This month, America saw the release of a comedic political satire called “The Death of Stalin.”
The film was directed by Armando Iannucci, the creator of the television series, Veep.
The film, which was banned in several countries including Russia, already sounds like it’s made a statement.
While the film looks excellent, featuring a an impressive cast including Steve Buscemi and Michael Palin, the film is currently only having a limited release in America, making seeing it a challenge for most people.
So until it gets a widespread release or is available via streaming and DVD, here is a list of other great political satires and spoofs throughout film history to satiate your appetite in the meantime.
Duck Soup (1933)
While arguably made more with the intention to be a slapstick comedy than a political satire, taking the four Marx brothers, the old Hollywood kings of making a mess out of things, and putting them in the context of political tension can only leave one questioning just how much more responsible an actually political leader is in these circumstances.
“Duck Soup” features Groucho Marx, the man behind some of the best quips and one liners of the 20th century, as Rufus T. Firefly, the newly appointed leader of Freedonia.
From here on out, alongside his brothers Chico, Harpo and Zeppo, the film finds more and more ways for the Marx brothers to chew up the scenery of various sensitive political issues, finally culminating in a hilarious take on frivolous war motivated solely by ego.
The Great Dictator (1940)
Considering Charlie Chaplin was most likely the only other man in the world other than Hitler to sport the “toothbrush mustache” in the 1940s, it seemed like a parody was inevitable.
However, it was Chaplin’s deep rooted political and philosophical drive that motivated him to try and knock one of the most evil human beings in history down a peg.
The film was Chaplin’s first true “talkie.”
Chaplin was very reluctant and distrustful of this new speaking form of film, something that made many consider him a has-been.
However, once Chaplin made the jump, he proved he was auteur of film, not just of silent film.
While the movie features great physical comedy, including a very symbolic scene of Chaplin’s Hynkel (his take on Hitler) bouncing a globe of Earth around in his office, it is the last few moments that Chaplin uses his voice in a way that is beyond commendable.
In the film’s final scene, Chaplin delivers a nearly fourth wall breaking speech in which he calls for us to fight for a world of kindness and equality, not for one of fear and hate.
Unfortunately, this speech Chaplin delivered was so ahead of its time that it started to spur rumors of Chaplin being a communist.
Eventually Chaplin would become a prime target of the FBI in their communist witch hunts, which by 1952, ended up with him banned from America for his “seditious views.”
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
If there is one movie in particular people were tired of me recommending, it’s this one.
However, I won’t stop until everyone has seen it because it’s just that good.
The film is a hilariously dark look at what would happen if nuclear bombs were accidentally launched at the height of the Cold War.
What makes the film all the more cutting is the fact that it was actually made smack in the middle of the Cold War.
The film manages to satirize just about every level of the military process from those on top making the orders to the grunts on the bottom who follow them.
While the film may be a slow boil, with many characters and plot points to set up, once the ball gets rolling, its nonstop action, bouncing from scene to scene of incompetence and impending doom.
While in many regards, watching a 60-year-old Warren Beatty try to rap may not have aged like fine wine, this film gets a lot more right than wrong.
Beatty is the titular Bulworth, a suicidal politician who organizes a hitman to assassinate him.
It is after Bulworth organizes and awaits his own assassination that he begins to feel politically free.
At his rallies, he begins openly speaking his mind on issues and saying that most politicians don’t actually care or plan to follow through with their promises.
This eventually leads Bulworth to become a populist sensation, and helps revitalize Bulworth’s outlook on life.
While the film is a little creaky in some ways and the idea of a populist politician has a much different context post-Trump, the film is still a cathartic watch as Beatty excitedly portrays just what would happen if a flaky politician quit lying for one day.
Team America: World Police (2004)
Creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, made their boldest move yet with a film that pokes fun at America’s colonialist leaning in a post-9/11 world.
Considering it was released only three years after 9/11, this film is a great example that in order for a satire to be truly cutting, it needs to be timely to a point that it’s almost “too soon.”
Just like “The Great Dictator” with WWII and “Dr. Strangelove” with the Cold War, “Team America” is a sharp parody released right in the middle of its very subject.
Telling its story through marionettes, “Team America” is an exceptionally crude yet biting portrayal of America’s greatest freedom fighters, “The World Police.”
The film manages to succeed in usual “South Park” tradition of no one being safe from ridicule, parodying the war-zealous Republican type, right alongside elite Hollywood liberal types.