Films and Television Series:
SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964)
A political action movie from the veteran of this genre, director John Frankenheimer. Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster star in a fictional but plausible thriller about a political struggle between a democratic president and his hard-right opponents. When a weak U.S. president signs a nuclear peace treaty with the Soviet Union, a faction of military hardliners plans a political coup.
THE DOGS OF WAR (1980)
An adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s classic novel, The Dogs of War is a tale of a mercenary hired to organize a military coup in a small African country. The takeover is staged to protect British mining interests by replacing one ruthless dictator with another one, friendlier to the exploitation of the country’s resources.
Greek expatriate director Costa Gavras made his name in France as a director of political thrillers, starting with his classic movie Z in 1969 and culminating with Missing in 1982. The story of Missing is set during the real coup d’état that took place in Chile in 1973. The event is seen through the eyes of an American writer (Jack Lemmon), who travels to Chile in search of his son who disappeared during the coup. The liberal and naïve father soon discovers that the American government supported the coup to depose Chilean president Salvador Allende—an inconvenient truth that is being hidden from both him and the world at large.
Trailer for Missing: https://youtu.be/X1WiQxDAeV4
Trailer for Z: https://youtu.be/rHB28qfsV2w
THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY (1982)
Mel Gibson stars as a rookie Australian reporter covering political unrest in Indonesia during the rule of Sukarno, the country’s first president after decolonization. Sukarno’s choice to seek support from PKI, Indonesia’s Communist party, eventually led to his downfall and a power takeover by general Suharto in 1965. The romantic adventure movie is set against a backdrop of these events.
FOUR DAYS OF SNOW AND BLOOD (1989)
A Japanese movie about a coup d’état attempt in 1936 by the ultra-nationalist military faction.
THE LION KING (1994)
If you want to explain the mechanics of a coup d’état to a youngster, this animation classic may serve as a good example. After all, the story of old King Mufasa being overthrown by his brother Scar and little Simba being chased into exile is a textbook illustration of a power takeover from within.
FOUR DAYS IN SEPTEMBER (1997)
A true story of a Brazilian journalist who joined a terrorist organization to fight a dictatorship. In order to free his comrades captured by the regime, the journalist Fernando Gabeira kidnaps a U.S. ambassador. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language category in 1998, but Gabeira, by then a Brazilian congressman, was denied entry to the U.S. to participate in the Awards ceremony for his part in the kidnapping.
A passionate denouncement of the oil industry’s influence on global politics. The CIA plan to assassinate a Middle Eastern prince who has gotten too cozy with the Chinese is one of the subplots, but nothing is simple in this tale of double and triple crossings.
STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
The Clone Wars have been raging for three years between the Jedi-led Republic and the Separatists. This is the episode of the Star Wars saga in which Anakin, in order to save his pregnant wife, switches sides from being a Jedi knight to becoming an emperor’s enforcer, and transforms into the Darth Vader we all know from the other movies.
THE PRESIDENT’S LAST BANG (2005)
The President’s Last Bang is based on the true biography of Korean president Park Chung-hee, who gained power in 1961 through a military coup and who lost his life assassinated by his director of intelligence in 1979.
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (2006)
The film depicts the life of the infamous Idi Amin, Uganda’s dictator, as seen through the eyes of his personal physician. The harrowing biographical tale ends with the famous Israeli raid on the Ugandan city of Entebbe to free hostages hijacked by the PLO.
THE STATE WITHIN (2006)
This British mini-series is about a fictional coup d’état that starts with a plane exploding over Washington. The events gradually envelop a British diplomat in a complicated power struggle.
THE BLACK PIMPERNEL (2007)
Based on true events, this is the dramatic story of Harald Edelstam, the Swedish ambassador in Chile who saved many lives of people caught up in the military coup of 1973.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
A famous maverick technology billionaire called Dominik Greene is planning a global coup d’état, communicating with his agents throughout the world via a secret meeting at an opera performance at the Bregenz Festival. His nefarious plans are thwarted by Agent 007 (Daniel Craig) in non-stop action that roams from Pisa to the Bolivian desert to Kazan in Russia.
