5 Movies for International Relations Majors

By Debora V. Aberastury on February 15, 2021

Chilly winter weather calls for movie nights, and lots of them.

And if you are an international relations major like I was or just a big political aficionado, finding movies that call out to you on an academic level and is entertaining isn’t necessarily easy to find.

There are a plethora of movies out there, but to begin with…

Duck Soup (1933)

Duck Soup came out in the very early 1900s……which was a little while back. They featured the Marx Brothers, a comedy group, in the fictional country of Freedonia. As described on IMDb: “Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale” and that “War seems inevitable.” The movie runs a little over an hour, so it’s easily watchable. And although the description seems bleak, there’s plenty of comedy and even musical numbers — a worthwhile distraction from life.

Wag the Dog (1997)

Next on the list is another war-related movie — which shouldn’t be too surprising considering the nature of international relations — but it’s not really a war. Not a real one, at least. Starring Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman, Wag the Dog is described on IMDb as, “Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a Presidential sex scandal.”

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

A long title for a movie, but informative for the international relations world. In the movie, according to IMDb, “An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a War Room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop.” What IR topics does the movie show: the security dilemma, nuclear deterrence, Cold War competition, and mutually assured destruction. Heavy, I know, but it is a comedy.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 

This one was based on the real-life story of T. E. Lawrence, who was a British intelligence officer in World War I. Lawrence united and led the Arab tribes during WWI in order to fight the Turks. Although it may not appear to be the most exciting movie on the surface, it is a classic and is shot in a way that helps us learn a great deal more about that time in history.

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Now to a slightly more modern movie: Charlie Wilson’s War. It stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, with a screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin (who wrote the West Wing, the Newsroom, and the Social Network, to name a few notable works) — so you can’t go wrong from the get-go. It’s a drama, set in the 1980s. The story follows a trio of three — a U.S. representative, a socialite, and a CIA agent – working together to boost funds for Afghan freedom fighters in their war against the Soviets invading Afghanistan. This is an incredible, exhilarating look at the Cold War era in a way you don’t want to miss.

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