Conspiracy movies are those in which there is some paranoid element that leads us to conclude that the world as we experience it is not the world as it is. It often features unpleasant things which usually happen concerning government actions, but not always confined to this, planned by people who want to cause difficulties and those things do not occur without the control of such parties. The conspiracy movie genre has been significant since the post-war Hollywood Cinema. The high-tech conspiracy tale has its roots in the 1970s, which saw a great wave of movies about assassins, surveillance, secret governments, and corporate groups.
The characters in these movies are often subjected to tense situations. It helps in exploring our anxiety about the nature of the world and the potential for action in the face of events that are beyond our control. With that said, here’s the list of top conspiracy movies ever. You can stream some of these best conspiracy movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
12. Conspiracy Theory (1997)
Featuring the cult combination of ‘Lethal weapon’, Richard Conner and Mel Gibson, ‘Conspiracy Theory’ is a solid, but formulaic thriller saved heavily by its leads. The film tells the story of a man who is obsessed with conspiracy theories, and the dangers he has to face when one of his theories accidentally prove to occur. The logic behind many of the occurrences in ‘Conspiracy Theory’ doesn’t quite add up and the main draw to this film has little to do with the coherency of its plot. Seemingly there are obvious attempts to inject both romance and comedy into it, but both fail rather flat. Although it has massive potential and is well-paced, it falls far from being a great one because of the jumbled visions. Still it is a watchable one, if you are interested in conspiracies.
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11. Enemy of the State (1998)
‘Enemy of the State’, starring Gene Hackman and Will Smith, is a film that is famous for its resemblances to Coppola’s classic ‘The Conversation’. Many viewers then even considered it as a modern day continuation to ‘The Conversation’. The chemistry between Hackman and Smith works very well in favor of this film. It is a paranoid thriller featuring Will Smith as a lawyer who innocently comes into possession of some incriminating evidence, subsequently causing shady individuals from the national security agency to start hunting him down. It is a film that exhibits plenty of evidence showing that the story writing process was well thought out, although the ideas represented are bit outdated now. It has its fair share of exciting chases and a sophisticated tone which is perfectly complemented by a simple yet clever ending.
10. Valkyrie (2008)
One of the popular names in this list, ‘Valkyrie’ is a historical thriller set in Nazi Germany directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie based on the 1944 attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Tom Cruise stars as one of the conspirators, and his eight-month preparation and research for this role shows as he embodies Col. Von Stauffenberg. While the movie is informative and historically accurate, it does have a tendency to drag on at times. The beginning paints this film to be a historical thriller and, while all of the acting is good, it is not enough to build momentum from the beginning to the end. But it was a very risky film to do considering the political pressures and having to exemplify an unforeseen event on the screen and the movie does stay legitimate to this having some unique direction techniques and stylistic cinematography which stays true to the era.
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9. Three Days of the Condor (1975)
‘Three days of the Condor’ is a fast paced conspiracy thriller starring Robert Redford as a CIA analyst targeted by assassination when he unknowingly stumbles upon a CIA plot to overthrow a Middle Eastern government. Sidney Pollack directed an intelligent thriller with stressing character development, plausible plot progression, and skillful exposition over paper thin protagonists and over the top action scenes. The movie keeps you guessing right till the end by virtually keeping you inside the lead’s head, you won’t know what to believe either. The things go at a Hitchcock like level of tension with great performances from the cast. The film may seem a bit dated, mainly due to the ’70s feeling but still stands pretty well.
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8. Michael Clayton (2007)
Easily one of the best performances of George Clooney, ‘Michael Clayton’ has an interesting concept to it as it deals with the reality about how law firms always focus on the small loopholes in the legal system as a way of protecting their clients and sustaining business. Although ‘Michael Clayton’ may not be as consistently entertaining as it should be, it is a tightly scripted film which has a complex but easy to follow plot and a lot of strong dialogue for the cast to build up from. As a character study, it is very good. We get to know Clayton as a very multi-dimensional person; as a father, as a worker who detests his job but does it nonetheless, and as a man who struggles to find his moral center. If you would like to watch a well written thriller with some fine performances, this film is for you.
