Three Documentaries About U.S. Presidential Elections

By Ashlyn Masters

Perhaps nothing captures the attention of the American public in the same way as the presidential election. We tune in for hours of election coverage, and our election cycles last longer than almost any other country on the planet. Naturally, this fascination with electing the next POTUS also translates to film. Since the 1960s, filmmakers have gone inside presidential campaigns to show the good, the bad, and the ugly of electing the next leader of our nation.

If you are wondering which of these movies you should consider watching to kill some time until election results start coming in, do not fret. After quite a bit of deliberation (and binge-watching) on my part, here are a few movies that I consider to be some of the best when it comes to the subject matter.

Mitt

Mitt gives viewers a rare, intimate glimpse into the inner-workings of a presidential campaign. Filmmaker Greg Whiteley followed Mitt Romney during his bids for president in both 2008 and 2012. The film features Romney’s large family and some of his most trusted aides during moments of both victory and defeat. Mitt is an excellent choice not only for anyone who is curious about what a presidential candidate goes through before and during the election, but it also offers a unique look at how the pressure of running for the highest office of the land affects a candidate’s family members.

Image courtesy of http://bestsundancefilms.com/mitt-mitt-romney-documentary-review/

Image courtesy of http://bestsundancefilms.com/mitt-mitt-romney-documentary-review/

The War Room

The War Room was shot during Bill Clinton’s first bid for POTUS during the 1992 election against then-incumbent President George H.W. Bush. However, Bill Clinton is arguably not the most important figure in this movie; in fact, he is hardly ever shown. The War Room focuses on the plights of Clinton’s top aides James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. We are shown the people responsible for the spin behind Bill’s campaign in some pretty tense, raw moments. If you want to know more about the smoke behind the mirrors of a political campaign, check out The War Room for a real-life example of winning political strategists.

Image courtesy of http://www.camelcitydispatch.com/200-must-see-documentaries-9375/

Image courtesy of http://www.camelcitydispatch.com/200-must-see-documentaries-9375/

Primary

Primary is required viewing for any political junkie. Primary was shot in 1960, and it completely revolutionized how documentaries were made. In Primary, camera crews follow John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey during the Wisconsin Democratic primary election. This was made possible due to technological advancements at the time, as cinematographers were no longer forced to shoot in stationary positions relative to what they were shooting. Cameras became portable, and crews were able to follow both candidates around at rallies and inside their election headquarters, allowing viewers to get a better look at who the candidates and their staff were in private. Despite the cinematic advancements, Primary still transports you to a time before American citizens were subjected to the political opinions of every casual acquaintance and family member (thanks, Facebook).

Image courtesy of http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/09/jfk-up-close

Image courtesy of http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/09/jfk-up-close

Enjoy watching these films about elections past, and remember to exercise your right as an American citizen to vote!