Written and directed by Alexander Payne, ‘Election’ is a dark comedy adapted from American author Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same title, which was published in 1998. The film follows Matthew Broderick as Jim McAllister, a popular high school social studies teacher who during the school’s student body election tries to stop a candidate named Tracy Enid Flick, essayed by Reese Witherspoon, because he believes that she is not the right person to hold the title of the class president. The film is truly a work of art which utilizes the genre of black comedy to comment on the subject of school politics. Though it was a box office bomb, ‘Election’ received highly positive reviews from critics.
For this article, I have taken into account films that explore the genres of black comedy and political satire, and share stylistic or thematic similarities to this Alexander Payne classic. So, without further ado, here is the list of best movies similar to ‘Election’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘Election’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. The Interview (2013)
This film, as Seth Rogen said, “nearly started a war”. ‘The Interview’ is an stunningly bold piece of work. It follows Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapaport who are famed for airing the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight”. While they are usually mocked by their cohorts for their unimportant journalism, their life seems to turn 180 degrees when a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, contacts them for giving an exclusive interview. However, things quickly turn tense when the CIA intervenes and forcefully recruits them to assassinate the tyrant leader. Co-directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and written by Dan Sterling, ‘The Interview’ was banned for its political overtones.
9. The Campaign (2012)
Directed by Jay Roach and co-written by Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell, ‘The Campaign’ is the story of Camden “Cam” Brady, an incumbent Representative who gets entangled in a personal scandal and is forced to confront his challenges which are brought forth by Martin Sylvester “Marty” Huggins, a naive newcomer who is funded by two unscrupulous billionaire lobbyist brothers. The film stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as the two leads, along with with John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd. ‘The Campaign’ is quite reminiscent of the comedic structure in Adam McKay’s ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ (2004), which is quite obvious given the fact McKay produced the film. The film explores a variety of themes such as the American electoral process and the corporate hunger for money. It was released on August 12, 2012, but wasn’t a huge financial success, grossing $104.9 million against a budget of $95 million.
8. Team America: World Police (2004)
Directed by Trey Parker and co-written by Matt Stone, Pam Brady and Parker, this 2004 comedy follows Gary Johnston, a popular Broadway actor, who is recruited by an elite counter-terrorism organization called “Team America: World Police”. As the world begins to crumble around him, Johnston has to rise up to the occasion to battle terrorists, celebrities, and, love. It is a striking satire about the celebrity culture and the American political structure. With rib-tickling comedy and commentary sparkled over the narrative and an innovate use of animation, ‘Team America: World Police’ is one of the most innovate films in recent times.
7. The Dictator (2012)
With Sacha Baron Cohen donning the role of an autocratic, sexist, and anti-semitic dictator named Admiral-General Aladeen, hilarity would surely ooze out in abundance. Directed by Larry Charles and co-written by Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer and Cohen, ‘The Dictator’ chronicles the “heroic” deeds of Aladeen, who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never be established in the country he hates with all his heart. Though the film is not the comedic genius that ‘Borat’ was, it is still a hysterical work which smartly explores the slapstick comedy genre. Coupled with some side-splitting comic arcs is the brilliant performance of Cohen as the despot who gets into the role like a chameleon. The stringing unsubtle political commentary and the over-the-top performances made the film a massive success. It grossed over $179 million against a budget of $65 million.
6. The Great McGinty (1940)
A political satire, ‘The Great McGinty’ is the story of the titular Dan McGinty, a man who has had great success in crooked politics. The film depicts how he endangers his position and what leads him to become honest and the complications that follow. Written and directed by Preston Sturges, ‘The Great McGinty’ employs his political ideologies within the narrative to carve out the story of the protagonist. The narrative is crafted with astonishing complexity, which makes for an intellectually stimulating experience. ‘The Great McGinty’ was met with positive critical reception and Sturges went on to win the Academy Award for “Best Original Screenplay”.
5. The Mouse That Roared (1959)
Adapted from the cold war satirical novel ‘The Mouse That Roared’, written by Irish author Leonard Wibberley, this 1959 film of the same name chronicles the efforts of an impoverished backward nation which declares war on the United States of America, in the hopes of losing. However, things don’t go according to plan, which creates the hilarious story henceforth – bizarre enough? The film is quite a masterful work of art as it delivers on a bizarre premise without getting derailed. Directed by Jack Arnold and written by Leonard Wibberley, the movie received positive reviews upon its release. In addition, the film was also a surprise hit at the box office, grossing $2,000,000 against a budget of $450,000.
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4. Wag the Dog (1997)
A black comedy with Hollywood legends Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman headlining, ‘Wag the Dog’ follows the two actors playing the roles of Conrad Brean, a spin doctor, and Stanley Motss, a Hollywood Producer, who, just at the cusp of an election, decide to work in collusion to fabricate a war in order to cover up a Presidential sex scandal. Directed by Barry Levinson and co-written by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet, ‘Wag the Dog’ is an adaption of American author Larry Beinhart’s satirical novel ‘American Hero’, published in 1993. The film is extremely well written and the performances of De Niro and Hoffman elevate it into a different level altogether. The black comedy won positive critical response and grossed $64.3 million against a budget of $15 million.
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3. In the Loop (2009)
A satirical black comedy, ‘In the Loop’ follows a group of skeptical and cynical American and British operatives who attempt to callously prevent a war between two countries. Directed by Scottish satirist and filmmaker Armando Iannucci and co-written by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Iannucci, the film is a spin-off of the BBC Television series ‘The Thick of It’ (2005-2012). ‘In the Loop’ uses comedy to satirize the Anglo-American politics and the invasion of Iraq. The intrinsic writing juggles with various themes and issues and was met with critical acclaim upon its release. ‘In the Loop’ holds a rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, bagged a nomination for an Academy Award for “Best Adapted Screenplay” and was a big commercial success.
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2. Bananas (1971)
Directed by Woody Allen and co-written by Mickey Rose and Allen, ‘Bananas’ chronicles the story of Fielding Mellish, essayed by Allen, a clumsy and naïve New Yorker, who travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion, after being dumped by his activist girlfriend. The film is an archetypal Allen creation. The director uses his own idiosyncrasies to expand further on larger political and social concepts and ideologies. The movie was met with immensely positive reactions and has gone on to become a classic. It was inducted in American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Laughs” and holds an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
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1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
One of the most cerebral and well crated black comedies of all time, ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ contains elements that epitomize the genius of the great Stanley Kubrick. It satirizes the nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States in the midst of the Cold War. The film is a pioneering piece of work in the genre of black comedy and political satire.
Though it did not bag any awards at mainstream award ceremonies, the movie, over the years, has gone on to be regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It was inducted on American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Laughs” and won the “American comedy award” from the Writers Guild of America. In addition, it bagged a “Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation”, and the “Grand Prix” of the Belgian Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. It was also one of the first films to be inducted for preservation in the National Film Registry.
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