20 Most Essential Jonathan Demme Movies

From serial-killer thrillers to 'Stop Making Sense,' mob comedies to a feature-length monologue – the Demme films you need to see ASAP

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'The Manchurian Candidate' (2004)

The Patriot Act years were ripe for a remake of John Frankheimer's 1962 political-conspiracy thriller about brainwashed assassins worming their way into the White House – and Demme did not soft-peddle the Dubya administration critique in his take at all. He goes for the jugular in this update, emphasizing how the constant threat of terrorist attacks and war in the Middle East (the prologue takes place during the First Iraq War, while its sequel was happening outside the multiplex) made the population vulnerable to some nasty folks worming their way into power. It contains one of Denzel Washington's best performances, as well as Liev Schreiber in primo Beltway-crazy mode and Meryl Streep owning the mother-from-hell role. It's both fantastic to the extreme and the stuff of headline-driven nightmares. DF

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