DID YOU READ

Universal offers up 100 fun movie facts for their centennial celebration

Universal Pictures 100th Anniversary Logo

Posted by on

Did you know the working title for “E.T.” was “A Boy’s Life”? Or that both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras in “Field of Dreams”? All of those facts plus 98 more were released today by Universal Pictures to tease their 100th anniversary. Included are everything from the name of the mechanical shark in “Jaws” to what Bela Lugosi was wearing at his funeral.

It’s a fascinating list for movie buffs so check it out below. When you’re finished with that, hit up Universal’s birthday website here to find out more about the dozens of new centennial edition Blu-rays and DVDs that the company is releasing this year.


1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.

2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.

3. The working title for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was “A Boy’s Life.”

4. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”

5. In 1969, a then 22-year old Steven Spielberg was assigned to direct the Universal Television series pilot, Night Gallery. It’s safe to say things went pretty well for Steven after that.

6. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.

7. The first feature filmed at Universal City was Damon and Pythias in 1914.

8. President Ronald Reagan starred in the 1951 Universal feature film, Bedtime for Bonzo.

9. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.

10. The film A Beautiful Mind was shot in sequence in order to help Russell Crowe better develop his character’s emotional and physical arc.

11. American Graffiti’s budget was exactly $777,777.77, and it was delivered on time – and on budget.

12. In the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds, Tippi Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird during the shooting of one sequence.

13. Throughout his career, Rock Hudson appeared in 46 feature films with Universal including Pillow Talk, All That Heaven Allows and Magnificent Obsession. In 1953, he was elected Mayor of Universal City.

14. The infamous apple pie in the movie American Pie was purchased by the production from Costco.

15. In the movie The Breakfast Club, the students ate the following for lunch: Andrew: A bag of chips, chocolate cookies, three sandwiches, milk, a banana and an apple. Claire: Sushi. Allison: Sandwich with Pixie Stix and Captain Crunch cereal. Brian: Soup, sandwich with peanut butter and jam and apple juice. Bender: Nothing.

16. In Brokeback Mountain, the song Jack plays on his harmonica is “He Was a Friend of Mine,” the same song Willie Nelson sings during the closing credits.

17. The film Buck Privates took in $4 million at the U.S. Box Office (at a time when theater admission ranged between 10 and 25 cents).

18. A sneak preview of the film Buck Privates was held in late January 1941 for soldiers at Fort MacArthur, California.

19. The Munster’s House on Colonial Street was originally built for the 1946 production, So Goes My Love.

20. The title of the movie Do The Right Thing comes from a Malcolm X quote: “You’ve got to do the right thing.”

21. According to reports, during some of the Russian roulette scenes in the movie The Deer Hunter, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors’ tension per Robert De Niro’s suggestion. It was checked, however, to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled.

22. In the first scene of the movie Double Indemnity, when Walter first kisses Phyllis, there is a wedding ring on Walter’s hand. Fred MacMurray was married and the ring was not noticed until post-production.

23. When Bela Lugosi, star of the monster classic, Dracula, died in 1956, he was buried wearing a black silk cape similar to the one he wore in the film.

24. At 29,500 sq. ft., Universal Studios’ Stage 12 is the 7th largest soundstage in the world. It was originally built for the 1929 musical Broadway.

25. Carl Laemmle Jr. offered James Whale a list of more than 30 film adaptations he could direct and out of them all, Whale picked Frankenstein. It was his transition from war movies to monster pics.

26. Today’s Universal City officially opened March 15, 1915. Nearly three years after Universal Film Manufacturing Company was created. The first mayor was Herbert Rawlinson.

27. Vans, the company behind the checkerboard shoes worn by Sean Penn (a.k.a. Jeff Spicoli) in the cult movie classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, became a national brand after the film’s release in 1982.

28. Actor Charlton Heston “parted” the Red Sea attraction on the Universal Studios Tour at the attraction’s grand opening in 1973.

29. Neither Michelle Rodriguez nor Jordana Brewster had drivers’ licenses or even learners’ permits before production of the film in Fast and the Furious.

30. Universal pioneered the Academy Award-winning Sensurround Sound System which made its first appearance in the 1974 movie, Earthquake. The Sensurround system caused low-frequency audio waves to be felt by the audience and created a visceral complement to the seismic tremors and destruction depicted on screen..

