The Best Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Best Man Reviews

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½ November 7, 2016
A cynical look at politics - just as the golden age of the greatest generation was waning. Kennedy had been assassinated, Elvis was ending his term in the Reserves, and The Beatles had a #1 in the USA, and cynicism was about to spread throughout the political spectrum - in part from involvement in Vietnam.

This pic deserved a few more Oscar nominations.
October 31, 2016
Captures the complexities of political drama during the presidential nomination and national convention.
October 29, 2016
Film master Franklin J. Schaffner brings the sublime play to the screen. It predicted the 2016 election without fault or stumble, even if it wasn't intentional.
October 15, 2016
I think it's time we all sit down and watch Schaffner's THE BEST MAN. It predicted the 2016 election without fault or stumble.
½ May 8, 2014
ingaging political satire
½ September 30, 2012
I love this movie, it demonstrates politics and how it is on the inside of a campaign. I enjoyed hearing Mahalia Jackson sing. This is a great movie to view during an election period.
January 14, 2012
An excellent political satire with fantastic performances that is still so relevant in today's political noise.
Super Reviewer
½ June 13, 2011
The Best Man starts off with all the promise of being a biting political satire minus the humor. As it goes on it looks like its going to draw blood, but by the end you're drenched in saliva from getting gummed for the last 20 minutes. This movie had a great cast and a simple premise with plenty of minute details that could've made the movie but a weak third act keep The Best Man from being a Henry Fonda movie you've actually heard of. Worth the watch though.
½ June 10, 2011
Very good political film pitting two opposites vying for the Presidential Nomination. The film is well made and well acted, but Cliff Robertson's character is so thoroughly over-the-top evil that it hurts the film.
½ June 8, 2011
A great political film based on Gore Vidal's excellent play. The message is painfully unpleasant but unfortunately quite true.
May 13, 2011
A biting, angry political drama. Fonda gets to play the "decent" man, and he's great (as always), but Robertson is the real standout, encapsulating everything wrong with American politics in a powerhouse performance. There's quite a bit of "inside baseball" stuff in the film, too, which should appeal to political junkies.
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2011
A great movie from 1964 that shows what goes on behind the door in politics and the running for president of the United States/ Henry Fonda is Mr. Nice Guy do everything by the book, Cliff Robertson played the cutthroat role. Its presidential Primary time, watch what both do to become the next president of the United States. What I found interesting was the statement made in the movie we don't want another Nixon problem.. Remember this was filmed in 1964 long before Nixon became president. Another interesting item was the meeting between both candidates where one promises the other anything to stop running against him, reminded me of the meeting between Hilary Clinton and Obama. Film in B&W which was another surprise for 1964, Watched this one instantly on Netflix, which is a awesome deal, video quality as good as having the DVD. 4 Stars for this one.
November 10, 2010
Surprisingly still relevant for today, the film delivers an insightful, biting look at the behind the scenes wrangling, wheeling and dealing. This knowing film accurately shows how little has really changed with politics.
½ November 3, 2010
Henry Fonda plays the role of a lifetime in this election era film where politics is a dirty word. Men trying to be nominated President of the United States at a nominating convention court the outgoing President of their party, but he decides to not favor either one publicly.

Sheer tension, as this one is for all the marbles in a political showdown that starts slowly but builds to a ruthless climax.

For political junkies, fans of Henry Fonda and political drama lovers in general, this one is carried primarily by Henry Fonda at the peak of his movie career while his advisary, Cliff Robertson has just started.

All those backroom deals you hear about are shown here at the convention. All the backstabbing and infighting revealed. The smear campaign of Roberson (as Cantwell) as a right wing, self rightous candidate is brought to bear on Fonda. Fonda has a past of being treated for mental illness and Cantwell, his opponent, is going to release the embarressing truth to a voting convention.

Black and white drama that is brisk and builds with tension as the vote for the party's nomination and sure succession to the Presidency hangs like low fruit on a tree, just waiting to be picked.

