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Top 12: From Rob Lowe as JFK to Natalie Portman as Jackie, here are the best movies about the legendary Kennedy clan

Almost 60 years on from the assassination of JFK, the Kennedy name retains the power to fascinate and captivate. Countless movies have featured the Kennedys in all their guises over the years. So it’s time to count down, across five decades of film-making, the dozen best Kennedy movies

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"We are in the days straight after the assassination and Portman plays the stunned and stricken widow with considerable aplomb." Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from the film Jackie. Picture by Stephanie Branchu/Fox Searchlight

"We are in the days straight after the assassination and Portman plays the stunned and stricken widow with considerable aplomb." Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from the film Jackie. Picture by Stephanie Branchu/Fox Searchlight

"This made-for-television movie, based on Hank Searls’ book, is the story of the oldest and boldest of the Kennedy tribe, the confident and charming Joseph P Kennedy Jr." Peter Strauss as Joseph Kennedy Jr in 'Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy'.

"This made-for-television movie, based on Hank Searls’ book, is the story of the oldest and boldest of the Kennedy tribe, the confident and charming Joseph P Kennedy Jr." Peter Strauss as Joseph Kennedy Jr in 'Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy'.

"Full of tension, the drama unfolds through the eyes of presidential aide, Kenny O’Donnell — a convincing Kevin Costner." Costner, left, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp at the premiere of Thirteen Days on December 19, 2000.

"Full of tension, the drama unfolds through the eyes of presidential aide, Kenny O’Donnell — a convincing Kevin Costner." Costner, left, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp at the premiere of Thirteen Days on December 19, 2000.

"Flitting between the lives of the two men in the years leading to Dallas, it’s Will Rothhaar as Oswald who leaves a lasting impression." (L-R) Actors Jack Noseworthy, Will Rothhaar, Michelle Trachtenberg, director Nelson McCormick, and screenwriter Kelly Masterson attend the premiere of Killing Kennedy.

"Flitting between the lives of the two men in the years leading to Dallas, it’s Will Rothhaar as Oswald who leaves a lasting impression." (L-R) Actors Jack Noseworthy, Will Rothhaar, Michelle Trachtenberg, director Nelson McCormick, and screenwriter Kelly Masterson attend the premiere of Killing Kennedy.

"Oliver Stone’s movie is in-your-face film-making of the highest order." Kevin Costner, who plays former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, in the film JFK, 1991.

"Oliver Stone’s movie is in-your-face film-making of the highest order." Kevin Costner, who plays former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, in the film JFK, 1991.

"A mixture of fact and fiction, the film's timing is notable — released almost 10 years to the day after Kennedy’s assassination." Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster — who plays the role of black-ops specialist James Farrington — in a scene from Executive Action, 1973.

"A mixture of fact and fiction, the film's timing is notable — released almost 10 years to the day after Kennedy’s assassination." Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster — who plays the role of black-ops specialist James Farrington — in a scene from Executive Action, 1973.

"Bobby is an ensemble piece that focuses on the lives of some ‘ordinary’ people in the Ambassador Hotel in LA on the night Bobby Kennedy is shot there." William H. Macy, Joy Bryant and Demi Moore during 31st Annual Toronto International Film Festival - "Bobby" Press Conference at Sutton Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

"Bobby is an ensemble piece that focuses on the lives of some ‘ordinary’ people in the Ambassador Hotel in LA on the night Bobby Kennedy is shot there." William H. Macy, Joy Bryant and Demi Moore during 31st Annual Toronto International Film Festival - "Bobby" Press Conference at Sutton Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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"We are in the days straight after the assassination and Portman plays the stunned and stricken widow with considerable aplomb." Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from the film Jackie. Picture by Stephanie Branchu/Fox Searchlight

12 Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy (1977) This made-for-television movie, based on Hank Searls’ book, is the story of the oldest and boldest of the Kennedy tribe, the confident and charming Joseph P Kennedy Jr. Groomed for greatness by his father — most notably for the presidency — he was the Kennedy child “in whom the parents invested their deepest hope,” wrote JFK adviser and Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger. That hope died when young Joe’s plane exploded in mid-air while on a mission during World War Two. With Peter Strauss as young Joe, the movie is entertaining enough, although a bit heavy on cheesy script and family frolics — with more than a dollop of Oirishness added into the mix.