31. In the movie Field of Dreams, both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are among the thousands of extras in the Fenway Park scene. Over a decade later, when Phil Alden Robinson worked with Affleck on the production of The Sum of All Fears, Affleck said, “Nice working with you again.”

32. In the coliseum scenes in Gladiator, only the bottom two decks are actually filled with people. The other thousands of spectators are computer-animated.

33. Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey was the first actress at Universal to receive a nomination for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards.

34. William Powell from the 1936 film, My Man Godfrey was the first actor at Universal to receive a nomination for “Best Actor” at the Academy Awards.

35. The Universal sound technician, Jack Foley, developed the method of creating and recording many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film. Today this method is named after him.

36. Universal’s first talking picture was Melody of Love.

37. The Universal Amphitheatre opened in 1972 with a staged concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The film version was released in 1973.

38. The legendary thriller and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock did not win any Academy Awards while working with Universal.

39. Thomas Edison presented Universal Studios with a plaque dedicating its first electric studio on October 27, 1915.

40. In the infamous shower scene in Psycho, the sound of the knife-stabbing actress Janet Leigh was made by plunging a knife into a melon.

41. The film Traffic in Souls is considered Universal’s first full-length feature film.

42. The legendary studio head Irving Thalberg got his start in show business as Carl Laemmle’s personal secretary in 1917.

43. ET: The Extra Terrestrial is Universal Pictures’ all-time highest grossing film.

44. With the over-budget production of Show Boat, Carl Laemmle was forced to sell Universal Studios to his creditors in 1936.

45. In 1995, Waterworld generated worldwide attention for being the most expensive film made to date. Unable to live up to expectations at the box office, the film eventually turned a profit due to strong home video sales and inspired one of the most popular theme park attractions of all time.

46. About 25% of the film Jaws was shot from water level so audiences could better relate to treading water.

47. In the film The Invisible Man, the director dressed Claude Rains in black velvet and filmed him against a black velvet background to create the effect that he wasn’t there.

48. Some of the props used in the 2005 version of King Kong were original props from the 1933 version. These props came from Peter Jackson’s personal collection and include the Skull Island spears and brightly painted shield, and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene.

49. In Jurassic Park, a guitar string was used to make the water ripple on the dash of the Ford Explorer by attaching it to the underside of the dash beneath the glass.

50. Universal entered the 3-D market with the film, It Came from Outer Space (1953)

51. Universal won its first Best Picture Academy Award for All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930.

52. Steven Spielberg nicknamed the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws, “Bruce.”

53. In the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, when Louise is on the phone asking for the operator, the music playing on the radio is the theme song to Written on the Wind, which was made at Universal the year prior.

54. The script Charlton Heston holds in the film Earthquake as he’s running lines with Genevieve Bujold is actually the script for “Earthquake” and on the page of the scene being shot.

55. It took two-and-a-half hours a day to apply Lon Chaney’s makeup in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

56. Legendary Universal Chairman Lew R. Wasserman received an Academy Award in 1973 for his role as a humanitarian.

57. With the film Meet the Fockers, the MPAA would not allow use of the name ‘Focker’ unless the filmmakers could find an actual person with that last name.

58. The first American film to show a toilet flushing on screen was Psycho.

59. While Jurassic Park was in post-production, Steven Spielberg began working on Schindler’s List in Poland and worked via satellite, courtesy of technology provided by George Lucas.

60. In the film, Scarface, an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel is Tony’s “little friend.”

61. The 1932 film Scarface was one of the first films to feature the Thompson submachine gun, known historically as the “tommy gun.”

62. In the film Pillow Talk, Tony Randall was supposed to fake a reaction to being decked in the face by one of the restaurant patrons. However, during filming, the actor overestimated and actually knocked out Randall. The shot was so well done— it was used in the film.

63. Alfred Hitchcock did not choose to conclude the film, The Birds, with the usual “THE END” title because he wanted to leave the audience with the feeling of unending terror and uncertainty.

64. Groucho Marx explained the title Duck Soup as follows: “Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup the rest of your life.”

65. For Despicable Me, the film’s directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin provide most of the voices for Gru’s minions.

66. In The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy, the family dinner scene was initially going to be cut out due to what was believed to be its lack of relevance.

67. When the Universal Studios Tour opened to the general public in 1964, the general admission price for one adult was $2.50.

68. The children who sang the song, “Every Sperm is Sacred” in the Monty Python film, The Meaning of Life, later said they had no idea what sperm was or what they were singing about.

