As 'American Ultra' opens, about a stoner/secret agent (Jesse Eisenberg) targeted for extermination, we remember that old saying, "Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they're not out to get me." Here, chronologically, are 12 more movies featuring government conspiracies around everything from military coups to alien goo.
'The Manchurian Candidate' (1962)
The son of a powerful right-wing American family is kidnapped and brainwashed -- with his own mother's involvement -- as part of a plot to place the U.S. presidency in the hands of the Communists. Director John Frankenheimer's surreal political satire leaves its 2004 remake in the dust.
'Seven Days in May' (1964)
John Frankenheimer scored again, this time with a chillingly plausible political thriller about a planned coup by members of the U.S. military. Burt Lancaster is riveting as the fanatical general -- based on real-life general Curtis LeMay -- whose plot nearly succeeds.
'The Parallax View' (1974)
This masterful exercise in paranoia stars Warren Beatty as a reporter who finds himself on the trail of a mysterious corporation -- whose business appears to be political assassinations. But who hires them, and why? That is one of the eerie questions raised in this tense thriller.
'Three Days of the Condor' (1975)
Robert Redford is outstanding as a CIA agent who goes out for lunch one day -- and comes back to find his colleagues murdered. Realizing he's the next target, he goes into hiding and discovers a nefarious plot that reaches deep into the Agency.
'All the President's Men' (1976)
This may be the most frightening conspiracy movie of them all -- because it really happened. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play the 'Washington Post' reporters who uncovered the Nixon Administration's plot to subvert the 1972 presidential election -- a revelation that drove Nixon out of the White House.
'Capricorn One' (1978)
NASA fakes a manned mission to Mars in order to continue receiving funding, but the plan goes awry when the real spaceship blows up -- meaning that the astronauts must be “dead” as well. The premise is not as silly as it sounds: many conspiracy theorists still think our Moon landings were staged.
Oliver Stone's masterpiece about the murder of President John F. Kennedy has rightly become the mother of all conspiracy movies. Absorbing and often stunning for its entire three hours, the movie is a filmmaking tour de force and a persuasive argument to never accept the "official" story about anything.
'Conspiracy Theory' (1997)
A clever premise -- Mel Gibson plays a cab driver and paranoid conspiracy theorist who actually gets drawn into a real government plot -- starts out strong but gives way in its second half to tired action clichés. Gibson and Julia Roberts both make the film watchable despite its faulty script.
'Wag the Dog' (1997)
This caustic satire stars Robert De Niro as a political handler who hires a movie producer (Dustin Hoffman) to create a fake war with Albania as a distraction from a sex scandal ahead of a presidential election. The movie opened one month before the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke -- a classic case of life imitating art.
'The X-Files' (1998)
The iconic TV series gets the deluxe film treatment here, with FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) discovering the full scope of a plot hatched by invading aliens and a secret branch of the U.S. government. Fun for fans and enjoyable on its own terms.
'Enemy of the State' (1998)
Will Smith stars as an attorney whose life is systematically destroyed after he stumbles upon evidence that NSA agents killed a congressman blocking surveillance legislation. Gene Hackman costars in a role that could be seen as a continuation of his character from the paranoid thriller 'The Conversation.'
'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' (2014)
This Marvel superhero adventure was directly influenced by ‘70s thrillers like 'Three Days of the Condor' -- and even recruited Robert Redford for a major role -- as Cap (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by the deadly HYDRA organization.