Henry Fonda fans will thrill as this "thinking man's" candidate looks as though he could be a real President.

Original Release Date: May 23, 1964

Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson square off as political adversaries during a presidential primary in this sardonic, insightful drama that brings out the best, and worst, in American politics.

Based on a novel by Gore Vidal, famous writer of the 1960's and real arch enemy of noted right wing columnist William F. Buckley, politico incarnate.

Henry Fonda (as Bill Russell, candidate)
Cliff Robertson (as the evil candidate)
Shelley Berman (1960's comedian)
Edie Adams (real life wife of Ernie Kovacks, comedian)
John Henry Faulk
Margaret Leighton
Kevin McCarthy
Gene Raymond
Ann Sothern
Lee Tracy

Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Composer: Mort Lindsey
Set Decorator : Richard Mansfield
Producer: Stuart Millar
Editor: Robert Swink
Director: Franklin Schaffner
Producer: Lawrence Turman
Screenplay: Gore Vidal (author of the book made to film)
Cinematographer: Haskell Wexler
Art Director: Lyle R. Wheeler
October 24, 2010
The film's obviously dated, but it contains excellent dramatic performances and intelligent dialogue that have aged well.

Robertson and Fonda are on two different sides of the ethical fence as they vie for the Presidential nomination of their party. Robertson's flipping through his set of index cards on the delegates, using the dirt - or the price - they contain to line up his votes.

Not exactly the stuff of leadership from Fonda's point of view. And Fonda's got some dirt on Robertson, but using it to stop Robertson is against his better nature and involves collateral damage.

The film's payoff is a face-to-face facedown of wills between the two - and between ethics and politics as usual - leading to a photo-finish on the convention floor.

From a 1960 Broadway play and 1964 screenplay, both inked by Gore Vidal.

The film's most famous for studio execs taking a pass on Ronald Reagan for a role, deciding Reagan was a great guy but that he didn't look presidential. Despite that lapse in judgment, Fonda's extraordinarily well suited for his role as a leader accepting responsibility for difficult decisions, not so unlike his delivery in "Fail-Safe."

Such dirty dealings in smoke-filled back rooms is seen as business-as-usual these days, but it was likely a new perspective for many viewers back in 1964.

Given the material was developed in the late 1950s and given the nature of the characters, it's not much of a stretch to presume that Vidal had Nixon and Adlai Stevenson in mind when creating them. Especially when Fonda points out Robertson's self-serving egotism is a disastrous Presidential characteristic - and when Robertson labels Fonda as a fool who doesn't understand how politics really works.

RECOMMENDATION: Both prescient and dramatic, the film's still well recommended four decades later.
October 19, 2010
Well done political movie here about two candidates ride through their party convention to decide their candidate and quite possibly, the next president. Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson are on opposite sides, who is going to buckle? Who is really going to let the dirt fly? Really really quite well done and riveting, Both Fonda and Robertson are excellent, with a great supporting cast which includes Kevin Mccarthy and a truly remarkable turn by Lee Tracy as the outgoing president. It stumbles a little at the very end, but all the rest of it is well worth watching.
February 10, 2010
Great location shots of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in this movie based on Gore Vidal's play. Odd to see Presidential candidates and a former President walk around the Ambassador with seemingly zero secret service protection (this movie came out months after JFK's assasination and the Ambassador was where Robert Kennedy would be assasinated a few years later). Also Vidal's script completely ignores the fact whoever wins would have to face a general election. Russell (Fonda) is hesitant to use dirt (a false report that his opponant was a homosexual) while his opponent (Cliff Robertson) is ready to release true reports that Russell had a nervous breakdown and was incapacitated for A YEAR! Nobody seems to consider whoever they run against will probably use this information in the general election.
Despite the script flaws, Fonda and Robertson are both good and Lee Tracy just about steals the picture as the ex-President.
Super Reviewer
½ February 10, 2010
(1964 Director: Franklin J. Schaffner) This is no All the King's Men but it does deal with just how much one man can want to become President. Stars Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Ann Sothern.
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