• James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

In the history of American movies, has there ever been a scene with more pernicious consequences than the filibuster in Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Well, maybe Travis Bickle’s mirror monologue from Taxi Driver, but even Travis could hurt only one person at a time. Perhaps you’ve never seen Mr. Smith, so let me lay it out for you: Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), a greenhorn senator hand-picked by a malevolent political boss (the magnificently slimy Edward Arnold), learns that a pending appropriations bill will fund a graft-lousy dam project backed by his powerful sponsor. To prevent the bill from passing before this plot can be revealed to the public, Smith takes to the Senate floor to stage a filibuster and speaks for hour after hour, a lone hero standing up for what’s right.