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"This made-for-television movie, based on Hank Searls’ book, is the story of the oldest and boldest of the Kennedy tribe, the confident and charming Joseph P Kennedy Jr." Peter Strauss as Joseph Kennedy Jr in 'Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy'.

"This made-for-television movie, based on Hank Searls’ book, is the story of the oldest and boldest of the Kennedy tribe, the confident and charming Joseph P Kennedy Jr." Peter Strauss as Joseph Kennedy Jr in 'Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy'.

"This made-for-television movie, based on Hank Searls’ book, is the story of the oldest and boldest of the Kennedy tribe, the confident and charming Joseph P Kennedy Jr." Peter Strauss as Joseph Kennedy Jr in 'Young Joe, The Forgotten Kennedy'.

11 RFK (2002)
Once you get your head around seeing Ken Barlow’s real-life son on screen in the shape of Bobby Kennedy, things start to gel reasonably well. Linus Roache ain’t half bad in the role. If you’re looking for a ‘life and times of RFK’ movie, though, this isn’t it. It deals only with the last few years of the senator’s life. From his brother’s assassination in Dallas to his own fatal shooting five years later in a Los Angeles hotel, this film still manages to give a real sense of the man. His daggers-drawn relationship with his brother’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, is particularly good. JFK appearing as a ghost, however, is gimmicky and ridiculous.

10 PT 109 (1963)
Named after young war-hero JFK’s torpedo boat that was taken out by a Japanese destroyer, the making of this movie certainly wasn’t all plain sailing. This being the first time a major studio made a movie about a still-sitting president, the White House had approval over everything — including the actor playing Kennedy. JFK requested Warren Beatty. He turned it down. Eventually, it went to Cliff Robertson with JFK pronouncing the finished film “a fine job”. But perhaps the most interesting thing of all about PT 109 was the appearance on set of a 15-year-old schoolboy who was keen to watch proceedings. That boy was Steven Spielberg.

9 Bobby (2006)
With interesting potential as an ensemble piece that focuses on the lives of some ‘ordinary’ people in the Ambassador Hotel in LA on the night Bobby Kennedy is shot there, this shuffles along until the moment of the assassination itself. Then — boom! — the pace picks up, and with real footage thrown in for good measure, the film finds a rhythm. A big-name movie with Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, William H Macy, Helen Hunt, Anthony Hopkins and Martin Sheen all in attendance. The only thing missing here is a conspiracy theory. Let’s at least be thankful for that.

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"Bobby is an ensemble piece that focuses on the lives of some ‘ordinary’ people in the Ambassador Hotel in LA on the night Bobby Kennedy is shot there." William H. Macy, Joy Bryant and Demi Moore during 31st Annual Toronto International Film Festival - "Bobby" Press Conference at Sutton Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

"Bobby is an ensemble piece that focuses on the lives of some ‘ordinary’ people in the Ambassador Hotel in LA on the night Bobby Kennedy is shot there." William H. Macy, Joy Bryant and Demi Moore during 31st Annual Toronto International Film Festival - "Bobby" Press Conference at Sutton Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

"Bobby is an ensemble piece that focuses on the lives of some ‘ordinary’ people in the Ambassador Hotel in LA on the night Bobby Kennedy is shot there." William H. Macy, Joy Bryant and Demi Moore during 31st Annual Toronto International Film Festival - "Bobby" Press Conference at Sutton Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

8 Executive Action (1973)
This is the first of the JFK conspiracy-theory movies — it’s all rogue FBI agents, right-wing industrialists and disgruntled politicians slyly plotting against Kennedy and what they consider to be his liberal agenda. Rattling along at an engaging enough pace, it’s big, bad Burt Lancaster in the role of black-ops specialist James Farrington who dominates the screen. A mixture of fact and fiction, its timing is notable — released almost 10 years to the day after Kennedy’s assassination. But is it convincing? Maybe, maybe not…

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"A mixture of fact and fiction, the film's timing is notable — released almost 10 years to the day after Kennedy’s assassination." Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster — who plays the role of black-ops specialist James Farrington — in a scene from Executive Action, 1973.

"A mixture of fact and fiction, the film's timing is notable — released almost 10 years to the day after Kennedy’s assassination." Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster — who plays the role of black-ops specialist James Farrington — in a scene from Executive Action, 1973.

"A mixture of fact and fiction, the film's timing is notable — released almost 10 years to the day after Kennedy’s assassination." Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster — who plays the role of black-ops specialist James Farrington — in a scene from Executive Action, 1973.

7 Jackie (2016)
The cinematic flashback device is a distraction. The breathy voice of Natalie Portman’s Jackie is irritating — are we supposed to think ‘Marilyn’ every time she opens her mouth? Leaving those two quibbles aside, this is an absorbing and visually beautiful film. We are in the days straight after the assassination and Portman plays the stunned and stricken widow with considerable aplomb. Her anxiety, distress, uncertainty and determination are all writ large — often all at the same time. And the real Jacqueline Kennedy’s patrician sense of entitlement and that hauteur of hers are never far from the surface. Terrific performance.

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"We are in the days straight after the assassination and Portman plays the stunned and stricken widow with considerable aplomb." Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from the film Jackie. Picture by Stephanie Branchu/Fox Searchlight

"We are in the days straight after the assassination and Portman plays the stunned and stricken widow with considerable aplomb." Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from the film Jackie. Picture by Stephanie Branchu/Fox Searchlight

"We are in the days straight after the assassination and Portman plays the stunned and stricken widow with considerable aplomb." Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from the film Jackie. Picture by Stephanie Branchu/Fox Searchlight

6 Thirteen Days (2000)
By the time this Cuban missile crisis drama finishes you feel that you too have lived life on the edge for those 13 days. All the characters depicted are real people, lending a documentary feel to the film. Full of tension, and flitting between exchanges with shady and unscrupulous Soviet diplomats and all kinds of skulduggery from a plethora of war-hungry officials in the Pentagon, the drama unfolds through the eyes of presidential aide, Kenny O’Donnell — a convincing Kevin Costner. Tottering on the edge of nuclear war, it’s touch-and-go all the way. We know the outcome, of course. But you won’t breathe easy until the final frame.

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"Full of tension, the drama unfolds through the eyes of presidential aide, Kenny O’Donnell — a convincing Kevin Costner." Costner, left, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp at the premiere of Thirteen Days on December 19, 2000.

"Full of tension, the drama unfolds through the eyes of presidential aide, Kenny O’Donnell — a convincing Kevin Costner." Costner, left, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp at the premiere of Thirteen Days on December 19, 2000.

"Full of tension, the drama unfolds through the eyes of presidential aide, Kenny O’Donnell — a convincing Kevin Costner." Costner, left, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp at the premiere of Thirteen Days on December 19, 2000.

5 Chappaquiddick/The Senator (2017)
Another Kennedy, another drama — and this time it’s Teddy’s turn. Based on the 1969 scandal of the Massachusetts senator leaving young Mary Jo Kopechne to drown after he drove them off a bridge near Martha’s Vineyard, this is a disturbing exploration of that event — and the fallout afterwards. The film, differently titled on each side of the Atlantic, is a great take on the scramble to salvage a political career. Jason Clarke as the terrified but no-blood-on-my-hands Teddy is both convincing and unpalatable. No, he wasn’t drunk. No, he had no sexual designs on Mary Jo. Really? Bruce Dern’s cameo as Ted’s stroke-ridden but vicious-as-ever father steals the show.

4 Killing Kennedy (2013)
The name Kennedy may be prominent in the title but this is Lee Harvey Oswald’s movie. Flitting as it does between the lives of the two men in the years leading to Dallas, it’s Will Rothhaar as Oswald who leaves a lasting impression. Rob Lowe covers all the bases as JFK — the presidential election, marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, Cuban missile crisis etc. And there’s more than a nod here too to his womanising ways. It’s Oswald’s story, though — encompassing his time in Russia, his marriage to Marina and his return to downbeat life in Dallas — that is utterly engrossing. And strangely affecting.

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"Flitting between the lives of the two men in the years leading to Dallas, it’s Will Rothhaar as Oswald who leaves a lasting impression." (L-R) Actors Jack Noseworthy, Will Rothhaar, Michelle Trachtenberg, director Nelson McCormick, and screenwriter Kelly Masterson attend the premiere of Killing Kennedy.

"Flitting between the lives of the two men in the years leading to Dallas, it’s Will Rothhaar as Oswald who leaves a lasting impression." (L-R) Actors Jack Noseworthy, Will Rothhaar, Michelle Trachtenberg, director Nelson McCormick, and screenwriter Kelly Masterson attend the premiere of Killing Kennedy.

"Flitting between the lives of the two men in the years leading to Dallas, it’s Will Rothhaar as Oswald who leaves a lasting impression." (L-R) Actors Jack Noseworthy, Will Rothhaar, Michelle Trachtenberg, director Nelson McCormick, and screenwriter Kelly Masterson attend the premiere of Killing Kennedy.

3 Love Field (1992)
What’s not to love about Love Field? Here, the Dallas assassination (and Love Field airport) is only peripheral to the gentle, understated story of Lurene, a young Dallas housewife who worships Jackie Kennedy and sets off to Washington DC for the president’s funeral to pay her respects. Effectively a road movie, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the beautiful Lurene with great subtlety and grace. It’s a film about loyalty and respect, about race relations in 1960s America, about friendship, and ultimately about love. Michelle Pfeiffer is a knockout. She was robbed of the Oscar in 1993.​

2 JFK (1991)
It’s Jim, not Jack, who is centre stage here — that’s Kevin Costner as former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison. Riveting, brilliantly acted, pacy, tense and long — very long — this ultimate Kennedy conspiracy movie presents a vision of the assassination that is, well, simply not true. But this is Oliver Stone’s movie, after all, so it is in-your-face film-making of the highest order. All the ‘greats’ are in attendance: Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Jack Lemmon — and a magnificent Donald Sutherland. It’s a roller coaster of a movie. Supposition? Speculation? Distortion of reality? Yep, all of those. But don’t let that spoil the ride.

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"Oliver Stone’s movie is in-your-face film-making of the highest order." Kevin Costner, who plays former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, in the film JFK, 1991.

"Oliver Stone’s movie is in-your-face film-making of the highest order." Kevin Costner, who plays former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, in the film JFK, 1991.

"Oliver Stone’s movie is in-your-face film-making of the highest order." Kevin Costner, who plays former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, in the film JFK, 1991.

1 Parkland (2013)
With its focus on the ‘ordinary’ (but real-life) players on the day of the Dallas assassination, this is first-class film-making. From edgy Feds to the doctors and nurses in Parkland hospital, this ensemble movie is overwhelming in its depiction of chaos, fear, disbelief, grief and exhaustion. You want to look away, but you can’t. And in the quiet confusion yet stoic acceptance of Robert Oswald, the assassin’s brother, we too find ourselves grieving for all that was lost that day. With factual detail followed to the letter, we see how when people simply slip up on the job, conspiracy theories can flourish. There’s no conspiracy here. Just ordinary people doing their jobs as best they can. Simply superb.


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