Political assassinations abound in Hollywood films


With the overseas box office for films in the 60% range, Hollywood studios treat foreign countries with kid gloves, so as not to alienate audiences, nationalist sensibilities or foreign investors.

Two films this season fly in the face of this perceived wisdom.

“Unbreakable”  “Unbroken,” opening Christmas Day, paints a painful portrait of the mental and physical hardship endured by the American soldier, and Olympic athlete who was a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II. Nationalist groups there are organizing a boycott.

But the film getting the most headlines is a political pie in the face called “The Interview,” opening Dec. 25.

James Franco and Seth Rogen play an American talk show host and producer invited to North Korea by the Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, and who are recruited by the CIA to kill him.

It’s isolation and lack of stature would seem to make North Korea a perfect comic scapegoat.

con“It is the most closed regime” in the modern world, noted a review of a new book about the country in the New York Times.

To call it a banana republic “would be an insult to bananas.”

And yet, portraying the assassination of a foreign leader, even of the most ridiculous country on earth, is provocative.

North Korea calls the film an act of war. Some Asian countries will not be showing the film. And the major computer hack at Sony, the studio releasing the film, may be retaliation by North Korea against it.

The Zapruder film aside, the onscreen portrayal of political assassinations often take places in imaginary countries with fictional leaders.

But real world connections are often used to make a film’s devices more credible.

Below are some of both, domestic and abroad.

“The Naked Gun 2 1/2: From the Films of Police Squad” (1988)

Target: Queen Elizabeth II.

Killer: A hypnotized Reggie Jackson, at a California Angels baseball game.

“Watchmen” (2009)

Target: President John F. Kennedy.

Killer: Cigar chomping superhero The Comedian, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, for reasons perhaps related to the Vietnam War.

“The Conspirator” (2010)

Target: President Abraham Lincoln.

Killer: Robin Wright plays the woman who owned the rooming house where John Wilkes Booth plotted to kill Lincoln, and who was executed as part of the conspiracy.

“Suddenly” (1954)

Target: An unnamed US president.

Killer: Gunman Frank Sinatra takes a family hostage because their home has view of presidential motorcade route. Sinatra had the film pulled from distribution in 1963 after the assassination of JFK.

“Nine Hours to Rama” (1963)

Target: Mahatma Gandhi.

Killer: Based on the life of Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Gandhi. With Jose Ferrer as a cop trying to prevent the assassination.

“Valkyrie” (2008)

Target: Adolph Hitler.

Killer: Tom Cruise portrayed Col. Claus von Stauffenberg in a fact based film about foiled plot by German officers to kill der Fuehrer and take control of Berlin.

“Man Hunt” (1941)

Target: Adolph Hitler.

Killer: Fritz Lang film with Walter Pidgeon as a British hunter who takes a pot-shot at Hitler and is pursued by the Nazis.

“Inglorious Baseterds” (2009)

Target: Adolph Hitler, again.

Killers: Jewish owner of a Parisian cinema, Jewish-American GIs and of course Quentin Tarantino.

“The Assassination of Richard Nixon” (2004)

Target: President Richard Nixon.

Killer: Sean Penn played a deranged man, in fact based film, who plots to hijack a plane and fly it into the White House.

“Bobby” (2006)

Target: Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.

Killer: Disparate lives of various characters collide in hotel on the night RFK is assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.

“In the Line of Fire” (1993)

Target: A fictional president whose name is never mentioned.

Killer: John Malkovich plays a rogue CIA agent being tracked by Clint Eastwood’s Secret Service agent, who failed to prevent JFK’s death.

“Death of a President” (2006)

Target: President George W. Bush.

Killer: Controversial speculative British “docudrama” explored political repercussions subsequent to Bush’s assassination at the hands of a Gulf War veteran whose son died in Iraq.

“The Day of the Jackal” (1973)

Target: French president Charles de Gaulle.

Killer: A professional assassin, called The Jackal, on behalf of paramilitary dissidents.

“The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)

Target: Presidential candidate.

Killer: Laurence Harvey plays a Korean war veteran brainwashed by the Soviets and controlled by his double agent mother, who wants her McCarthy-esque husband to become president.

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