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The Candidate (1972)

aka The Candidate

"Nothing matters more than winning. Not even what you believe in."

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 110 mins · English · PG (USA)


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Small Bill McKay
Small Marvin Lucas
Small John J. McKay
Small Senator Crocker Jarmon
Small Klein
No_movie_poster Nancy McKay
No_movie_poster Rick Jenkin (as Quinn Redeker)
No_movie_poster Wally Henderson
No_movie_poster Paul Corliss


No_movie_poster Michael Ritchie Director
No_movie_poster Walter Coblenz Production
No_movie_poster Jeremy Larner Writer
No_movie_poster Robert Estrin Editing
No_movie_poster Richard A. Harris Editing


"Nothing matters more than winning. Not even what you believe in."


Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle), a political election specialist, must find a Democratic candidate to unseat California U.S. Senator Crocker Jarmon, a popular Republican. With no big-name Democrat eager to enter the seemingly unwinnable race, Lucas seeks out Bill McKay (Robert Redford), the idealistic, charismatic son of former governor John J. McKay (Melvyn Douglas).

Lucas gives McKay a proposition: Jarmon cannot lose and, since the race is already decided, McKay is free to campaign saying exactly what he wants. McKay accepts to have the chance to spread his values, and hits the trail. With no serious Democratic opposition, McKay cruises to the nomination on his name alone. Lucas then has distressing news: according to the latest election projections, McKay will be defeated by an overwhelming margin. McKay counted on losing but not on being humiliated, so he broadens his message to appeal to more voters.

McKay campaigns across the state, his message growing more generic each day. This approach lifts him in the opinion polls, but he has a new problem: Because McKay's father has stayed out of the race, the media speculates his silence is an endorsement of Jarmon. McKay begrudgingly meets his father and tells him the problem, and the elder McKay tells the media he is simply honoring his son's wishes to stay out of the race.

McKay continues to gain in the polls until he is only nine points down. Jarmon then proposes a debate. McKay agrees to give tailored answers, but just as the debate is ending, McKay has a pang of conscience and blurts out that the debate addressed no real issues, such as poverty and race relations. Lucas is furious, as this will hurt the campaign. The media try to confront McKay backstage, but arrive as his father congratulates him on the debate; instead of reporting on McKay's outburst, the story becomes the reemergence of the former governor to help his son. The positive story, coupled with McKay's father's help on the trail, further closes the polling gap.

On election day, McKay wins. In one of the movie's famous scenes, he escapes the victory party and pulls Lucas into a room while throngs of journalists clamor outside. McKay asks Lucas, "Marvin ... What do we do now?" The media throng arrives to drag them out, and McKay never receives an answer.

Release Dates:

DVD : 1997-10-30