Question of the Week: Which conspiracy movies would you recommend?

My hubby and I opted for home cinema this weekend. Specifically we’re catching up on 70s conspiracy thrillers in anticipation for The Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Huh? Well, if you’ve been reading articles about the sequel to the First Avenger, you might’ve read that the filmmakers have said that The Winter Soldier is essentially a conspiracy thriller. I’ve read here and other sites that directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo were influenced by the likes of Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View (check out our contributor’s Jack Deth’s in-depth review here) and Marathon Man. This article suggested 5 things to watch before watching The Winter Soldier and The Parallax View (1974) made an appearance again, as well as All The President’s Men (1976).

ParallaxView_AllPresidentsMen

Well, so we ended up watching both of those movies. All The President’s Men is on my Blind Spot list anyway, so it’s like catching two birds with one stone. I’ll have my review of that in the last Tuesday of this month. Both of these are directed by Alan J. Pakula within two years of each other. While both are excellent & thought-provoking conspiracy thrillers, I enjoyed All The President’s Men more as the pacing is a bit better. I’m just not as impressed with Warren Beaty (and his distractingly big hair) than w/ Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman, but both films are certainly worth seeing.

Now, I’ve always been a big fan of conspiracy thriller movies. On the top of my head, apart from the ones I’ve mentioned above, these are some of the best ones I’ve seen so far: The Conversation, State of Play (the 2009 movie), The Insider, The International, Michael Clayton, The Constant Gardener, No Way Out. I got some nice recommendations from this blog, and that’s just from the 70s!

Surely there are a bazillion out there I’ve missed out on, so in the spirit of recommendations between us movie fans, I ask you this:

What conspiracy movies have you seen that you’d highly recommend?

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68 thoughts on “Question of the Week: Which conspiracy movies would you recommend?

  1. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Two great selections with Three Days of the Condor and Parallax View !

    Both leads at the tops of their games. Though Parallax View (IMO), inches out Redford and Dunaway.

    There’s a film from 1980s titled Agency with Lee Majors and Robert Mitchum that deals with the subtleties of mass advertising and subliminal messaging in a political campaign that is quite good.

    Shot mostly in Montreal substituting for Seattle. Majors follows leads as friends and business partners disappear. As the clues lead back to Mitchum as the laid back ad agency CEO with connections to the other “Agency” (CIA).

    1. Hello there Kevin! Thanks so much for the recommendation. I agree Parallax View is more riveting in terms of story than Three Days of The Condor, though I think I like the direction better of the latter, and I prefer Redford over Beaty.

      Great recommendation about Agency, I definitely will seek that out. I LOVE Montreal, have only been there once but it’s a gorgeous city! Sounds like a great one indeed, thanks!

  2. Hey, Ruth. Still haven’t come up with any exactly-right-idea titles you haven’t already mentioned, but LA Confidential has some conspiracy elements to it, and is quite brilliant (though clearly not from the ’70s). Of course, you well might have already seen that one.

    1. Oh I LOVE L.A. Confidential, I just forgot about it when I made this post. Yes that is indeed a fantastic conspiracy thriller, nice one Josh!

  3. For conspiracy movies, those that Kevin’s listed are great. I’d only add Oliver Stones’ JFK. Of course, I have a soft spot for Peter Hyams’ Capricorn One 😉

  4. Ted S.

    It’s really too bad that Pakula didn’t make a lot of films before his untimely death, he’s one of my favorites. He’s has a knack for making great suspenseful films.

