We’re not going to learn who won anytime soon, so instead of making yourself crazy watching the returns slowly trickle in, why not amuse yourself with some topically appropriate comedies? Trust us, you’ll have time.
Tonight’s the night — and I definitely mean that in the Neil Young rather than the Rod Stewart sense. It’s going to be a real nail-biter for all of us, no doubt. If you’re the sort of person to pop popcorn and put on your fave 24-hour news network to watch the results roll in throughout election night and beyond, you better have some antacids next to the pretzel bowl.
Really, though, we might all be better off if we find something else to watch tonight. Virginia’s early and absentee votes aren’t supposed to show up in our state’s count until 11 PM when the registrars report, so things might be totally up in the air for the Commonwealth until then. And considering the differing rules for receiving and tabulating the millions of early and absentee ballots cast around the nation, chances are we won’t really know who our next president will be until tomorrow morning — and then only if we’re lucky.
So instead of sitting on your couch sweating bullets all night, why not try to watch something else on the subject of elections — something a bit more amusing? I know, I know, that joke isn’t funny anymore. But it used to be, and maybe remembering those times for one brief evening won’t be so bad. At least it’ll keep us from panicking every time CBS updates the numbers in the 7th district race or anything.
Here are five amusing films involving elections that all have decidedly lower stakes than the current real-life election. Yes, even the one about a presidential election. Tune in, turn off your brain for a couple hours, and enjoy.
If you haven’t seen this one before, it’s a wild ride featuring a political race just as tense as the 2020 presidential race — only it’s a race for student body president in a small suburb somewhere, one in which the school’s number one overachiever is all but guaranteed to win, until a teacher who can’t stand her decides to throw a monkeywrench into things. Reese Witherspoon is note-perfect in the role of the ultimate Type-A high school overachiever, Tracy Flick, and Matthew Broderick kills it as social studies teacher Jim McAlister, whose shaky personal life and dislike for Flick leads him to overstep personal and professional lines to put his thumb on the scales. This movie is pitch dark and funny as hell, which means it’s either perfect for this time in all our lives or absolutely the worst thing for you to watch right now — you’ve got to decide what’s right for you. Choose wisely, but make no mistake, this movie’s a classic.
How much ridiculous fun you’re in for with this one should be obvious as soon as I tell you that it involves Will Farrell and Zach Galifianakis playing rival candidates for a Congressional seat in rural North Carolina. Farrell’s character has never faced an opponent in his four previous elections, and has grown cocky and complacent. However, a couple of corrupt businessmen (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow, clearly having a blast) have decided to buy the district in order to pull off a shady trade deal with a Chinese company. They get Galifianakis, playing a certain highly recognizable type of Southern dumb guy, to run against Farrell, and the race immediately goes off the rails. From Farrell getting bitten by a poisonous snake while trying to gain the evangelical vote to a memorable scene in which Galifianakis’s sons admit to some truly appalling shenanigans over the dinner table, this one is full of hilarious moments. Like Anchorman and other classic Farrell comedies, it is completely unrealistic, but considering that the world is way too real right now, maybe that’s what we need.
It’s become such an iconic cultural reference that this one is if anything sort of played out by now. But if you haven’t gone back and watched it in a while, it’s worth checking out one more time just to remember how truly weird it is. The plot centers on another high school election, which gave birth to that early-00s fashion fad of wearing t-shirts that read “Vote For Pedro” in iron-on letters. That trend is, in hindsight, more than a little unfortunate, but there are a lot of great bits in this movie, many of which have nothing to do with the overarching plot. From Napoleon’s terrible liger illustrations and Uncle Rico’s NFL audition tape to Napoleon biking pulling Kip on rollerblades and the unforgettable Jamiroquai dance sequence, you just might be shocked at how well this one holds up — even if it doesn’t have any curse words in it.
If you’re looking for a rom-com on this list, here’s what we’ve got — a classic “man dates up” plot in which Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a somewhat shlubby journalist, runs back into his old babysitter, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron). Now the Secretary of State, she runs into Rogen just as she’s seriously considering a run for president. After checking out some of Fred’s work, Charlotte decides to hire him as a speechwriter, and their interactions quickly turn into the most unlikely of flings — one that everyone around Charlotte feels can only hurt her chances to actually get elected. There are twists and turns aplenty from there. The time-honored will-they-or-won’t-they rom-com plotline makes this all a bit predictable, but it remains fun nonetheless. In particular, there’s a pretty great scene in which Charlotte has to engage in some high-stakes politicking while also high on ecstasy (do the kids still call it “molly”?). If worrying about whether Fred and Charlotte get together keeps you from thinking about whether the United States and Joe Biden will get together for two hours, it’s worth it.
I know, I know, I said “comedies,” and this three-decade-old superhero film is not anyone’s idea of a comedy — at least, not on the surface. But what none of us remember from our childhood viewings of those early-90s Tim Burton Batman movies is that they are pretty goofy in a deadpan sort of way. Michael Keaton is an outstanding actor, and while he doesn’t have Jack Nicholson for a foil in this film, Danny DeVito as Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman are double trouble in the best possible way. For those who don’t remember the plot of this one, aka everyone, the election in this film is the Gotham City mayoral election in which Oswald Cobblepot — the Penguin, that is — is at first attempting to manipulate the results, and ultimately running for mayor himself. What the Penguin really wants is for his gang to take over the city and wreak havoc. The plot is much more convoluted than that, in fact, but my recommendation is to avoid getting caught up in it, and instead sit back and watch Keaton, DeVito, and Pfeiffer at their scenery-chewing best.