The X-Files returned Sunday, 22 years after it’s first episode (and it seemed like 22 years after the end of the Arizona Cardinals/Carolina Panthers playoff game). While the first episode on Sunday seemed disjointed and pushed too much into one hour, the second episode on Monday seemed much more like what those of us who grew up on X-Files expected (yea)! With only four more episodes, it’s really hard to say where they’re going to be going with this, save to say every fan is going to want even more. Bets are already out that it’s a way to spin-off the series onto the shoulders of William, the son of Mulder and Scully that they had to put up for adoption 15 years ago.
To me, the main theme of the series seems to be how the government is manipulating everything behind everyone’s knowledge- and man, do I love a good government conspiracy movie. So much so that in honor of this main theme, I’ve put together my top five conspiracy movies below (in no particular order)- and they may not be the most obvious ones (no JFK). Have a favorite? Share in the comments!
Enemy of the State (1998): Easily one of my top five, Enemy of the State with Will Smith and Gene Hackman is one of the best conspiracy movies out there, and still holds up today (just update the technology in your head). Will Smith, the lawyer, becomes a target of the NSA as well as corrupt politicians when he inadvertantly gets key evidence in a seriously dangerous, politically motivated crime. Gene Hackman is Edward Lyle, an ex-intelligence agent who attempts to help him escape. This movie showed how the NSA could track people through cell phones, texts, and other electronic communications, and how strong their network actually was (and is).
North by Northwest (1959): Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint bring to life this iconic Hitchcock thriller about a a New York advertising executive who’s mistaken for a government agent by a cadre of foreign spies. After being framed for murder, Grant goes on the run from the police and befriends the seemingly innocent Eva Marie Saint. While being pursued across the country, Grant has to find a way to survive their attacks, using only his wits, yet nothing is what it seems. One of the films that makes Hitchcock brilliant.
Sneakers (1992): Martin Bishop (Redford) is the head of a group of hackers and computer experts who test security systems for vulnerabilities, and when he is blackmailed by the government into stealing a “black box” the team finds themselves in a world of danger and espionage. The box that they’ve stolen has the capacity to decode every system known so far, and the “government” that blackmailed them isn’t the government after all. Redford, Aykroyd, Sydney Poitier, and River Phoenix are all on the team of hackers, which makes for a delicious crew.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962, remake 2004): whether you prefer the 1962 original with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury or the 2004 remake with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, The Manchurian Candidate gives you a lot to think about within the government and the way things work. The 1962 premise is that at the end of the Korean War, an entire platoon was captured and brainwashed by communists then set free, including the candidate for vice president. The platoon leader, plagued by nightmares, figures out things, and thinks he can save the son before things happen- not knowing that there are deeper forces at work. The 2004 premise is similar, with Denzel Washington and his squad being ambushed in the Gulf War. Having nightmares after returning and watching his former squad member becoming a rising candidate to be vice president. However, when he finds implants in his back, Denzel knows that things are not right, and has to stop things before they become too difficult to stop. What’s really chilling about both of these films is not only how the twists work, but who is behind the twists.
Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)/ Captain America: Civil War (2016): It may be jumping the gun a bit to claim CA: Civil War into this list yet, but with the storyline Marvel Studios has taken within the Captain America arc, and the Civil War comics (if you haven’t read them- GO READ THEM), I feel safe to put it out there. In CA: Winter Soldier, we see Steve Rogers after the fight with aliens in The Avengers still dealing with the technological advances in the new century he’s found himself in, and in a new world of America after 9/11- one where the government has the right to listen in on conversations, scan faces, and other things that doesn’t sit right. When Steve is declared an enemy of SHIELD, he has to fight to figure out not only who’s setting him up, but what he actually believes in. In CA: CW, we’re going to see the aftermath of The Avegners: Age of Ultron, and it’s not going to be pretty- the Avengers are being blamed for the destruction of an entire city, as well as fighting against a world wide panic against “aliens” and “super powers” (think the panic that gave way to the sentinels in the X-Men franchise, but since X-Men isn’t owned by the same studio, they can’t use that here). Add in the fact that Steve still believes in Bucky, and Tony (Iron Man) wants his head on a platter (minor spoilers), and the lines are drawn. Plus the fact that the government is infiltrated even more by forces that we don’t know about (more spoilers- go read the comics). It’s going to be heartbreaking, and jaw dropping, and set up the next wave perfectly.
- The Bourne series (2002-2012): including the fourth, the entire Bourne series is easily one of the creepiest government secret plan/conspiracy movies ever. One secret little group of the secret branch of intelligence created a group of super soldiers. Bonus points for being based on books.
- The Pelican Brief (1993): one of the best John Grisham book-to-movie adaptations, a law student writes a brief about a little known fight between environmentalists and the oil company, and how the oil company should lose, and it gains the attention of the wrong people. The only wonky thing about it is to me the casting of the law student, because I never got the sense that she fell into the right age range. However, I love Julia Roberts, so go with it.
- The Package (1989): Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones are sergeant and prisoner, sent from Germany to the US. When the prisoner escapes, Hackman sets out to catch him, only to discover an assassination plot by former agents on both sides to keep a nuclear disarmament treaty from being signed.
- No Way Out (1987): When a government official kills his mistress in a fit of rage, a massive cover-up occurs involving a fake KGB mole, and the case is assigned to another of her lovers, who has only a few hours before he’s found out. It’s a plot that really shouldn’t work but does. Starring Gene Hackman as the politician, Kevin Costner as the soldier, and Will Patton as the government aide.
- Three Days of the Condor (1975): Robert Redford is a CIA researcher, and comes back from lunch to find his office-mates murdered. On the run, “Condor” must find out who did it and why before he becomes the next target.