Nine Films and Shows to Watch Before the Election

On Election Day, go vote, if you’re eligible to. Until then, you could stew in your own anxiety and despair, or you could commiserate with your friends and family about your anxiety and despair. Or try to distract yourself (re: anxiety and despair) with escapist television and film. It’s the American way.

Here are some suggestions from the Newsweek staff for coping with the possible coming of the end of the world.

Election
Available to stream on Amazon

Election is the story of an absurdly overqualified girl who runs for school council president against a dim-witted and entitled male candidate. Sound familiar? Yeah, you're not the only one who thinks so. The movie came out in 1999, but as Maureen O'Connor noted in a reflection on rewatching the film during the 2016 election, "that which seemed laughable a few years ago is now alarmingly, gruesomely real." Even without the prescient overtones, Alexander Payne's deliriously clever black comedy is worth watching. The film boasts Payne's funniest screenplay to date and some genuinely inspired casting choices, like having Ferris Bueller himself (Matthew Broderick) play the high school authority figure. —Zach Schonfeld

Broad City: Season 3, Episode 5, “2016”
Available to stream on Hulu

Amid an election cycle that has been defined by bickering, bullying, polarization and general animosity lies a reminder that politics still can invoke positive emotion! In the fifth episode of Broad City’s most recent season, Hillary Clinton makes an appearance, and the show’s two main characters—best friends Abbi and Ilana—completely lose their shit. (Which is always fun to watch—the show is known for its expertly produced expletives of joy.) In the episode, Ilana stumbles into the Clinton campaign headquarters and, realizing the magnitude of where she is, signs up on the spot to call potential Clinton supporters. Ilana’s cold-call style is of course unconventional and quickly unprofessional, but it’s indulgent as hell, because what isn’t completely batshit about this campaign? The high is almost cut short when Ilana realizes she isn’t getting paid and decides to quit—but that’s when HRC swoops in. Abbi comes to visit the office (which, according to the besties, smells like “power” and “decisiveness”) before the end of the day, and the kween herself strolls in as some kind of cosmic force takes hold of the manic duo. Clinton thanks Ilana for all of her help on the campaign, and Ilana gives her solemn vow to tweet once a week until Election Day, “Vote for Hillary. Yas, yas, yas.”

That’s just what this election needs right now—more "yas." And if at the end of this episode you still can’t muster any excitement for the election, at least you can gawk at an inflatable red car-dealership dancer that waves its arms around. —Joanna Brenner

House of Cards
Available to stream on Netflix

[Frank Underwood voice] I do consider it a self-prescribed form of homeopathic therapy to watch political characters who are my worst real-life nightmare. In this genre, there's no better deliciously campy, ruthless, and over-the-top corrupt leader of the free world than in House of Cards. President Francis Underwood, I do love you so very much because you remind me of the fact that America will survive beyond murder plots, wavering regional accents, pastel Ann Taylor suits and congressional sabotage. The United States will survive through 2016, and we will do so despite Frank Underwood's truer-to-life cousins, whom we may or may not see in the White House sooner than we'd like to know or admit to ourselves. —Margarita Noriega

Bulworth
Available to stream on Netflix

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” —Janis Joplin, "Me and Bobby McGee"

[That’s right, I’m prefacing my blurb with a lyric. This is an important blurb!]

Americans are pretty fed up with politicians’ scripted, carefully crafted BS. That much has been proved clearly over the course of the presidential campaign—on both sides of the aisle. Trump, of course, exemplifies the point.

The film Bulworth explores this question: What if a politician started to actually say what they were thinking (and the politician wasn’t an angry narcissist just playing at candor)?

This criminally underappreciated dark comedy came out in 1998 but is just as timely now. It tells the tale of Jay Billington Bulworth, a California senator up for re-election who is way behind in the polls. He hates himself and is suicidally depressed for endlessly repeating tired political slogans and playing politics, which inevitably involves lying. Constantly. So, days before the election, he cracks. He starts saying exactly what he thinks.

Of course, this being a quasi-absurdist comedy—what could be more absurd than honesty?—he has already hired a hit man to take himself out. He thinks his time is almost up, and he speaks freely.