69. In the film, My Little Chickadee, Cuthbert J. Twille (W.C. Fields) says to Flower Belle (Mae West), “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”—This is in reference to West’s famous line in the film She Done Him Wrong.

70. The following institutions have existed at one time on the Universal Studios lot—a school, zoo, and hospital.

71. The hair-washing scene in Out of Africa was shot very close to a live, territorial hippopotamus. Meryl Streep was extremely nervous during its filming.

72. The locusts in the 1999 film, The Mummy, were mostly computer-generated, however, some live grasshoppers were used. Hours before filming they were chilled in a refrigerator to make them more sluggish.

73. In Smokey and the Bandit, the Trans-Am featured in the bridge jump scene was fitted with a more powerful Chevrolet engine.

74. The average shot length in the film Vertigo is 6.7 seconds.

75. The permanent set in Stage 28 was created to be a replica of the landmark The Paris Opera House, for the classic film, The Phantom of the Opera.

76. When you hear the sound of the crowd cheering, “Spartacus! Spartacus!” in the movie Spartacus, it was actually a pre-taped recording from a 1959 football game at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium.

77. In Sullivan’s Travels, director Preston Sturges can be seen in the background on the set of ‘The Girls’ period movie.

78. The cake in the movie Sixteen Candles is made of cardboard.

79. The final speech by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.

80. The diner in the movie The Sting is the same diner interior used in Back to the Future.

81. In 1928, famous cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, debuted at a Universal-owned theater.

82. Elizabeth Taylor made her feature film debut in Universal’s 1942 film, There’s One Born Every Minute.

83. Yes, at some point, some Universal executive, or team of executives, thought 1986’s Howard the Duck was a good idea.

84. The dog chase scene at the beginning of the film Beethoven was filmed on the Universal backlot.

85. The title of the film Streets of Fire starring Michael Paré and Diane Lane, was drawn from a Bruce Springsteen song, from his album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The song, unfortunately, does not appear in the film.

86. Robert Redford’s character in The Sting is named after blues legend John Lee Hooker. The character’s name is Johnny Hooker.

87. 1920’s Shipwrecked Among Cannibals was the first film to gross $1,000,000 for Universal.

88. Prominent Universal Director Edward Laemmle was the nephew of Universal Founder Carl Laemmle. He directed over 60 films (including shorts) for Universal.

89. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the films that are watched by the “employees” in the Smar-Tech store are all produced by Universal.

90. The Blues Brothers “Bluesmobile” is a 1974 Dodge Monaco.

91. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is only the second time Bela Lugosi would play “Dracula” in a feature film. (He played other vampires in the interim, but not Dracula.)

92. In 1973’s High Plains Drifter starring Clint Eastwood, one of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute.

93. On Golden Pond was Henry Fonda’s final film, and the only one he starred in with his daughter Jane.

94. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is the third major motion picture produced by Universal from a book written by Theodore Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

95. In 1992’s Scent of Woman, Al Pacino repeatedly shouts “Hoo-ah.” “Hoo-ah” comes from the military acronym “HUA” which stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”

96. The car wash in Car Wash was named The Dee Luxe Car Wash.

97. 1971’s Play Misty for Me was set in Carmel, CA, where Clint Eastwood later lived and became mayor in 1986.

98. “The Bride” in “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only one of Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters to have never killed anyone.

99. Throughout its hundred year legacy, Universal brought to audiences the first films of talents such as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Norman Jewison, Ben Stiller, Robert Zemeckis, John Hughes, Amy Heckerling, Spike Jonze, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow.

100. More than 100 million people from around the world have taken the Universal Studios “studio tour.” While the tour officially began in 1964, Universal has been welcoming the public to our studio since 1915 and the silent era.

Which of these movie facts did you find most interesting? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Watch More
Bill Hader as Stefon Breaking Character

The Break-Up

Watch Bill Hader and Other SNL Favorites Break Character

Catch Bill Hader on the new season of Documentary Now! premiering September 14th at 10P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: NBC/YouTube

Aw, Friday. A day of happy hours that begin at 4PM and “too rotten to miss” movies like Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey on IFC’s Rotten Fridays. A truly magical day where the possibilities are endless and the regrets are just around the corner. So as we partake in the pre-weekend, sit back and enjoy another gaggle of funny videos to run out the clock.

From a despondent croissant to unintended giggling on SNL, here are the five best videos of the week.

