Dave (1993)

There have been brief periods when movies were made strictly for entertainment; you weren’t forced to choose between getting hit over the head with an agenda and indulging an experimental hobby project. Who better to give a chance to showcase their range than Kevin Kline?

A small-town professor moonlighting as a POTUS impersonator faces the mother of moral dilemmas when he agrees to stand in for the real—and comatose—Chief of Staff to avoid wide-spread panic. He later realizes how much power and influence everyone around him wields when he tries to avoid getting tangled in the strings of the political puppet masters, who hired him.

Cameos galore (primarily political figures) are the sprinkles atop a sturdy sundae of seasoned actors, who portray earnest characters out of their element finding their way to a heartwarming crescendo.

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

This cartoon is unusual because, while it has the capability to exaggerate what/ whenever it wants, it’s not particularly fantastical. In typical comic fashion, the story is told through music that complements gestures and facial expressions rather than dialogue but not to accommodate talking animals or people bouncing around like a rubber balls. All the elements of design that would enhance any other kind of film are expertly utilized in this charming tour de force about a competitive French cyclist, who gets kidnapped and taken to New York City. His grandmother, who raised him sets out in search with her trusty dog in tow. The pair is taken in by an eccentric old trio of jazz musicians, who’ve been performing together since Vaudeville. The minimalist—and at times slightly abstract—style is a stark contrast to modern computer rendering but serves as the perfect medium for this story’s setting.

The Pelican Brief (1993)

It isn’t easy to base a movie on a John Grisham book without losing the suspense. Or maybe it is? Upon rediscovery of this legal/ political thriller, I contend it still holds up. Exhibit A: conspiracies. Exhibit B: the many faces of Stanley Tucci. Exhibit C: Denzel Washington. Exhibit D: Julia Roberts. Exhibit E: so many stars before they were super famous (including but nowhere limited to aide to the Prez, who went on to play POTUS and homely neighbor turned glam “Sex and The City” gal pal).

Arlington Road (1999)

The eerily plausible premise of this political thriller plants a tenacious seed of doubt about every “lone gunman” type of conspiracy theory since the assassination of JFK. Who’s to say seemingly random acts of terrorism aren’t at least heavily influenced by unseen players in the game we never seem to know we’re playing until we’ve lost?