    I love conspiracy theory movies and I have a few to recommend. You may have already seen some of these:
    – The Pelican Brief – another great thriller by Pakula, it’s based on John Grisham’s novel but I thought the film’s much better.
    – Conspiracy Theory – a good thriller starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, it would’ve been better had they made it into a straight action/adventure.
    – Capricorn One – if you’re one to believe that the moon landing was a hoax then you’ll enjoy this movie. If not, it’s still a good thriller. Apparently the remake has been in development for a years now.
    – Enemy of the State – my favorite film that Will Smith starred in and probably Tony Scott’s best film.
    – The Manchurian Candidate – both the original and remake are great.
    – The Interpreter – pretty descent thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn.
    – The Presidio – not exactly a true conspiracy thriller but it has some elements to it. The movie tried to combined all of the popular genres of the 80s, romance thriller/buddy cop action into one film. It does have a funny scene where Sean Connery’s character beat a guy with just his thumb, lol.
    – Absolute Power – An underrated thriller by Clint Eastwood, it also has a great ensemble cast including Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Laura Linney, Richard Jenkins and a few more I couldn’t recall. The movie has some flaws but overall a good thriller for its time.
    – Blow Out – a great gem from the early 80s starring John Travolta and directed by Brian De Palma, see it if you haven’t already.
    – Arlington Road – great suspense thriller that turned people off by its not so happy ending. Tim Robbins gave a chilling performance as a neighbor who’s up to no good.
    – The Osterman Wweekend – Sam Peckinpah’s last film that was based on Robert Ludlum’s novel. Not a perfect thriller but quite enjoyable.
    – The Star Chamber – starring Michael Douglas as the judge, jury and executioner. Another great gem from the early 80s.
    – The Package – Gene Hackman stars military man who’s trying to stop an assassin played by Tommy Lee Jones, great thriller from 1989.

    Well those are some I’d recommend if you haven’t seen them. I have more but I couldn’t think of them right now, lol.

    1. Ted S.

      Oh yeah I forgot to mention one big cast member in Absolute Power, Gene Hackman played the President in the film and he’s great in it.

      Also, add one more to the list: The Fourth Protocol starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan.

    2. Awesome, thank you Ted!! I’ve seen The Pelican Brief, Conspiracy Theory, Enemy of the State, The Manchurian Candidate remake, & The Presidio. I will put the rest on my to-watch list. Blow Out and Absolute Power intrigue me the most from the rest of the list. Oh Michael mentioned Capricorn One as well, so that’s gotta be good! 😀

      1. Ted S.

        If you’re going to watch Absolute Power, might want to also check out Murder at 1600, both films has similar theme and came out within months of each other. As you know, Hollywood loves to release similar plot movies in the same year. Murder at 1600 was more of a cheese action thriller that starred Wesley Snipes, one of the last movies he starred in that didn’t go directly to videos, ha ha.

    3. Yay, Ted! Wonderful list. Especially for Conspiracy Theory and The Manchurian Candidate (my vote would be for the original, though). Good to find another fan of Absolute Power, too.

  5. daveackackattack

    Wow all those are certainly great picks. All the President’s Men is one of my favorites. Here’s some maybe you haven’t seen yet.

    The original Manchurian Candidate from ’62. You’ll never look at Angela Lansbury the same again. The garden tea party scene is a brilliantly shot scene.

    Syriana. I know it’s got Clooney (he won the Oscar for this) in it by don’t that hold you back. It’s a brilliant story with a great cast. Tim Blake Nelson, Matt Damon, Jeffery Wright, Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, and Mark Strong,

    Arlington Road. Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins and Joan Cusak. The less said about this film about terrorism the better.

    The Ghost Writer. Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor star in this tense thriller from Polanski that flew under the radar.

    1. Hey thanks so much Dave! I have seen Ghost Writer and indeed it’s a great thriller. WHOA! I’m more impressed by the supporting cast of Syriana! I’ll see it just for them. And the original Manchurian Candidate sounds great as well.

  6. Hi Ruth, interesting article and very comprehensive comments. Apart from the original Day of the Jackal, one film I thought of was 1984’s Flashpoint, a convoluted Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory starring Kris Kristofferson and Treat Williams. Be warned though, it features one of the most awful end title songs the world has known!

    1. Hi there Paul! The comments certainly beat the article, ahah, but that’s the idea. I think everything to do w/ JFK’s assassination seems convoluted. I’m on board w/ both movies you recommend, thanks for that!

    2. jackdeth72

      Hi, Paul:

      Great catch on Flashpoint ! Though not a conspiracy film. Rip Torn played very similar roles in Flashpoint and Walter Hill’s drugs across the border, Extreme Prejudice .

      Another possibility is the Lawrence Fishburne, Ellen Barkin and Frank Langella film, Bad Company . And its possibility of a domestic industrial espionage and coercion “boutique” flourishing on the west coast.

      Oh, and the worst opening title song belongs to Q and A . With Timothy Hutton, Nick Nolte, Patrick O’Neal and Armand Assante. And its crooked NYC cop hunt!

