The Kennedys are one of America's most famous — and infamous — families. They've dominated not only headlines but movie and TV screens for decades. The newest Kennedy film tells the story of Senator Ted Kennedy (played by Jason Clarke) and the tragic 1969 Chappaquiddick incident that left political campaign specialist Mary Jo Kopechne (played by Kate Mara) dead. In anticipation of the "Chappaquiddick" film's arrival in theaters on April 6, 2018, Wonderwall.com is celebrating our favorite Kennedy projects. Keep reading to see which movies and miniseries made the list…
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"Jackie" is regarded by many as the best Kennedy movie ever. The 2016 film is an especially unique Kennedy film because, unlike many others, it focuses fully on former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. "Jackie" tells the story of the icon's life after the 1963 assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. It stars Natalie Portman in one of her most acclaimed roles yet and was an instant hit with audiences and critics alike. The movie earned three Academy Award nominations, including a best actress nod for Natalie, and grossed more than $25 million at the box office.
"Thirteen Days" is a Kennedy film that focuses on one of the biggest incidents in John F. Kennedy's presidency, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The 2000 movie is a dramatic retelling of the crisis as seen through the eyes of political consultant Kenneth P. O'Donnell, JFK, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Kevin Costner, who starred as Kenneth, received widespread praise for his portrayal. Critics loved the film's style, fascinating "behind-the-scenes" storyline and talented cast, and so did audiences. "Thirteen Days" grossed over $66 million worldwide.
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When "Executive Action" was released in 1973, it created a storm of controversy. The film was the first-ever movie made about John F. Kennedy's assassination and was released just two weeks before the 10th anniversary of the shooting. The movie was pulled from theaters in its first few weeks, many TV stations refused to run trailers for it, and it didn't even make $1 millon at the box office. Nevertheless, "Executive Action" prevailed and today it is regarded as one of the best Kennedy films, thanks in part to Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan's brilliant performances.
"The Kennedys" is another project that dramatically retold the Kennedy family story and initially faced backlash. The 2011 ReelzChannel miniseries was attacked, based on early scripts, by historians and critics who argued that it was inaccurate and unflattering to the Kennedys. The plot risks paid off in the long run, however. "The Kennedys," which starred Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper, enjoyed big ratings and earned four Emmy nominations (with a best supporting actor win for Barry) as well as a SAG Award nomination.
The miniseries "The Kennedys" was so popular that TV executives decided to make a sequel. "The Kennedys: After Camelot" is the 2017 ReelzChannel follow-up to the 2011 TV project. This time, it focused on Ted Kennedy (notably played by Matthew Perry), Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her children, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy. The miniseries was well-received by fans thanks to its focus on the Kennedy kids as teens and adults and for Katie Holmes' portrayal of Jackie (she also directed the third hour of the miniseries). Ratings were good too: More than 1.5 million tuned in for its first broadcast.
This TV movie had it all: phenomenal acting, beautiful costume design, an entertaining plot and historical accuracy. The 1983 NBC miniseries "Kennedy" starring Martin Sheen as John F. Kennedy followed his presidency in detail from 1961 to 1963. "Kennedy" was a commercial and critical success that received rave reviews and earned three Golden Globe and four BAFTA nominations. The movie was so popular that it was sold to 50 countries after originally being broadcast on NBC, and 27 of those countries broadcasted the series simultaneously.
"JFK" was a film embroiled in controversy like many Kennedy movies released before it. The 1991 project faced major backlash and was accused by critics of taking liberties with historical facts, including claims that Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was part of a coup d'état to kill John F. Kennedy. The Oliver Stone film, which starred Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones, was able to overcome the bad press and eventually became one of the most celebrated movies of the year. "JFK" earned eight Academy Awards nominations — including best picture — and won two (best cinematography and film editing). The movie also grossed over $205 million worldwide, making it one of the highest earning Kennedy flicks ever.
"Bobby" explores the assassination of another Kennedy brother, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The 2006 movie is a fictionalized account of the hours leading up to his June 5, 1968, shooting in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles following his Democratic presidential primary win in California. "Bobby" has a powerful storyline, striking sets and costume design and a talented ensemble cast that includes William H. Macy, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Anthony Hopkins, Ashton Kutcher and more. The Emilio Estevez-directed movie was well-received by critics and grossed over $20 million worldwide.
The 2013 TV movie "Killing Kennedy" dramatizes the presidency and assassination of JFK as well as the life of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the years leading up to the president's murder. Rob Lowe gave a noteworthy performance as President John F. Kennedy and earned widespread praise for his portrayal. The 2013 National Geographic Channel flick based on a book of the same name received mixed reviews from critics, some of whom loved the dramatic storyline but disliked the pacing. "Killing Kennedy" was a hit with audiences, however, drawing more than 3.3 million viewers.
"Parkland" is often celebrated as one of the top Kennedy movies and for good reason. The 2013 film starring Marcia Gay Harden, Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti and more tells the story of the John F. Kennedy assassination through the eyes of the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital (where JFK died), Abraham Zapruder (who captured the killing on film), FBI agents who were visited by Lee Harvey Oswald, the killer's brother, Dallas's Secret Service chief and JFK's security team. "Parkland" was a success, receiving rave reviews from critics for its refreshing take on the assassination and its quality acting.
"PT 109" is a film that highlights a Kennedy accomplishment many viewers might not know much about: John F. Kennedy's military service during World War II. JFK was a Navy officer in command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 in the war's Pacific Theater. The 1963 movie received widespread praise for its realistic and in-depth portrayal of war and for Cliff Robertson's powerful performance as JFK.
"Blood Feud" is another Kennedy movie that showcases a lesser known Kennedy story — the battle between Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and labor leader and convicted criminal Jimmy Hoffa. Robert and Jimmy were in constant conflict from 1957 until Robert's assassination in 1968. The 1983 TV movie was a success that critics and audiences enjoyed. Robert Blake, who played Jimmy, received the most praise and was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance.