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216 Ratings

Best of Enemies

United States, 2015
Documentary, History


A behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised debates between the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and their rancorous disagreements about politics, God, and sex.

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Best of Enemies Directed by Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville

Awards & Festivals

Independent Spirit Awards

2016 | Nominee: Best Documentary

Indiewire Critics' Poll

2015 | Nominee: Best Documentary

National Board of Review

2015 | Winner: Top Five Documentaries

The merit of “Best of Enemies,” as well as its commercial success, depends upon a crucial ambivalence. Although Gordon and Neville don’t spare ABC, or, for that matter, Buckley and Vidal, for transforming political discussion into blood sport, they regard the unusual sophistication of such televised fare with admiration and nostalgia.
August 17, 2015
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I am sorry to see Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’sBest of Enemies being hailed for remembering a golden age when intellectuals fought out profound issues in public. There is more intellectual insight and incisive commentary on a single night of Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report or John Stewart’s The Daily Show than in all of the mean broadcasts of Buckley and Vidal.
August 11, 2015
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You might enjoy the spectacle of two of the foremost intellectuals of their time coming very close to physically beating the crap out of each other. You might not expect, however, to find yourself weeping – for the state of the Republic and the poisoned media landscape, for the decay of the American social contract. Yet here we are. Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s masterful Best of Enemies leaves you with an overwhelming sense of despair. It’s not just a great documentary, it’s a vital one.
August 01, 2015
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What are people saying?

  • Duncan Gray's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    A wonderful, captivating look at the origins of TV punditry, and how news turning into entertainment and American discourse dying by autoerotic asphyxiation were not corporate conspiracy but rather (even more frightening) a natural progression of public tastes. Horrifying, then, that it's still immensely entertaining, and that what was once a shocking failure of decorum on TV is now par for the course.

  • msmichel's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    Timely documentary that looks at the infamous debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. during the incendiary conventions of 1968. The 'unconventional' coverage changed the face of TV news and opened the age of punditry that mars the face of reportage today. Both men gained fame but were haunted by their encounters. Impeccably researched and edited this thought provoking document is also entertaining.

  • Matthew Martens's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    The bit-playing hired hands (talking heads, all) are almost as delightful as the film’s principles. My personal favorites are Reid Buckley, Bill’s baby brother, and Christopher Hitchens, whose reputation for scathing wit and intimidating erudition rivaled that of his elder blowhards -- “Hitchens identified himself for many years as the heir to me … unfortunately, for him, I didn't die,” said Vidal before he did.

  • Wee Hunk's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    Buckley had the unfortunate habit of not being prepared, which sprung from his arrogance. You can see it in his debate with James Baldwin. His whole life was being on the wrong side of issues, acting as a stop sign against social progress. Vidal knew exactly what buttons to push, but could not enjoy his victory. He could never be happy with the way the world was and that's what fueled his criticism.

  • smndvdcl's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    A superb account one of the most distinctive ideological impasses in TV history. 1968 was a fraught political time between the centre-left and the right. Sociologically convoluted implications of theatrical debate abound. Whilst Vidal is far more preferable to Buckley, partisan conflict did not lead to breakthrough.

  • Zac Weber's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    Best of Enemies illuminates the birth of televised debate as political theater. The documentary contains a number of laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of the two heavyweights' immeasurable wit and genuine distaste for one another. While the intellect of Gore Vidal is dazzling, you can't help but occasionally sympathize with his conservative prey.

  • MarcelVonPure's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    2 great political minds who proved to be total failures as politicians. (it's unfortunate that neither was born in a log cabin)

  • anarresti's rating of the film Best of Enemies

    How did we get here? We used to listen to both sides. To be able to endure a debate where an enemy would argue and defend his case. Now we live in information bubbles and subscribe to feeds of people and news sources to validate how we already think. We purposefully do not expose ourselves to anything that could endanger our world view. And when we do publish ourselves it's to make sure we get validation and likes.

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