48. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Idealism and politics are two things in our society that have a lot of trouble going together. Even in director Frank Capra's world, the idealistic young hero is laughed at behind closed doors by the corrupt people in power. In this movie, Capra casts the great Jimmy Stewart as the titular Mr. Smith who is elected Senator from Middle America (Stewart = Everyman in Capra's world). The fresh-faced Smith finds that Washington politics is run by corrupt businessmen and power-hungry senators (NO, REALLY?!?!). He decides to take on "the system" and show that he can stop them from destroying the good in America. Is it a simplistic plot? Yes, but somehow it works. Maybe because it is Frank Capra, we as the audience suspend our cynicism that one person cannot fight the system. Maybe it is because Jimmy Stewart gives quite possibly the best performance of his career (just watch Stewart's Senator Smith filibuster). Maybe it is because the story hits so close to home about corrupt politicians like the senior senator (dynamically played by Claude Rains). Whatever it is that works in this film (personally, I think it is a combination of all factors), the movie is a true classic that shows an idealistic heart can win out over the cynical corrupted system in the end.
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