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The 10 greatest elections in movies

the campaign

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“The Campaign” opens in theaters this weekend, offering a spin on the modern election process as only Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis can. And while their take on the North Carolina congressional campaign is sure to be memorable, it’s far from the first peek behind the curtains — funny or otherwise — that Hollywood has given us.

Here are ten of our favorite movies that feature an election as a prominent plot device, and take a unique angle on the inevitable mud-slinging, pandering, and uncertain alliances that have made political campaigns the stuff of great storytelling fodder.

“Election” (1999)

Appropriately enough, this dark comedy is widely regarded as one of the best movies about an election you’ll ever see. It stars Matthew Broderick as a high-school teacher whose decision to help out with the school elections adds no small amount of stress to his already troubled life, while Reese Witherspoon plays the over-achieving student who will stop at nothing to become class president. A supremely clever satire of suburban life and politics, the film is an adaptation of a 1998 novel by Tom Perrotta, and received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, among other accolades.

“Wag The Dog” (1997)

Another dark comedy about modern politics, this film stars Robert De Niro as a Washington spin doctor who hires a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to create a fictional war that will distract the public from a scandal threatening a presidential candidate’s bid for reelection. It’s a fascinating look at the marketing machine behind political campaigns and the very real process of manipulating public opinion on a massive scale. While the film differs greatly from the Larry Beinhart novel that inspired it, it’s still an eye-opening look at how politicians can curry favor and the fantastic illusions that have become an integral part of today’s politics.

“Primary Colors” (1998)

John Travolta plays a charismatic Southern politician vying for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in this drama based on Joe Klein’s popular 1996 novel of the same name. As his run to the White House gains momentum, his campaign is joined by an idealistic advisor played by Adrian Lester and a tough veteran played by Kathy Bates, and each discover in their own ways how much their candidate’s personal and political personas differ behind the scenes. Bates’ performance in the film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, while the film itself received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

“Bulworth” (1998)

This weird 1998 film was co-written, co-produced and directed by its star, Warren Beatty, and follows a lifetime politician who sees the end of his career drawing nigh, and decides to go out with a bang — only to find out that giving up on traditional politics could be the best way to get reelected. While the film wasn’t exactly well received, it does hold the distinction of having not one but two scenes in which Warren Beatty raps. (No, seriously.)

“Black Sheep” (1996)

Before Ferrell and Galifianakis hit the campaign trail, there was Chris Farley and David Spade in this painfully funny film about a guy (Farley) who just wants to help out his brother’s political campaign, but ends up doing more harm than good. While it’s not the best of Farley’s buddy films, it has more than a fair share of memorable scenes featuring the big guy and serves as a great reminder of why he always kept us laughing.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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