1. SNL Cast Breaks Up

Saturday Night Live head honcho Lorne Michaels famously decries ad-libbing during the live runs — though with hilarious folks like Will Ferrell and Documentary Now!‘s Bill Hader, there are bound to be some unscripted moments that cause the cast to lose it during a sketch. Some of the greatest SNL moments involve the players or guests breaking character, as this compilation clearly shows. (Fortunately, the shame of ruining the scene has been replaced by video viralbility.)


2. Croissant Man

Pity the breakfast pastry, for its existential ennui is too much for this world. In this short courtesy of the NY Television Festival, our favorite light and flakey morning pal waxes melodramatically to his therapist and compatriots regarding the hopeless, Sartre-level gloom that hangs over every search for Life’s purpose. (Click here to see more great shorts from the NYTVF.)


3. That Time Ray Charles Beat Willie Nelson in Chess

For your guaranteed smile of the day, here’s the tale of a game of chess between crooners Ray Charles and Willie Nelson. Turns out ol’ Ray was a bona fide chess master on par with Bobby Fischer — or maybe he was just good at evening the field by making them play in the dark. As Willie puts it, “He kicked my ass three games in a row!”


4. Why Jump Scares Suck

Ever since primitive man leapt out of a bush to scare his friend, jump scares have been employed as a cheap and easy way to jolt your audience. As YouTuber Jack Nugent explains in the latest Now You See It video, it’s far more difficult to instill a growing sense of dread and suspense than just simply having a cat screech across the foreground of a dimly lit basement.


5. Best Supporting Weirdo

“Here’s to the crazy ones,” Steve Jobs famously said, paying homage to the oddballs and misfits who stand out from the pack and, more often than not, define their surroundings. In this rapid-fire supercut, some of our favorite nutjobs (like Beetlejuice, Cameron Frye and Death) are paid homage for keeping pop culture protagonists on edge and the audience entertained.

Watch More
Bill and Ted Bogus Journey Keanu Reeves Alex Winter

Rotten Journey

5 Reasons Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey Is Too Rotten to Miss

Have an excellent time with Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey tonight at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

We live in an age of unimaginative sequels. Filmmakers know the easiest way to cash in is to trot out the same plot and characters and hope we don’t notice. Which is why what we need now more than ever is Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, airing tonight at 8P as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays.

Sure, the 1991 sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (coincidentally airing on IFC tonight at 6P before Bogus Journey) scored a meager 54% on the Rotten Tomatoes. (Even before the “Tomatometer” was a thing, Bogus Journey was the definition of a lackluster sequel.) But its mix of head-scratching craziness (Robots! Aliens! William Sadler as Death!) and solid gags (“You sunk my Battleship!”) have earned the flick a cult following among fans of oddball sequels. Before you tune in tonight, check out some reasons why Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey earns the coveted title of being one of IFC and Rotten Tomatoes’ movies that are “too rotten to miss.”

5. It’s Visually Most Triumphant.

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

The first movie may be a classic, but there’s no doubt the look of this scorned sequel took things to a whole other level. Instead of resting on Excellent Adventure‘s laurels, new director Peter Hewitt decided to go for broke creatively, offering up a vivid visual style that highlighted the film’s themes of life, death, failure and regret. While it may not be the popular opinion, there’s no doubt that as pure eye candy Bogus blew the first flick out of the water. Just ask Michael Wilmington, who wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “Bogus Journey is better than the original: more imaginative, more opulent, wilder and freer, more excitingly visualized.” Righteous review, dude!


4. Evil Bill and Ted Robots? Excellent!

Bogus Journey robots
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Bill and Ted have to be two of the most loveable doofuses to ever grace the silver screen, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that seeing them go full-on bad guy is a real treat. The evil robot clones of Bill and Ted still have their sleepy-eyed, stoner outlook on life — they just also happen to be bad to the bone. This fun twist brings new life to the franchise, another example of how screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon really mixed things up. Plus, they rock!


3. Bill and Ted Go To Hell. Outstanding!

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

If Tim Burton ever directed a Freddy Krueger movie, it might end up looking something like Bill and Ted’s journey to Hell. While the sequence is righteously funny — with an unending descent into Hades going from terrifying to boring in the blink of an eye — it also has a dark, nightmarish quality that’s like an M.C Escher painting that knows your deepest, darkest secrets. Alex Winter’s turn as young Bill’s toothless “Granny Preston” wanting a kiss still gives us nightmares.


