Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Reviews

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½ June 11, 2017
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is a truthful and unafraid standard setter of the corrupt politics picture, and stars Jimmy Stewart in one of his greatest roles.
April 22, 2017
Through a series of fortunate, and unfortunate, events, an unsophisticated local hero, Jefferson Smith, is appointed a US Senator. The people pulling the strings in his party and State figure that he will be compliant and malleable and basically stay out of the way of their plans, some of which aren't entirely ethical, or legal. However, a well-intentioned deed sets off a dramatic chain of events, a series of events that will see him at odds with his colleagues, with the shadowy, bullying powerbrokers and with the entire Senate.

Brilliant movie from Frank Capra. While Capra also gave us such great movies as It's A Wonderful Life, Meet John Doe and It Happened One Night, this is his greatest work. A superb indictment of politics and how democracy has been undermined and corrupted, told with the trademark Capra brand of wholesomeness and practical idealism. Considering how politics has even further degenerated since 1939, even more relevant today than when it was released in 1939.

Clever, engaging plot that doesn't waiver for a second. Not an ounce of deadwood in the movie - every scene is perfect and important. Some great twists and turns and some great tension towards the end as Smith struggles to preserve his name and ideals. Wonderful themes and morals too, as you would expect from Frank Capra.

Add in some excellent performances, especially from James Stewart in the lead role and Jean Arthur as Ms Saunders. Both received Oscar nominations, as did Harry Carey for playing the President of the Senate.

In all, Mr Smith Goes To Washington was nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, but won only one, for best original screenplay. Unfortunately for it, the 1940 Oscars belonged to a juggernaught known as Gone With The Wind...
March 19, 2017
A fascinating film to watch simply for its stark depiction of core American ideals, chief among them individualism, as espoused by director Frank Capra.
½ February 19, 2017
A Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra classic; apropos to the current political climate. I guess we all need a shot of an honest man taking a stand against corruption - like Captain America without the powers - minus the partisan bias. But call me cynical, I squirmed at the sappy overt patriotism, including the big media battle between Jeff Smith's small newsletter (aka paper blog) and the corrupt Jim Taylor's newspaper machine. Still, a must-watch for all movie lovers.
½ February 2, 2017
A tour de force from Stewart, carrying the entire film as the naive junior senator, just trying to good and finding what it takes to change the set-in-their-ways politico. Funny/sad that 70+ years later, nothing has really changed...
½ January 16, 2017
I feel like I've been manipulated. But it was wonderful.
January 3, 2017
Wow. This movie feels really relevant today. Aloof senators guilty of graft and using the news agencies to silence all opposition. It's vaguely reassuring to be reminded that these complaints aren't new. The story does pretty much exactly what you'd expect with its fish out of water good-natured country boy in the heart of Washington premise. He's a refreshingly innocent face dealing with a lot of serious issues, and the film does take the minutiae of getting a law passed in Congress seriously. The film does have some problems. A lot of the villainy is just too blunt and obvious. I'd like to imagine that it takes more than a minimal effort to frame a senator for corruption and I'd certainly have a hard time believing that they could go around beating up children and driving cars full of little boys off the road without anybody caring. And having to run an entire campaign in 24 hours is rather ridiculous. And if the cynicism that takes control of the film by the halfway point is unbelievable the way that he overcomes it with innate goodness is even less so. But what really sells the film is the optimistic nature of the piece and the winning performance by Jimmy Stewart (always one of my favorite performers). Whenever the film's problems threaten to overwhelm it, his performance brings it back on course. An underrated element of the film is his secretary, who's a surprisingly strong female role for 1939, played to the hilt with guts, brains, and passion. Well worth watching, but just watch out for the camp factor whenever it tries to get into issues of corruption and power.
December 27, 2016
A timeless wonder. James Stewart is inspiring in what has to be the finest performance of his lifetime. (First and only full viewing - 11/24/2009)
November 24, 2016
One of the most bravely American movies I've ever seen, Frank Capra and James Stewart work together to fight against political meanness while still fighting for honesty and dedication.
September 26, 2016
Fondly remembered as a landmark film in cinema, and it still feels good today, if a little slow. It feels like it wants to say a lot, but not going too far. Does it really feel as bad towards government as it does? Is it holding back? Is the studio interfering? Maybe, but it does leave you with hope, if a little phoned in.
September 25, 2016
Finally got to watch this classic. Stewart did an amazing job of playing the young naive idealist, who is representative of something nonexistent in Washington, D.C. Great performances all around and I thoroughly enjoyed how this film tackled themes we still struggle with today-private interests influencing government, lack of journalistic integrity, no real freedom of the press, popular resignation and cynicism regarding the system, etc.

In December 2014 it's very interesting to watch a film from 1940 about politics on Capital Hill only to realize how the influence of industry in government hasn't really changed. That back then just as today those with great wealth are the ones who assert their will through the current practice of our political economy. For me this film demonstrates how historically this sanctioned (and sometimes not so sanctioned) corruption has been the common practice in government for such a long time now. And when something is common, it is often confused for what is normal. When the thing that's common and seen as normal is not a healthy situation and many people know it, but worse accept it, then it leads to resignation and cynicism.

