By NATHAN SAAB
Released in 1939, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” was part of what many consider to be cinema’s greatest year. 1939 saw the release of the highest grossing movie of all time, “Gone with the Wind,” the foundation of the modern blockbuster, “Stagecoach” and perhaps Hollywood’s most iconic film to date, “The Wizard of Oz.” So why am I writing about “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” instead of one of these? The answer is simple: I believe it beats all of them by a landslide.
When a long-serving senator dies two months before an important vote, the governor and his political machine are tasked with appointing a new senator who can be easily controlled and won’t disturb the status quo. They believe they have just that in Jefferson Smith, a local youth leader with no political experience. Old-fashioned, idealistic and fiercely patriotic, Mr. Smith isn’t the fool they take himfor, and when he learns of their corrupt practices, he immediately takes up the cause against them.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a movie driven by its characters, and with James Stewart in the starring role, it boasts an incredibly talented cast. Paired with equally incredible writing, this cast gives “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” a full set of characters capable of keeping viewers intrigued while at the same time feeling completely natural. They’re nuanced, have personal flaws and make decisions that have real consequences. In short, all of the characters feel like actual people, and they’re nothing short of fascinating to watch.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a movie about knowing what you stand for and having the resolve to fight for it, and with today’s complicated political climate, it’s a rare example of a film whose message has only gotten stronger with time. The story is inspiring, the characters are well-developed, and the recurring theme that a young person’s idealism shouldn’t be lost in an adult’s world makes “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” a movie that every college student should see.