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

Hilarious political satire about the lengths spin doctors will go to secure the re-election of a president. A great cast list, with the pairing of De Niro & Dustin Hoffman, in particular, making a surprisingly good comedy duo. In the late-90s this could easily have been mistaken for yet another conspiracy theory movie, but more than 10 years later it's almost prophetic!

- RossCollinsUK, Monday, July 20, 2009

4 stars

Before Meet the Fockers De Niro and Hoffman came together in the political comedy Wag the Dog. De Niro plays a spin doctor for an incumbent President seeking re-election who is facing a sex scandal. He enlists the help of a Hollywood producer (Hoffman) and his clan to produce a war to deflect the public eye from the indiscretion. Yes, the film is a comedy but what's really scary is that you can really see how this could be happening right now. Do you really trust the government enough to believe that these two guys don't have real life counterparts on the payroll.You'll laugh at the absurdity, but it will still seem possible. This is a more mature Dave or The American President. There isn't really a happy ending in sight. The goal is for everyone to keep their job. A good movie for election year viewing.

- sononothing, Monday, October 20, 2008

3 stars

This rings even more true today, the thing is, the Irak war was not faked at all. Hoffman was very fun to watch, and Woody Harrelson steals the whole thing near the end with a brief but hillarious role. Mamet might bee a conservative idiot, but he still can write good stuff from time to time.

- DragonEyeMorrison, Tuesday, June 10, 2008