The film isn’t perfect and takes shots in all directions, some of which don’t land, as Roger Ebert put it in his 1998 review of the movie. The romance between the protagonist and Halle Berry’s character also isn’t convincing. But if you’re sick of real politics, and aren’t easily offended, it’s a pretty great comedy. Even Obama thinks so. —Doug Main

The West Wing
Available to stream on Netflix

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: The West Wing’s world of fictional politics is a welcome alternative to the constant weight of election anxiety. It’s hard not to get sucked into the idealistic White House of President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his hardworking staff (really, they don’t ever seem to go home and have very little in the way of social or romantic lives). Bartlet, Leo McGarry (John Spencer), Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney), Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) and their colleagues care about the country and the people in it and work tirelessly to move forward on and fix issues large and small. Their administration is far from perfect, but halfway into the third season (watching, embarrassingly enough, for the first time), I still believe they have genuinely good intentions, unlike a certain nonfictional candidate I won’t name. —Stav Ziv

Man on the Moon
Available to stream on Amazon

Maybe you've seen Andy Kaufman's name invoked in conversations about Trump: "It's just Andy Kaufman in a wig." Maybe you don't understand why—or who—this is. Man on the Moon (which takes its name from the R.E.M. song about Kaufman) is a pretty good primer. Miloš Forman's biopic is an affectionate but not uncomplicated portrait of the performance artist, who died in 1984 but might still be giggling at us on some far-off island, for all we know. Most important, the film depicts Kaufman's delight in playing belligerent, ironic characters like his beloved Tony Clifton, whether or not his audience was in on the joke. It's useful context for understanding the Trump-Kaufman trope. (And just as Man on the Moon is a period piece about the late 1970s and early 1980s, it's also a time capsule from 1999—remember when Jim Carrey and Courtney Love were handed major dramatic roles?) —Zach Schonfeld

Good Girls Revolt
Available to stream on Amazon

For the first time ever, a woman is listed on the ballot as a presidential candidate for one of the major political parties. Finally! Hooray! But wait. While that historic fact shows how much progress America has made toward equality, there have been plenty of moments during the 2016 presidential campaigns that remind us how pervasive sexism still is in this country. Think, just to name a few examples, of Donald Trump’s hovering, man-terrupting style of debate; the repulsive Access Hollywood tape in which Trump brags about sexually assaulting women; and the endless word vomit from pundits, politicians and the public about Hillary Clinton’s vague unlikability, her voice, how much she smiles, her pantsuits and a myriad other factors unequivocally related to her gender but not at all to her qualifications for the presidency. Good Girls Revolt—a new Amazon series inspired by Lynn Povich’s book about the brave group of women who sued Newsweek for gender discrimination in 1970—navigates some of the same, as well as even more blatant forms of sexism that were the norm not so long ago. Like this election, the show highlights not only how much ground we’ve gained in recent decades but also how much still needs to change. —Stav Ziv

Documentary Now!: Season 2, Episode 1, "The Bunker"
Available for purchase on Amazon Video

Though not every episode of Documentary Now! references a specific documentary, this season's premiere reimagined the classic 1993 documentary The War Room, which chronicled Bill Clinton's presidential campaign through the eyes of staffers James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. The Documentary Now! version, "The Bunker," sees Bill Hader in the Carville role (Teddy Redbones) and Fred Armisen portraying a horned-up Stephanopoulos (Alvin Panagoulious) as they try to get a dolt elected governor of Ohio. Absurdity ensues. —Ryan Bort

Black Mirror: Series 2, Episode 3, “The Waldo Moment”
Available to stream on Netflix

Black Mirror has a habit of predicting the future. Nearly four years after it debuted on U.K. television, life imitated art when a book claimed former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron had sexual relations with a pig during a university initiation ceremony. That was uncomfortably close to the storyline of “The National Anthem,” the dystopian sci-fi TV series’s disturbing first episode.

With days to go before the U.S. presidential election, it seems that another episode might have also predicted the rise of Republican candidate Donald Trump. “The Waldo Moment,” an episode in Black Mirror’s second season, shows the rapid rise of cartoon bear Waldo from foulmouthed host of a talk-show segment to legitimate political candidate. Sound familiar? The TV executives who push Waldo to run for office charge ahead because “no one’s going to vote for him, that’s the point.” Yet Waldo galvanizes the British public when he accuses his rivals of being “an old attitude with new hair.” Charlie Brooker, creator of Black Mirror, said Waldo was loosely based on British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, but that many Americans have noted the similarities to Trump. This YouTube video shows just how believable it is. —Lucy Westcott