The 10 greatest political films

Do you agree with our list?

This week's Critics is a cinema special, so in honour of the occasion we have compiled a list of the 10 greatest political films. Tell us: do you agree with the list below? Which films would make your top ten?

All the President's Men, dir: Alan J Pakula (1976)

This real-life dramatisation of how the Watergate scandal was exposed makes the NS list not just because it details the work of the hotshot journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman), but because it is a fantastic thriller that lays bare the corruption of the Nixon presidency.

Battleship Potemkin, dir: Sergei Eisenstein (1925)

Made in the flood of ideas that followed the Russian Revolution, Potemkin tells the story of a mutiny, and helped shape film as we know it. Although it may be dismissed as Soviet propaganda in some quarters, that only raises the question: how much of what we watch today is propaganda of one sort or another?

Godzilla, dir: Ishiro Honda (1954)

Fans of Stanley Kubrick may protest that his satire on the atomic bomb, Dr Strangelove (1966), did not make our top ten; this is because Godzilla pipped it to the post. Honda's science-fiction tale, made less than a decade after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is a thinly veiled polemic against nuclear war. And it has a giant monster in it.

In the Loop, dir: Armando Iannucci (2009)

Not only was the Oscar-nominated satire (based on the television series The Thick
of It) proof that British comedy can transfer successfully to the big screen, but its sharp dialogue demonstrated how grotesquely language is manipulated by politicians in the pursuit of power.

Kadosh, dir: Amos Gitai (1999)

Set in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish area of Jerusalem, Kadosh details the plight of two sisters trapped by their community's strict customs. Gitai's stark realism and willingness to confront the harsh truths of Israeli society have made him a controversial figure in his home country.

La Chinoise, dir: Jean-Luc Godard (1967)

An alumnus of Cahiers du cinéma (see Emilie Bickerton's piece, facing), Godard became a more overtly political film-maker towards the end of the Sixties. Loosely based on Dostoevsky's 1872 novel The Possessed, La Chinoise is a portrait of a group of French students with revolution on the mind that vividly renders the excitement - and frustrations - of youthful idealism.

Land and Freedom, dir: Ken Loach (1995)

Following the journey of a young man from Liverpool who volunteers to fight in the Spanish civil war, Loach's film covers similar territory to George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. What makes Land and Freedom a great work in its own right is its ability to forge compelling drama from the battle of ideas that raged within the anti-fascist movement.

Nashville, dir: Robert Altman (1975)

Centred on the country'n'western music business and a shady political campaign, this two-and-a-half-hour epic was a state-of-the-nation address to the United States as the country approached its 200th birthday.

Strawberry and Chocolate, dir: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1994)

The world-renowned Cuban director trod a fine line between supporting his country's revolution and taking a clear-eyed look at Cuban society. Fresa y chocolate is about a university student who is befriended by a gay artist resisting the Castro regime's persecution of homosexuals.

The Battle of Algiers, dir: Gillo Pontecorvo (1966)

The Italian director's gritty, black-and-white study of Algeria's anti-colonial war against France is an uncompromising look at the politics of independence struggles. It also serves as a warning to armies that seek to crush guerrilla movements - the Pentagon screened the film for staff shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.