Home > News > Great movies and TV shows for international relations ▶️
202 views 7 min 0 Comment

Great movies and TV shows for international relations ▶️

Check out two new Good Playlists!

- March 20, 2024

I created two top ten lists of great movies and TV shows for people interested in learning more about international relations. Both lists aim to enhance the teaching and learning experience in international relations courses. The lists purposely avoid documentaries and war movies and, instead, focus on fictional movies that provide a dynamic way to introduce complex theories and concepts by using compelling narratives and visual storytelling. 

These videos also serve as an excellent tool for sparking classroom discussions, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of international relations issues. The collections can be used either in their entirety or by choosing specific, short segments from either list to highlight concepts and theories from the classroom. 

The playlists encompass a range of themes, including diplomacy, conflict resolution, human rights, nationalism, globalization, and more. Each movie and show has been chosen to emphasize specific aspects of international relations, offering educators flexibility in aligning them with their curriculum.

1. Cold War and nuclear weapons
  • Dr. Strangelove (for mutually assured destruction, the missile gap, massive retaliation, flexible response, feminist theorist critiques)
  • Thirteen Days (for Cuban missile crisis, foreign policy decision-making process, Cold War context, brinkmanship)
  • M*A*S*H* (for Cold War context, liberalism and realism, human rights, American foreign policy)
  • The Americans (Cold War, espionage, proxy wars)
  • Star Trek: The Original Series (balance of power, nature of war, arms races, deterrence, mutually assured destruction)
2. Terrorism and asymmetric warfare
  • Paradise Now (for the individual logic of terrorism and suicide bombing)
  • The Battle of Algiers (for decolonization, liberation movements, counter-insurgency)
  • Eye in the Sky (for ethics of drone warfare and asymmetric warfare, Global War on Terror)
3. Nation-building
  • Sergio (for nation-building, the role of the United Nations, and U.N./U.S. tension in Iraq, individual actors in global politics)
  • Lumumba (for decolonization, nation-building, pan-Africanist movement, and the Cold War)
  • Counterpart (for the United Nations, liberal internationalism) 
  • The Man in the High Castle (for patriotism and nationality, boundaries, war and resistance)
4. Social justice and human rights
  • The Hunger Games (for nature and function of government, social justice and rebellion, and human rights, game theory)
  • Invictus (for racial reconciliation, imagined communities, nation-building)
  • District 9 (for apartheid, refugees and migrants, and multinational corporations)
  • M*A*S*H* (for human rights, American foreign policy, and Cold War conflict)
  • The Walking Dead (for human rights, human nature, conflict and cooperation, survival and security)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (human rights, non-intervention, responsibility to protect, rules of war, human rights, genocide)
5. Theories of international relations
  • The West Wing (for liberalism, terrorism, free trade, and others)
  • Occupied (post-Cold War order, European Union, realism and liberalism, diplomacy, energy politics)
  • Game of Thrones (diplomacy, realism, liberalism, constructivism, feminism)
  • The Expanse (diplomacy, governance, great power struggles, terrorism and resistance, balance of power theory, deterrence, offensive and defensive realism)

Movie playlist in order:

Honorable mentions (Batman: The Dark Knight, Canadian Bacon, Wag the Dog, Flame, The Siege of Jadotville, Independence Day)

10. Sergio (for national building, the role of the United Nations, and U.N./U.S. tension in Iraq, individual actors in global politics)

9. The Hunger Games (for nature and function of government, social justice and rebellion, and human rights, game theory)

8. Invictus (for racial reconciliation, imagined communities, nation-building)

7. Paradise Now (for the individual logic of terrorism and suicide bombing)

6. Lumumba (for decolonization, nation-building, pan-Africanist movement, and the Cold War)

5. The Battle of Algiers (for decolonization, liberation movements, counter-insurgency)

4. Dr. Strangelove (for mutually assured destruction, the missile gap, massive retaliation, flexible response, feminist theorist critiques)

3. Eye in the Sky (for ethics of drone warfare and asymmetric warfare, global war on terror)

2. District 9 (for apartheid, refugees and migrants, and multinational corporations)

1. Thirteen Days (for Cuban missile crisis, foreign policy decision-making process, Cold War context, brinkmanship)

Television shows in order

Honorable mentions (Firefly, Band of Brothers, Chernobyl, Battlestar Galactica)

10. The West Wing (for liberalism, terrorism, free trade, and others)

9. M*A*S*H* (for human rights, American foreign policy, and Cold War conflict)

8. The Walking Dead (for human rights, human nature, conflict and cooperation, survival and security)

7. Counterpart (for the United Nations, liberal internationalism) 

6. The Americans (Cold War, espionage, proxy wars)

5. Occupied (post-Cold War order, European Union, realism and liberalism, diplomacy, energy politics)

4. The Man in the High Castle (for patriotism and nationality, boundaries, war and resistance)

3. Game of Thrones (diplomacy, realism, liberalism, constructivism, feminism)

2. Star Trek

Star Trek: The Original Series (balance of power, nature of war, arms races, deterrence, mutually assured destruction)

The Next Generation (human rights, non-intervention, responsibility to protect, rules of war, human rights, genocide)

1. The Expanse (diplomacy, governance, great power struggles, terrorism and resistance, balance of power theory, deterrence, offensive and defensive realism)

Noah Zerbe is a professor of global politics at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt. 

Do you have a good playlist with a political science theme? Want someone to make one? Know someone who has one? Send us your suggestions using this form. Please note that we will review all proposals but not all will be published.