The assassination of President Kennedy has long been fodder for filmmakers. The best known — and most divisive — movie on the subject is Oliver Stone’s “JFK.” But there are arguably better films that deserve to be revisited. Here are four that take different approaches to trying to discover something about what may be forever unknowable.
Executive Action (1973)
Scripted by once-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (from a story by Donald Freed and Mark Lane), this taut thriller features Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan heading a covert group that orchestrates JFK’s murder in Dallas and frames supposed CIA operative Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin. Made just 10 years after Nov. 22, 1963, the plot now seems prescient — and a feast for conspiracy theorists.
In the Line of Fire (1993)
Director Wolfgang Petersen’s well-crafted thriller (screenplay by Jeff Maguire) gives us Clint Eastwood as Frank Horrigan, a Secret Service agent still haunted by what happened on his watch that day in Dallas. Horrigan gets caught in a game of cat and mouse with a former CIA assassin (a very sinister John Malkovich) who plays on Horrigan’s guilt as a way to implement his own plan to kill the current president.
Interview With the Assassin (2002)
Neil Burger’s “fake” documentary employs the “Blair Witch” technique to the JFK slaying, with an aging ex-Marine named Walter Ohlinger (Raymond J. Barry) claiming to be the mysterious second gunman in Dallas.
Rush to Judgment (1967)
Back in the 1970s, I saw a triple bill at the old Kenmore Square Cinema: the Zapruder film, Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation,” and “Rush to Judgment,” Emile de Antonio’s documentary of Mark Lane’s book. Also known as “The Plot to Kill JFK: Rush to Judgment,” the film has Lane interviewing witnesses whose accounts expose major holes in the Warren Commission’s findings. I’ve never seen it since, and I’ve never forgotten it.