2. The Grim Reaper is Bodacious.

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

William Sadler, who’s played everything from a badass terrorist in Die Hard 2 to a loveable convict in The Shawshank Redemption, kills it as, well, Death. Heavily influence by Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Sadler plays the Grim Reaper as a stoic force of nature who learns to loosen up thanks to some righteous new friends. The scene where Bill and Ted best him in a batch of board games may seem a bit broad at first blush, but what are Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. supposed to do? Play chess?


1. The Dudes Truly Become Wyld Stallyns.

Bogus Journey Wyld Stallyns
Orion Pictures

One of the few shortcomings from the most unrivaled first film is that we never really get to see the boys become rock legends. Thanks to some time traveling shortcuts — and a 16-month sabbatical of guitar lessons and baby making — Bogus Journey ends with the Wyld Stallyns finally living up to their righteous reputation, ready to make the music that will put an end to war and poverty and align the planets into universal harmony. Also, it’s excellent for dancing.

Catch Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey this Friday at 8P on IFC’s Rotten Fridays!

Watch More
Bulworth Warren Beatty

Choose or Lose

The Funniest Political Comedies From the ’90s

Documentary Now! tackles '90s politics with "The Bunker," premiering September 14th at 10P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

While this election season seems like the greatest source of political comedy ever, it’s got nothing on the ’90s. During the original recipe Clinton Era, there were a large number of films that shined a light on the dark humor of politics.

As we gear up for the September 14th premiere of “The Bunker,” the season premiere episode of Documentary Now! that takes a look back at the tumultuous 1992 Ohio Governor race, let’s flashback to a simpler time when Donald Trump was just a rich guy happy to be in Home Alone 2. It was the time of flannel shirts, Beavis and Butt-head and politicians with their heads up their own butts. Grab some Crystal Pepsi and check out the funniest political comedies of the ’90s.

10. My Fellow Americans (1996)

Legendary actors James Garner and Jack Lemmon play two politically opposite ex-Presidents thrust together in an attempt to prove that the current President (played by Dan Aykroyd) is behind a bribery scandal that Lemmon’s Pres. Kramer is being framed for. My Fellow Americans was supposed to star Lemmon and his Grumpy Old Men costar Walter Matthau, who backed out of the project due to health problems. As great a duo as they were, James Garner seemed like the perfect choice for Pres. Douglas — with his natural Southern charm, his character is like an older Bill Clinton.


9. The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)

The Distinguished Gentleman might be the last movie you would shout out if you were ever on Family Feud and “Eddie Murphy movies” was a category, but it’s still a fun comedy with Eddie bringing the cool factor that made him a huge star in the ’80s. Here Murphy plays a con man who decides to run for a Florida Congressional seat because he shares the same name as the congressman in his district up for re-election who just died of a heart attack. After getting the backing of a Florida seniors organization (the Silver Foxes), Murphy’s appropriately named Thomas Jefferson Johnson runs as the “name you know” and ends up winning. He starts out buying into the idea of “playing the game” in order to get paid by lobbyists but eventually ends up changing his con-man ways. Hey, it’s a ’90s Eddie Murphy comedy. Things tended to work out in Eddie’s favor.


8. Black Sheep (1996)

The second buddy road trip comedy starring Chris Farley and David Spade suffers from being compared to the much funnier Tommy Boy, but there are still some hilarious moments here. Farley, in one of his final roles, plays Mike Donnelly, a well-meaning but goofy mess who manages to repeatedly muck up his brother’s campaign for Governor. Casting Tim Matheson, of Animal House fame, as the smarter and handsomer brother was a great choice and Farley and Spade get into plenty of shenanigans including encountering Gary Busey as a crazed Vietnam Vet. The scene where Farley takes the stage at a “Rock the Vote” concert will have you snorting Crystal Pepsi out of your nose.


7. The American President (1995)

Before he created The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin honed his presidential speech writing skills with the screenplay for The American President, a romantic comedy where Michael Douglas’ single Prez romances Annette Bening’s plucky environmental lobbyist. Directed by rom-com master Rob Reiner, the movie is loaded with sweet and funny moments, like when Pres. Shepherd (Douglas) calls Sydney (Bening) to ask her out the first time and she hangs up thinking it’s a prank call. We even get a sneak peek of President Bartlett, as Martin Sheen turns up as Shepherd’s no-nonsense his Chief-of-Staff. Sorkin claims he wrote the screenplay during a time when he smoked a crack. If that’s the case, every screenwriter should be give that method a try.


