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Past Films

Best of Enemies

  • Starring: Dick Cavett, Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, William F. Buckley
  • Director: Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon
  • Genre(s): History, Documentary, News
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Running Time: 87 min.

In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult—their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed. And a new era in public discourse was born. [Magnolia Pictures]

"For American viewers of an intellectual/historical persuasion, there could scarcely be any documentary more enticing, scintillating and downright fascinating than Best of Enemies."
- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"[An] enormously entertaining documentary."
- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
"A must-view film for our media-besotted age."
- Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
"This deliciously feisty doc contextualizes their verbal brawls and the odd love-hate (mostly hate) rivalry between two men who seemed able to regard their own sense of heroism only through the other’s villainy."
- Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
"In giving historical context to the poisonous nature of our oft-bemoaned political discourse, "Best of Enemies" showcases brainy bloodsport with humor, nostalgia and, appropriately, a lacing of melancholy."
- Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
"Alternately entertaining and unsettling documentary."
- Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
"Both fascinating as a glimpse at the not so distant past, and provocative as an account of what arguably was an early step in the decline of political discourse on television."
- Joe Leydon, Variety
"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."
- Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine (Vulture)
"Provides a rich, extraordinarily fascinating account that’s sure to have many viewers’ minds constantly shuttling between then and now, noting how different certain things about politics and media were in that distant era, yet marveling at how directly those archaic realities led to many of our own."
- Godfrey Cheshire,
"Outstanding account of a pivotal moment in small-screen history."
- David Parkinson, Empire