  7. Historical Conspiracy stuff: Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, Executive Action

    Action Based Conspiracy: Blue Thunder, Conspiracy Theory, Eraser

    Political Conspiracy: Boys from Brazil, Seven Days in May, Manchurian Candidate (Original)

    Sci-Fi Conspiracy: Coma, Soylent Green, Total Recall, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Either)
    Minority Report

    Spy Business: No Way Out,North by Northwest, Sabotage

    The Parallax View always leaves me disturbed. I’m not sure what you have against Beatty but the ending is killer.

    1. Wow Richard, thanks for breaking these down by genres! I like sci-fi conspiracy stuff, LOVE Minority Report. I didn’t know Boys from Brazil was a political conspiracy, I though Greg Peck played a Nazi doctor? I’ve been avoiding one as the usually-gorgeous Mr Peck looks so darn ridiculous w/ THAT mustache, ahah. I might give it a shot at some point though.

      Oh I don’t have anything against Beaty generally, I dunno I feel he’s a bit miscast in that film, but yes that ending is killer in every sense of the word!!

  8. Hi Ruth! Back at the computer after a vacation to balmy Illinois to visit family ;). About your list–Ted really nailed all the good ones. I can add two that are guilty pleasures from the 1990s: Mel Gibson in ‘Conspiracy Theory’ and Gene Hackman in ‘Enemy of the State’. Fun. 🙂

    1. jackdeth72

      Hi, Cindy:

      Good catch with Ted’s Enemy of the State . And what may be the continuing mystique and saga of “sound thief”, Harry Caul (Gene Hackman)!

        1. jackdeth72

          Hi, Cindy:

          Gene Hackman and Harry Caul could be hanging out with Carmen Sandiego. The actor is 84. Probably enjoying his retirement between films to the utmost.

  9. For me, it’s The Conversation as I think it’s a perfect film that plays into what we think is happening but there’s something more. I would also recommend Blow-Up though it’s not a conspiracy thriller but did influence The Conversation and Blow-Out.

    1. Oh yeah The Conversation is definitely a suspenseful slow-burn thriller. Lots of ppl have mentioned Blow-Up, I’m very curious about that one now.

  10. Most that I would mention have been said already but I’d second Michael’s recommendation of JFK. That’s a conspiracy movie to end them all. Absolutely superb. I’d also mention Cutter’s Way with Jeff Bridges and John Heard. I haven’t actually seen it myself yet but I have a copy and from what I’m told, it’s a great film.

    1. Hi there Mark! I definitely will put JFK on my list, I love Costner too so that definitely helps even if I’m not usually a fan of Oliver Stone. Oh I think Jack reviewed Cutter’s Way here, that does sound really good!

      1. The more I’m thinking, the more I might just watch that this evening. I do have a lot to get through, though. I’m spoiled for choice these days, which is never a bad thing. 😉

        1. Ha..ha.. yeah, my to-watch list is growing so rapidly that it may take me a lifetime & beyond to get to ’em all. But yeah, no more pondering what to watch now w/ all these fine recommendations 😀

          Hope you are well my friend!

          1. Yeah, I’m good Ruth. Been slacking a little on the blogging. I’ve watched that much that I’m struggling to work up the enthusiasm to write anything and keep my train of thought. It’ll all come back again, though. Hope everything’s good with you?! 🙂

            1. I’m doing well Mark. Hey, no worries about blogging. Take your well-deserved break, we’ll be back reading your stuff whenever you decide to blog again, as you know I never miss a single one of your post 😀

  11. Manchurian Candidate (1962) (the original), Conspiracy Theory (1996) JFK (1991), Arlington Road (1999), Enemy of the State (1998), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Package (1989), The Parralex View (1974), Vantage Point (2008) and my favorite Seven Days in May (1964).

    How’s that Ruth?

    1. Awesome Rob, thanks for this! I was actually planning on watching Vantage Point this weekend, glad to see that it’s on your list to recommend!

  12. Great question and my mind is swirling with ideas (which I will happily be sharing in a Phenomenal 5 thanks to your recommendation). I love that you mentioned No Way Out. Talk about a great Costner flick that many don’t mention. Love it to death!

    1. I look forward to that Phenom 5 Keith, woo hoo! Yes No Way Out is great, I want to rewatch it soon, I remember having a crush on Costner in that movie 😉

  13. How about The Boys From Brazil which sees Laurence Olivier trying to track down Nazis who fled the war and are trying to recreate Hitler! On a similar theme The Odessa File is pretty good.