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7. They Live (1988)
John Carpenter makes yet another unique, creative, bizarre, and really far out sci-fi movie with ‘They Live’ which deals an alien invasion, and we discover the aliens have already invaded quite successfully without our knowledge, and it is up to Drifter John Naada (Roddy Piper) with a pair of sunglasses to take them down. The political satire expressed in this is absolutely brilliant and still completely applicable by today’s standards and without that the movie wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable. ‘They Live’ never endeavors to take itself too seriously – sure, it has a message to it, but even in the final moments of the film, we’re left belly laughing at what is an all-around extremely entertaining film. Piper, surprisingly enough, is a believable protagonist, bringing both the presence and macho charisma.
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6. The Parallax View (1974)
This is probably the best of the 70s paranoia thrillers as far as complexity and shock value goes. The movie is very slow-paced and manipulative, but it’s such a unique and powerful experience. Government conspiracies are either topics for very bad movies or very good movies; this is definitely one of the better. Warren Beatty plays such a great character and way of attaining the plot’s information. For a 70s premise, this was shocking at its release and still sort of is. To have a sense of powerlessness is truly scary. Michael Small’s score is also effectively atmospheric. This is one of those movies which contain ample scenes that will remain engraved in my memory, which must be taken as a sign of real quality.
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5. The Insider (1999)
‘The Insider’, by Michael Mann, tells the true story of a man who decided to tell the world what the seven major tobacco companies knew about the dangers of their product. It is indeed a masterpiece of visual style, moving performances, penetrating dialogue and a captivating story. It is cool, steeped in reality and amazingly suspenseful yet manages to avoid the emotional distance that Mann often employs. The reason for the movie’s success is surely that it is based on a real story and therefore deals with real characters. Russell Crowe delivers what could be one of his finest performances as a stolid suffering whistle-blower in this corporate conspiracy thriller. Michael Mann examines here how brutal and catastrophic it can be for a common man to stand up against the corporate giants. A truly remarkable film by all means.
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4. All the President’s Men (1976)
The heralded classic about the Watergate scandal is a riveting journalistic thriller. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford are nearly perfect as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. They risk their reputations and perhaps “live” in uncovering the Watergate scandal. What’s amazing is that the outcome is known before you watch the film, yet it doesn’t detract from the palpable tension and suspense. ‘All the President’s Men’ applauds the people who value the truth and gives the viewer an idea of what investigative journalism should be. But more importantly, it shows the power of words and knowledge and gives you a hint about the relationship between the press and the government.
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3. The Conversation (1974)
This all-time classic by Francis Ford Coppola follows sound surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) who is conspired to record daily life conversations of a young couple. This film was Coppola’s return to slow-paced, crafty art films and homage to Michelangelo Antonioni ‘Blow-Up’. With its haunting mix of suspense and paranoia and its reflections and arguments on the dark side of technological advancements as well as the dark side of the often glamorized world of private investigating, ‘The Conversation’ is also a perfectly structured film that is among Francis Ford Coppola’s greatest achievements. Its greatness is backed up by a superb performance by Hackman as the deeply troubled central figure.
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2. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
It’s always amazing when a speculative work of fiction proves to be so prescient that it foreshadows the political climate of an entire decade. That’s exactly what ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ did. It tells the story of a platoon of G.I.’s who are captured during the Korean War, brainwashed using advanced techniques by Communist Chinese and Soviet forces and then shipped back to the United States to wage a covert war of espionage, terror and assassination as “sleeper soldiers”. It is an insanely plotted and brilliantly handled political paranoia thriller, a mixture of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and All The King’s Men. Brilliant and harrowing; very much a product of its time, with its brainwashing theme, it holds up well for successive generations.
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1. JFK (1991)
Yes! Oliver Stone’s masterpiece is quite probably the best conspiracy movie all of time. It is the most truthful investigation to a heinous crime. Stone utilizes his incredible cast of characters extremely well. It is riveting, engaging, and fascinating from start to finish, despite its historical inaccuracies and conjuncture. Despite its length-a bit over three hours, the film’s prolific cast, coupled with its fascinating insights and theories, leaves the viewer completely invested throughout. The film effectively captures and reproduces the overwhelming emotions of a country during a very dark moment in American history. It is a dialogue-driven film with a terrific screenplay and highly interesting information despite its leftish, controversial material. Oliver Stone’s film transcends the obvious scope with complex talking and open-minded development.
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