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A Short Guide to Political Campaign Thrillers

Bennett Cohen | November 6, 2012 | Lifestyle Story Culture

When it comes to films about political campaigns, there are basically two story arcs: A candidate or consultant either starts out cynical and turns idealistic or starts out idealistic and turns cynical. Knife Fight, cowritten by Chris Lehane, falls into the first camp. Here’s how other giants of the genre stack up.

The Ides of March
This one’s like Knife Fight in reverse. A campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) begins as a true believer, but descends into cynicism when his candidate (George Clooney) sleeps with an intern who then commits suicide. (Do I hear an echo in here?)

This 1986 film directed by Sidney Lumet sticks to the Knife Fight trajectory. A slick, fast-talking consultant (Richard Gere) has a “come to Jesus” moment after discovering that his candidate is emptier than he thought and decides that politics should be about more than winning.

The Candidate
In 1972, Berkeley High’s own Michael Ritchie directed Peter Boyle as a hardnosed campaign manager who recruits a fresh-faced liberal (Robert Redford) to run for governor—and no one changes sides. In one of the most famous last lines in film, Redford, realizing that he has unexpectedly won the race, turns to Boyle and asks, “What do we do now?”

Read More: Political consultant Chris Lehane reveals his bloodthirsty campaign tricks in "Machiavelli Makes A Movie."


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