Professor Danny Unger                                                                        Political Science 395

Office: 105 Zulauf                                                                                            DuSable 461

Office Hours: T 12:15-1;                                                                              T, Th 6:00-8:40

   W 11-12:30; Th 3:15-4                                                            753-7042,




Politics and Film



This course uses film as a vehicle to analyze politics.  We also will consider the techniques used in films to convey a message.  There are no prerequisites for the course.  The course covers a variety of topics including slavery and class conflict, totalitarian political movements, political liberties, cultural conflict, gender politics, racial politics in the United States, the impact of industrialization and urbanization on society, the threat of nuclear war and political violence, including war.  Films (or parts of films) viewed in class and assigned readings will be used as the bases of discussions of these issues.  While the films are old and new, spanning some 80 years, most are Hollywood productions made since 1970.  The readings address issues of political film in general as well as the particular films we view in class.


In general, the Tuesday and Thursday meetings will be devoted to lectures and discussions, as well as viewing parts of films.  Our Thursday meetings, however, typically will be much briefer.  On average, students will have less than three-and-a-half hours of class time (including film viewing) a week.  




Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department's spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28. All copies should have two cover pages - one with the student's name and one without the student's name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year's competition even if the student has graduated.

Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.

Department of Political Science Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to 



Required text (available at the university bookstore)


Terry Christensen and Peter Haas, Projecting Politics





-Class attendance and contributions to discussions.  20%

-Oral presentation in class of a political issue linked to one or more

films viewed that day. Students must meet with the professor during

his office hours to gain approval of the topic and format at least two

weeks prior to the presentation. Dates for presentations will be

assigned in class.  20%

-One eight-page paper due at the beginning of class, Thursday,

November 29th.  The paper may use one or more of the films viewed

in class to analyze a political issue.  Alternatively, the paper can

compare the treatment in two or more films, or in a novel and a film

based on that novel, of a political issue.  20%

-Final exam, Tuesday, May 8th, based on questions distributed in class

on November 27th.  The exam will include short and long answer questions

based on readings, films, lectures and presentations.  40%


Rewrite policy Students may elect to resubmit their paper.  However, the resubmitted papers will be graded down half a grade (five points out of 100.)


General guidance on papers Papers will be graded on the basis of the clarity and quality of their arguments, organization, presentation of relevant facts, and quality of research.  All papers must include full and complete citations, including citations of required course readings and lectures.  Any paper submitted with less than perfect citations will be returned for rewriting with a ten point (out of 100) penalty.  Be sure you understand how to cite sources (your high school practice may not provide good guidance.)  Papers also should use standard margins and fonts and have page numbers. 


Schedule of lectures, readings, and films



Introduction to the course


August 28, Discussion of course requirements and introduction to core concepts


War in film


August 30, September 4 and 6, Vietnam War

            Reading: Christensen and Haas (CH), chs.1,3

Films:  The Boys in Company C (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), Green Berets (1968), Heaven and Earth (1993), Deer Hunter (1978), Full Metal Jacket (1987), In the Year of the Pig (1968), The Ugly American (1962)

September 11, Journalists in Southeast Asia

            Reading: CH, ch.2

Films: The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), The Killing Fields (1984), The Quiet American (1957 and 2002)

September 13, World Wars I and II

            Reading: CH, ch.6

Films: Grand Illusion (1938), Big Parade (1925), Enemy at the Gate (2001), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Outskirts (1933)

September 18 and 20, Nuclear Apocalypse

            Reading: CH, ch.8

Films: Dr. Strangelove (1964), Thirteen Days (2000), Seven Days in May (1964), On the Beach (1959), Fail Safe (1964)


Politics in Hollywood, on Main Street, in Washington, and Beyond


September 20, 25, and October 2, Politicians, Campaigns, and Corruption

            Reading: CH, ch.11

Films: The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), A Face in the Crowd (1957), Born Yesterday (1950), Primary Colors (1998), The Contender (2000), Bulworth (1998), Bob Roberts (1992), Wag the Dog (1997), Absolute Power (1997), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), State of the Union (1948), Advise and Consent (1962), The Candidate, All the President’s Men (1976), Juarez (1939), The Best Man (1964)

October 9, the State of Nature

            Reading: CH, ch.9

            Films: At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991), Lord of the Flies (1963 and 1990)

October 11 and 16, HUAC, censorship and regulation

            Reading: CH, ch.7

Films: Salt of the Earth (1954), Julia (1977), High Noon (1952), On the Waterfront (1954), A King in New York (1957), This Film is Not Yet Rated (2006), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)


Social and Political Problems


October 18, It Can’t Happen Here

Films: Animal Farm (1954 and 1999), All the King’s Men (1949 and 2006), Gabriel Over the Whitehouse (1933)

October 23 and 30, Nazism, Communism, and the Cold War

Films: Reds (1981), Blockade (1938), Triumph of the Will (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Remains of the Day (1993), Missing (1982), Lifeboat (1944), Watch on the Rhine (1943)

November 1 and 6, The Little Guy and the “Iron Cage”

            Reading: CH, ch.14

Films: Modern Times (1936), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The Fountainhead (1949), Major Barbara (1941), The Crowd (1928)

November 13, The Great Depression and Social Democracy

            Reading: CH, ch.5

Films: Cradle Will Rock (1999), Grapes of Wrath (1940), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Our Daily Bread (1934), Force of Evil (1949)

November 15 and 20, Issues of Race and Discrimination in the U.S.,

            Reading: CH, ch.4

Films: Birth of a Nation (1915), Fury (1936), Putney Swopes (1969), Bamboozled (2000), Intolerance (1916), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

November 27, Slavery

            Films: Amistad (1997), Spartacus (1960)

December 4, Insidious Menaces and Threats

            Reading: CH, ch.13

Films: Manchurian Candidate (1962 and 2004), The Insider (1999), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Silkwood (1983), Alamo Bay (1985), El Norte (1983), Network (1976), Medium Cool (1969), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)