These days we political anoraks can usually get more than our fill of drama – and laughs – from the real world. Just look at what’s happening in Westminster – not to mention the White House. But what if you’re still craving more? Here’s our list of the best Netflix choices, including documentaries, dramas and comedies, for political obsessives.
Through intimate access to Romney and his family on the campaign trail, Mitt seeks to present a more rounded picture of the man who failed to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. And the picture that emerges is a quietly moving one: a man of charm and kindness who never quite understood his own failure to bond with middle America. Originally criticised in some quarters for its depoliticised feel (it contains virtually zero discussion of Romney’s policies) the film has acquired a more powerful significance in the hyperpartisan Trump era – as a reminder that all politicians, whether winners or losers, are human underneath.
The Edge of Democracy
Actress and filmmaker Petra Costa, known for her well-crafted documentaries about her family history, tells the story of a country which has suffered more political turmoil than most in the last decade: her native Brazil. Beginning with the country’s emergence as a democracy in the 1980s, the documentary goes on to explore the seismic fallout from the corruption scandal that brought down Dilma Rouseff and led to the election of firebrand populist Jair Bolsonaro. With exceptional access to the new president himself, The Edge of Democracy is a compelling – albeit sobering – portrait of a country on edge.
The Thick of It
Few 21st century sitcoms have stood the test of time like The Thick of It. The brainchild of legendary satirist Armando Ianucci (the creator of Alan Partridge), the original two series of The Thick of It won praise for its acute understanding of the New Labour spin machine. Its later series – which dealt with Gordon Brown, the Coalition, and a Leveson-style enquiry – were just as clever. Famed for its uncannily accurate portrayals of government blunders, the show has led one lobby grandee to comment that the only difference with real-life Westminster is that no-one in the show runs around saying ‘God, it’s just like The Thick of It.’ In SW1, the phrase is heard pretty much weekly.
Back in the early 2000s, the charismatic and combative Anthony Weiner was a rising star of the Democratic party. Then in 2011, after an embarrassing sexting scandal, he resigned from Congress. This film follows Weiner when, just two years later, he tries to revive his career by running for New York mayor. What happens next has to be seen to be believed (and is touted by many as have paved the way for the Donald Trump’s victory a few years later). While the film makes brilliant – but excruciatingly uncomfortable – viewing for non-political viewers, political nerds (who will probably be more than familiar with Weiner’s story already) can relish the detailed picture of a campaign in crisis – and the beleaguered souls trying to hold it together.
House of Cards (UK version)
While the big-budget American adaptation has been panned for its schlocky melodrama, Netflix has done us all a favour by purchasing the rights to Michael Dobbs’ groundbreaking political thriller. Originally broadcast by the BBC back in 1990, House of Cards has been listed amongst the best British television programmes in history. While some of it might seem a tad camp (witness the Tories’ PR chief huffing Scarface-quantities of unconvincing-looking cocaine), Dobbs’ razor-sharp psychodrama – inspired both by the downfall of Margaret Thatcher and Shakespeare’s Richard III – will win over anyone with a taste for a good thriller.
Get Me Roger Stone
Another portrait of a powerful American political figure – this time the infamous Republican lobbyist, amateur bodybuilder and Richard Nixon fanboy, Roger Stone. Comprised of archive footage and talking head interviews (including with a suitably mischievous Stone himself), this documentary shows how Stone built his reputation as one of the most dastardly men in American politics. The film culminates with Stone’s role in Trump’s 2016 campaign, but the scenes from 2000 – when Stone used underhand tactics to sink a third-party challenger to George W Bush – are just as compelling. A must watch for wannabe Machiavellians – or those who dream of stopping them.