Box art for Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog


After being caught in a scandal, the president does not have much of a chance of being re-elected.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 16
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Entertaining, creepily resonant political comedy.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that the president is accused of molesting a teenage girl. All of the main characters lie and work to defraud the voters in order to have their candidate re-elected. A woman sleeps with a man in order to advance their conspiracy. Conrad has a producer killed when he threatens to reveal the faked war.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about their reactions to the film's premise: Do you believe that the government is so desperate to stay in power that it would stage a war to do it? What are the correlations between the film and recent military attacks? This is also a good opportunity to teach kids to think critically about the messages the government is sending -- how do you judge for yourself whether a government policy is good or not? How do politicians use emotions to manipulate voters?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 18
    see all Wag the Dog reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: Packed full of wickedly amusing details and expertly modulated performances.

- Andrew O'Hehir,, Saturday, January 1, 2000

Fresh: The picture conveys an irresistible pleasure in fakery for its own sake, and that's its charm.

- David Denby, New York Magazine, Saturday, January 1, 2000

Fresh: A bright idea well realized by director Barry Levinson.

- Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune, Saturday, January 1, 2000

Audience Reviews

4 stars

Two weeks before election day, news gets out that the U.S. President is accused of sexual misconduct with a minor. To divert attention away from the scandal and increase the president's chances of getting re-elected, a top political spin doctor named Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) enlists the help of a big wig Hollywood producer named Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to help create a phony war with Albania. It's a smart and funny set up to begin with, but what really gives added edge and humor to this biting satire is that it was in production around the time of Bill Clinton's real life sex scandal, making the material even more relevant, intriguing, and thought provoking. This is some funny stuff (usually of the dark variety though), and it really makes you wonder about what actually goes on behind the scenes in Washington, and if the stuff the media feeds us cocncerning all things politics is legit or just the product of movie magic and trickery. Co-written by David Mamet and Hilary Henkin, and directed by Barry Levinson, this is a solid piece of work with an all star cast including (besides Hoffman and De Niro) Anne Heche, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, Kirsten Dunst, and Craig T. Nelson. They all deliver some good work, but it's definitely De Niro and Hoffman who steal the show. The film is quite sharp and very well done, but it also feels rather light at times, and it seems a little underwhelming with how it ends. It ended and I was like, "is that it?" So yeah, there's some flaws here, but those aside, this is some terrific stuff, so definitely check it out.

- cosmo313, Sunday, March 18, 2012

4 stars

Yet, another brilliant movie from Barry Levinson I already watched besides 'Rain Man'... The story about president's sex scandal just a few days before election and they hire a great Hollywood producer for making an excuse to cover-up the scandals and it turns into a huge success... An Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay proves that the story of this movie was great... Yet, Dustin Hoffman gave another Oscar-worth performance to watch and he earned it by playing a successful Hollywood producer who never gets a credit for his work, but when his masterpiece for covering president's sex scandal was a huge success, he betrays the agreement and trying to tell the American of this masterpiece... Robert DeNiro and Anne Heche gave another great performance too, and the cast become more outstanding with another performance from Woody Harrelson, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, even short William H. Macy performance... Overall, this movie was totally recommended by me as you will know a little more trick about making movies in Hollywood, but this movie has pretty much scenes with a long conversation and they talked about politics, so don't watch if you can't stand again politics movie before, even I admit I can't stand political movies before but I love this one...

- ajaymuthecooldevils, Saturday, October 30, 2010

2 stars

Clever idea but very poorly executed in my opinion. Nice to see Dustin Hoffman & Robert De Niro acting together though!

- SirPant, Tuesday, September 29, 2009