It's very easy for the cynical to view this film as somethings being an expression of cornball idealism under the weight of business as usual that has been the business for so long. I prefer to see those ideals as something still worth fighting for, because they are human ideals of a functional society that were intended to be a code of honor for government. They were supposed to be a values system for our views and behaviors toward one another in our communities so that government had something vital to protect and serve. Those were the original intentions. Cornball idealism? To the easily accepting cynic-of course. After all, how could we possibly end business as usual and truly move toward practicing those ideals? A question that the resigned very easily have an answer for-we can't.
September 10, 2016
A must see classic! Jimmy is a gem as always!
Super Reviewer
September 1, 2016
Few films succeed in being relevant a decade or two after its release, but Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is still relevant 77 years later, especially in a voting year with questionable candidates.

Before Frank Capra ventured into his war propaganda films in the early-to-mid 40's, he made some of the most important and acclaimed films of all time. In back to back years he directed the 1938 sleeper hit, You Can't Take it With You, and the classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Capra carried some of the same cast members over to the ladder, as Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Edward Arnold are among the many who acted in both films. Continuing with the tradition of Capra's other works, Mr. Smith deals with a common man taking on big ideas and ideals, only to be shut down by those more powerful and privileged.

This was the film that really showed the world what Stewart could do. Even though I have seen tons of his films, this one stands out as some of his finest acting and most demanding roles of his filmography. He was always great at playing an everyman and someone you can undeniably root for, and Jeff Smith is a defining role for him. Smith represents the audience in going along for this political ride and I loved the way Stewart gave the character a certain amount of innocence and vulnerability while also displaying a graceful and powerful presence as well.

Having wonderful chemistry in You Can't Take it With You, it's no surprise that Stewart and Arthur's work together here is just as good, if not better. Arthur plays Clarissa Saunders, who manages to keep Smith afloat even though he's constantly swept away by Washington and all of the extra perks for being in the Senate. It's also not a forced romance, like a lot of 30's films, it takes a while for it to be developed as its handled with care. Arthur may very well be the best romantic partner Stewart ever had.

1939 was a fantastic year for film, with Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind also being released. But perhaps no film from that year is still as relevant as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Capra covers the film with patriotism with beautiful shots of Washington D.C. and a patriotic song here or there, but its his step into a pessimistic style of filmmaking that's most intriguing here. The last 30 minutes with Stewart giving an Oscar worthy performance and Capra seamlessly twisting the story into unpredictable territories is truly something special.

+Stewart becoming the Stewart we all love

+Arthur is marvelous

+Capra's balanced directing

½ August 21, 2016
Classic film that attacks the truth of how government functions. With help of one of the best actors of all time, this film still brings something to be learned 75 years later.
August 7, 2016
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a gem. But it's not gem for reasons revolving around the overall story, which quite frankly is not that interesting. What is interesting is Stewart, who's chops as an actor can be clearly seen in this film. Many of us are familiar with Stewart because of his roles in Hitchcock's films, or even his relationship to Hitchcock in general. But this is a must see film for fans and critics solely because the opportunity to see a whole new side to Stewart is available. Note that the story is interesting to a point. It's campy, silly, and at times cliched with a sense of patriotism that really does not exist in America, and those are its flaws. The strengths of this film is that Capra isn't afraid to go there with his philosophy on morals and ethics. The film is about a man an innocent and naive man in a situation where is tempted to become as corrupt as our government is. That is Capra's message, and I find that interesting since it is in a film that cleverly disguises it.
July 28, 2016
a little boring at the beginning, but in the end it's worth the time......great movie
July 23, 2016
While on a technical level it is clearly still early in the history of filmmaking and it's also dabbles in plenty of the typical Hollywood sap and patriotism, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-in its last minutes-demonstrates that Capra's classic can be original, challenging, and heartfelt.
Super Reviewer
½ July 19, 2016
James Stewart and Jean Arthur are both amazing in this magnificent political drama - a film still relevant when it comes to corruption and our powerless indignation reflected in an idealistic young Senator who boldly demands honor from the ones betraying their vows in Washington.
July 11, 2016
The story of an wide-eyed innocent who goes to Washington DC full of enthusiasm and ideals, only to discover that politics is full of corrupt puppets controlled by big business. With that premise, it's as relevant today as it was then. It's also powerful. Very powerful. The idea of the little guy taking on a hopeless fight against a machine he can't possibly defeat and which is bent on breaking him but which he fights anyway because he must, his refusal to be broken, his indomitable spirit and unshakeable belief that one day, kindness, goodness and love of ones neighbour can triumph, the strength to be the lone voice in a crowd and to never give up no matter what, the idealistic determination to 'always see life as if you've just come out of a tunnel', it's just everything I love about a movie. Jimmy Stewart must be one of the best actors I've ever seen. Saunders was captivating and adorable (the note she sent to Jeff while he was on the floor was so good). And Frank Capra...It's A Wonderful Life is my favourite film of all time and he's produced another classic here. Worthy of all those Oscar nominations it apparently received.

"I do not yield!"
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