit nerves still frayed by Watergate.
THE DEER HUNTER and COMING HOME (1978) The yin and yang of post-Vietnam cinema opened in the same year, highlighting in divergent ways the ravages of battle, abroad and at home.
THE DAY AFTER (1983) A phenomenon when it aired on ABC, this TV movie imagined a nuclear strike in the Midwest and generated a mushroom cloud of controversy.
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985) Stallone’s veiny mercenary drew both pride and scorn as the ultimate representation of Reagan-era global machismo.
WAG THE DOG (1997) A year after its debut, Barry Levinson’s satire entered the lexicon when a scandal-plagued Bill Clinton ordered strikes on alleged terrorist facilities in Sudan.
FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (2004) Documentarian Michael Moore opened the floodgates to a new cinema of scorn — out of which Team America: World Police, Syriana, and the upcoming American Dreamz flow.
For more about movies that caused a stir, visit ew.com/hotbutton