    1. Ahah yeah, and Gregory Peck who rarely played villain as the Nazi doctor!! I heard he only signed on to do the film as he really admired Olivier and wanted to work with him.

  14. Well, my first suggestion is Blow Out (1981).

    If you haven’t seen True Detective, see it!

    It’s a popcorn action-type flick, but Enemy of the State (1998) wasn’t too bad (of course I’m recalling seeing this in the theater many moons ago).

    JFK, but I’m sure you’ve seen that. I always avoided watching it, maybe because it was too long, or I felt I had better things to watch. I already knew quite a bit about the conspiracy (and there’s still a lot not even in the movie), but I finally sat down to watch it this last year, and I will tell you this. Ten minutes into JFK and I was convinced it wasn’t Oswald.

    Others to watch for are (in no particular order):

    KLUTE (1971)
    CAPRICORN ONE (1978)
    MARATHON MAN (1976) (I’m surprised someone hasn’t bastardized and rebooted this)
    THEY LIVE! (1988) (Cheesy by today’s standards, but it’s a cult classic)
    THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975)
    ROSEMARY’S BABY (depends on what you consider conspiracy)
    ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976)
    THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974)
    THE STAR CHAMBER (1983)
    THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)

    And last, but not least: CSPAN

    1. Awesome James, thanks for the excellent recommendations here. I can’t wait to watch True Detective as soon as Netflix or Amazon Instant have ’em, I don’t have cable.

      I don’t do horror, so I don’t know if I can handle Rosemary Baby. The rest sounds great though. CSPAN ahahaha, you’re referring to the TV channel right? Unless there IS an actual conspiracy movie w/ that name?? 😀

  15. Yup The Conversation is something else. The 70’s was the best at creating that sense of paranoia and distrust – a product of the times ….

    I have not seen the DePalma ‘homage’ Blow Out; I will stick with Blow Up. It really confused me when I first saw it. But over the years, I have come to appreciate it.

    For other recommendations, I had to consult a list of conspiracy films and pluck me favorites:

    The Man Who Knew Too Much
    Tell No One (French)
    The 39 Steps
    Lady Vanishes
    The Manchurian Candidate
    The Man Who Knew Too Much

    You can probably tell I like Hitchcock films.

  16. Does The Matrix count as a conspiracy movie? 🙂

    If not, I’ll go with Zodiac, which is interesting since its based on a real-life unsolved mystery.

    This post has made me realize I need to watch more 70s movies!

    1. Hi Asrap, yes The Matrix does count but I have seen that one. I definitely want to see Zodiac, but need to be in the right mood for it as it’s quite a long movie. Yes, do check out some of the 70s thrillers, lots of great recommendations in the comments above 😉

  17. Huahahah we are so different!! you said “Now, I’ve always been a big fan of conspiracy thriller movies” …I am not. I love the x files but whenever the story goes to conspiracy on hiding the alien I always yawned and have the urge to turn it off.

    Asrap there asked whether Matrix is a conspiracy movie, if so…then that’s the only conspiracy movie I like 😉

    I stopped reading The Constant Gardener after struggling to read it for one month.

    1. Ahah, too funny Nov. I haven’t read The Constant Gardener but the film is very good, perhaps you should give the movie a try instead.

        1. He’s fantastic here, and so is Rachel Weisz, I believe she was nominated for an Oscar here, maybe even won that year I can’t remember.

  18. I’m sure you’ve seen Network and Chinatown, which are largely considered conspiracy films and they are excellent…but I’d like to add Blow Out and The Conversation, which are both really, really good films. Silkwood is pretty great too, and has one of Streep’s best performances too. The Man Who Knew Too Much is one of Hitchcock’s best (the 56 version) and Jacob’s Ladder, while not the best film, is a pretty visually stunning take on the genre.

    1. No I haven’t seen those two Andrew, but especially intrigued by Network! I’ve seen The Conversation but Blow Out has been getting tons of mentions here so will definitely put that on my list. The rest sounds great as well, thanks for the recommendations!

    1. No such thing as a late comment I say 😉 Man, I REALLY want to see Blow Out, it’s the most recommended movie here in this post, but it’s not available on streaming anywhere 😦

    1. Hi Josh! I was hoping to see Blow Out but it’s not available on streaming anywhere, neither is Capricorn One 😦 I’d have to ask a friend who has the Netflix DVD subscription to borrow that.

      Btw, stay tuned for my review of All The President’s Men tomorrow 😀

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