Based on true events from WWII. A veteran of the German African campaign, Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, becomes the leader of a plan to depose Hitler. The famous attempt in July 1944 failed, prolonging the war for another year.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (2013)
Roland Emmerich, the king of such blockbusters as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, is very good at blowing up large buildings on screen, and he does not disappoint in this “saving the President” yarn. A Capitol policeman who takes his daughter on a tour of the White House is soon embroiled in a coup attempt that starts with the Capitol building spectacularly imploding. The heavily armed mercenaries have been mustered by the head of the President’s security detail, who is avenging his son, killed in a botched military operation.
The story of Catherine the Great, told in a more realistic manner in this Russian TV show than in the star-studded American show The Great (2020- ). Like any tale about the reign of the 18th-century Russian empress, the show describes the gradual preparation of this German princess to take over power from her inefficient husband. Her successful coup d’état in 1762 changed the course of Russian history.
NO ESCAPE (2015)
While Owen Wilson is usually associated with lightweight comedies, this is a hefty dramatic role for him as a family man who is happy to have snagged foreign employment with a water company in Southeast Asia. What looked like a lucrative new job soon turns out to be a visceral fight for survival when the man and his family land in the middle of a military coup that erupts out of nowhere on a sunny afternoon. This thriller was made with TV headline news realism and accuracy, focusing on speed and the lethal brutality of military coups in developing countries. You go from zero to a hundred on the danger scale within minutes.
COLONIA/THE COLONY (2015)
Another story based on true events from the infamous coup to depose the Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. The name “Colonia Dignidad” refers to a cult-like community where Allende’s arrested supporters are kept and controlled.
THE DEATH OF STALIN (2017)
The death of the Soviet dictator was long awaited by his victims and rivals alike. When it finally happened in 1953, a violent Central Committee power play erupted, led by Beria—Stalin’s chief henchman—and his puppet Georgy Malenkov against rival Nikita Khruschev. Khruschev used the army against Beria’s secret service forces in this battle of bears. The movie is based on true events…except this one is a comedy in the vein of current political satires like Vice.
WHILE AT WAR (2019)
This Spanish-Argentinean co-production is about Spain after the 1936 military coup d’état that sparked the bloody Spanish Civil War.
STEEL RAIN 2 (2020)
In this sequel to the Korean movie Steel Rain, the filmmakers imagine a situation when a coup d’état during a summit between the two Koreas leads the two countries to the brink of a nuclear attack.
The latest retelling of the classic sci-fi novel and its cinematic adaptations, this version of Dune from director Derek Villeneuve is designed as a two-part saga. The first movie, released in time for the 2021 Academy Awards and vying for nominations for its impressive special effects, deals with a coup d’état. A new ruling dynasty, the House of Atreides, is installed by the Emperor on the planet Arrakis to oversee mining operations. What the Emperor neglects to mention to the new ruling family is that they have been set up and will soon be deposed in a bloody coup. After the takeover, the deposed prince transforms into a revolutionary.
THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED (2003)
This film tells the story of a failed coup attempt against the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
SALVADOR ALLENDE (2004)
A French-produced documentary on the life and death of Salvador Allende, the leftist Chilean president deposed in a 1973 military coup.
HOW TO STAGE A COUP (2017)
This overview of historic coups by Caesar, Napoleon, Mussolini, and Hitler illustrates how big dreams can lead to a power takeover.
SANTIAGO, ITALIA (2018)
Directed by veteran Italian director Nanni Moretti, this is the story of how the Italian embassy in Santiago provided life-saving support to Chileans who were fleeing the regime after the military coup in 1973.
COUP 53 (2019)
In this film, Iranian director Taghi Amirani is on the hunt for proof that the American and British secret services engineered the 1953 coup that deposed prime minister Mossadegh in favor of the Shah of Iran. The film garnered many awards, but lately a controversy has emerged between the director and some of the researchers about portions of this documentary.
THE COUP D’ÉTAT FACTORY (2021)
Made by British journalists, this documentary analyzes the connection between TV Globo, a powerful Brazilian broadcaster, and the support it provides to power takeovers that are quite common in Brazil.