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‘Idiocracy’ 2016: 20 Movies That Predicted Trump’s Rise

From ‘Citizen Kane’ to ‘Team America,’ a cinematic primer on the political career of the Donald

"Where did this come from, and how could it happen?" This is the question you may well ask as you eyeball the angry orangutan in the $2,000 suit, while trying to make third-grade sense of his daily caterwauling.
 But oh, ye naive pup, it is nothing new. The matrix of accidental power, stupefying ignorance, back-alley ethics, "love the uneducated!" pandering, and kick-the-mud-people scare tactics has been a fact of American politics since John Adams called Alexander Hamilton a "bastard brat" whose "superabundance of secretions he couldn't find enough whores to absorb!"

Trump hasn't popped off about his rival's superabundance of secretions yet, but he might be the perfect storm of all this shit, and it should be no surprise that the paradigm has reared its head in movies, going back almost to their beginnings. You won't get the whole package as we have it today — how could you? — but you can find DNA cropping up all over the place. So we thought it'd be helpful in this most surreal of election years to offer some cinematic context for what is, to most of us, an inexplicable mirage of savage weirdness: 20 movies that, if not predicting that the Orangeman cometh, fairly burst with varying degrees of Trumpitude.

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘Duck Soup’ (1933)

Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), an apparently clueless charlatan, is appointed dictator to the bankrupt nation of Freedonia, and after inaugurating his administration with a musical number ("If you think this country is bad off now / Just wait til I get through with it!"), does little besides crack jokes and push the nation, pointlessly, into war. He's even a womanizer. It's almost a Trump-presidency prophecy, except, when you think about it, Firefly would be better, if only because of his tolerance for immigrants (Chico) and the handicapped (Harpo).

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘Catch Me If You Can’ (2002)

Another Hollywood con-man saga, coming from Steven Spielberg no less, and based on a true story: How one Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) forged and lied his way into stints as a doctor, lawyer and pilot before he even turned 20. What's helpful here is to consider how the film takes a jaunty attitude toward what's actually sociopathic behavior, just as the American press scratches its smirking chin and dubs the recent eye-stinging Trumpism "objectionable to some" or whatever. Lipstick on a pig, as the old saying goes.

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘Bob Roberts’ (1992)

Tim Robbins greeted the beginning of the Dubya era with this hilarious mock doc, about a well-scrubbed, guitar-strumming neo-con demagogue politico rising to Senate electability, warbling songs about lazy welfare scofflaws and drug hounds and traditional American values. Trump doing folk! Again, it's all about the rhetoric, performed here with post-Pete Seeger sweetness — the song is titled "Complain":

Some people will work.

Some simply will not.

But they'll complain and complain and
complain and complain and complain. 

   

I don't have a house. I don't have a car.

I spend all my money getting' drunk in a bar.

I wanna be rich. I don't have a brain.

Just give me a handout while I complain. 


Trump's resume already includes a Bo Derek movie, a spot on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, choral work on Saturday Night Live song skits, and producing beauty pageants — who's to say he can't be the next Ted Nugent? Or the new Toby Keith?

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘The Distinguished Gentleman’ (1992)

As the only movie we can find in which a full-on con man actually connives through low-budget campaigning to get elected to a federal seat, this forgotten Eddie Murphy comedy deserves a wave, even if it implies that all political campaigns are, to some degree, cons. Rather un-Trump-ishly, the film slides into mushy idealism (Murphy ends up trying to do good and expose corruption), because it comes from Hollywood, not the sulfurous torture pits of our current nightmares.

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘Things to Come’ (1936)

This lovely, creaky British sci-fi epic presents a 1960s Europe driven by war into disease and barbarity, until the Boss (Ralph Richardson) rises to kill all the unwanted citizens, rally what's left of national pride, and push the desperate populace into war for sheer power's sake. (Go directly to the #:15 mark in the trailer for a taste.) He's a clear Trump precursor: ignorant of niceties and merciless at exploiting others' worries. When someone smarter shows up, the Boss has him promptly arrested. It doesn't end well for him — as in, there's no Fox contract waiting for him after his reign ends.

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘The Last Days of Mussolini’ (1975)

There aren't many good movies about Benito Mussolini, and this isn't one of them. But you need to cross-index peak-career Il Duce if you're talking Trumpness. There's just no escaping it — look on YouTube, the two men could be cousins, with the same simian mega-smirk and excess of arm flailing. In this Italian-made movie, Rod Steiger does his Oscar-vet best at mimicking the premier Fascist, but frankly, Donald would've done it better.

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘Team America: World Police’ (2004)

Here, finally, is a whole movie that talks like Trump — except it's making rank, shitty fun of you, if you're one of those Americans who kinda love balls-out martial power, kinda harbor gut-level xenophobia, kinda suspect that "durka durka!" is an accurate-as-far-as-it-matters facsimile of how Arabs speak, kinda cling to a comic-book view of the world, kinda hate outspoken liberal celebrities ("Matt Damon!"), and, of course, kinda dig militaristic blockbuster movies. If that's not you, then the movie's really funny. But watch it with Trump-voter eyes, and like a lot of sharp satire it becomes an anthem for the very thing it slams. America, fuck yeah! We’re surprised the marionettes haven't been trotted out for campaign ads — for and against.

Movies that explain trump republican national convention

‘Idiocracy’ (2006)

It's easy to be afraid of Trump's bragging, egomaniacal childishness, but it may be that the stories about his all-encompassing ignorance — about anything to do with the world — are the more chilling. This is where Mike Judge's piece of scorched earth speaks to our reality, offering up not only a cretinous future President ( and "porn superstar") who fires off machine guns during speeches, but the moronic future America that voted him into power. Judge's only serious misstep was to predict that it would take 500 years for America to collapse into such a state. The fact that Judge announced in June he plans on making anti-Trump TV ads using President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, Uzi in hand, proves he was off by more than a few centuries.

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