6. Wag the Dog (1997)

Before Dustin Hoffman joined Robert De Niro’s “circle of trust” in Meet the Fockers, the legendary actors co-starred in the David Mamet-scripted dark comedy Wag the Dog. You can’t capture the era of ’90s politics better than a film dealing with the cover-up of a Presidential sex scandal. Oddly, the movie actually came out before Monica Lewinsky and her dress entered the minds of Americans. Today, the plot of Wag the Dog might be an episode of Scandal, but if you look back to 1997, it was a biting political satire of what goes on behind-the-scenes of power and politics. De Niro plays D.C. spin-doctor Conrad Bean, who hires a Hollywood producer to stage a fake war in Albania as a distraction to help insure the President’s re-election. In a stellar cast that also includes Anne Heche and Woody Harrelson as a psychotic ex-soldier turned war hero, Hoffman stands out as a Hollywood bigwig who has a strong resemblance to Godfather producer Robert Evans. (Look for Bill Hader’s take on Evans in the new season of Documentary Now!.)


5. Bulworth (1998)

Warren Beatty was born with the looks of a guy who should run for Senate, and in Bulworth he plays a veteran senator who has lost his way and hires a hit man to kill him. Faced with his impending death, Senator Bulworth has an almost religious conversion to honesty and starts railing against the corruption of corporate money in politics. (We imagine Bernie Sanders has this one in his Netflix queue.) Like a lot of ’90s movies comedies, there is a gimmicky scene where Bulworth raps during a speech. Still, the film is so sharply written, the scene is both hilarious and a prescient look at the way white establishment types would go on to co-opt hip-hop culture.


4. Bob Roberts (1992)

If you love a good mockumentary with conservative folk songs (who doesn’t?), Bob Roberts is the movie for you. Tim Robbins wrote, directed and starred in this underrated comedy, which was inspired by a SNL sketch he had appeared in a few years earlier. Bob Roberts is a folk-singing, conservative self-made millionaire running for Congress in Pennsylvania who appears to be 100% All-American. Robbins is great at using his wholesome grin to mask the fact that his character is a drug smuggling tyrant with fits of rage. Look for everyone from Alan Rickman as Roberts’ campaign manager to a young Jack Black (see above) as a scarily enthusiastic fan.


3. Dick (1999)

Before the Watergate scandal informant was revealed, there were plenty of theories over the years as to who “Deep Throat” really was. The 1999 comedy Dick posits a possible alternate history of Nixon’s downfall as it follows two adorably upbeat and politically clueless teenage girls (energetically played by Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) who randomly become “Tricky” Dick’s dog walkers after ending up meeting him on a White House field trip. Over the course of the rollicking disco-fied comedy the girls come in contact with every player in the infamous White House scandal, including a hilarious Woodward and Bernstein, played by Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch of Kids in the Hall fame. (The duo’s ’70s hair alone is worth watching for.) Dan Hedaya is perfectly cast as Nixon, showcasing a softer side of the infamous president after he unwittingly eats some pot cookies. An underrated comedy, Dick is a blast of ’70s fun and a great showcase for its cast of rising stars.


2. Dave (1993)

Dave is a classic everyman-turned-hero story with a winning Kevin Kline as an affable guy who just happens to be a dead-ringer for the leader of the free world. When Pres. Mitchell has a stroke while fooling around with his mistress, his Chief of Staff (Frank Langella) hatches a plan to temporarily have Kline’s Dave fill in for the President. Langella and Kline are great together, and the scene where Dave calls his accountant friend (played by Charles Grodin) to come over to the White House and balance the budget is just one of the sharp ways director Ivan Reitman and screenwriter Gary Ross (Big) poke fun at politics. Look for Sigourney Weaver, reteaming with Reitman after the Ghostbusters movies, as the First Lady who slowly begins to realize something is off about her Husband-in-Chief.


1. Election (1999)

If you think national politics is cutthroat, just wait until you meet high school president candidate Tracy Flick. Tracy, as played by Reese Witherspoon, is like a teenage version of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, but without the likeable personality. Mathew Broderick hits all the right notes as the teacher who starts off being respected but finds his whole life falling apart while overseeing the election. A dark comedy that shows the downside of driven political candidates, Election is a film that remains topical with every new voting season.

Watch MTV’s Tabitha Soren covering the heated 1992 Ohio Governor race below. To find out who wins, catch the season premiere of Documentary Now! September 14th at 10P on IFC.

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet