Best of Enemies (2015 film)

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Best of Enemies
Best of Enemies poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
  • Julie Goldman
  • Clif Phillips
  • Caryn Capotosto
Written by
  • Robert Gordon
  • Morgan Neville
Music byJonathan Kirkscey
  • David Leonard
  • Mark Schwartzbard
  • Graham Willoughby
Edited by
  • Eileen Meyer
  • Aaron Wickenden
  • Media Ranch
  • Tremolo Productions
Distributed by
Release date
  • January 23, 2015 (2015-01-23) (Sundance)
  • July 31, 2015 (2015-07-31)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$904,119[3]

Best of Enemies is a 2015 American documentary film co-directed by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville about the televised debates between intellectuals Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. during the 1968 United States presidential election. The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. It was acquired by Magnolia and Participant Media.[4]

The film took five years to make because of struggles to secure funding, get interviews, and uncover archival footage.[2]


The film examines the ten televised debates between Buckley and Vidal in August 1968 that were moderated by anchorman Howard K. Smith during ABC News coverage of the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.[5] It especially focuses on a specific incident of on-air insults exchanged by Vidal and Buckley during the Democratic convention, and follows their subsequent thoughts and actions, including articles each wrote for Esquire magazine and the years-long litigation that resulted.[6] It also expands on the impact of these debates on the beginning of modern American punditry.

Narrative cast[edit]


On December 1, 2015, the film was selected as one of 15 shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[9]

It premiered on PBS television series Independent Lens on October 3, 2016 during the run-up to the 2016 United States presidential election.[10]

Box office[edit]

The film debuted in three theatrical screens on July 31, 2015, as well as video-on-demand. It grossed $50,378 for a 37th-place finish. The second week saw an increase to 19 screens, resulting in a weekend gross of $81,587. Its highest weekend gross came in week three, where it had an expansion to 47 screens, resulting in a weekend gross of $120,986. The maximum number of screens was 69, in its fifth week, but the film went downhill in gross. The film had a 15-week theatrical run before closing on November 12, 2015, with a total of $892,802. The film had a one-week theatrical run in the United Kingdom the week before the film's US release, grossing $11,317 from 6 screens. As of 22 August 2018, the film has a worldwide total of $904,119.[11]

Critical response[edit]

Best of Enemies received very positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 94% rating based on 113 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Smart, fascinating, and funny, Best of Enemies takes a penetrating—and wildly entertaining—look back at the dawn of pundit politics."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a 77 out of 100 rating based on 21 critics, indicating "generally positive reviews".[13]

A Vulture article entitled "18 Best Films From Sundance 2015" said of the film, "This might have been both the most entertaining and the saddest film of this year’s Sundance: a riveting gabfest that slowly becomes a lament for the Republic."[14] Gordon and Neville appeared on the C-SPAN program Q&A on July 26, 2015 with host Brian Lamb to discuss the film.


The film was scored by cellist Jonathan Kirkscey.[15] The music used in the film's opening sequence is "Portofino" by Raymond Scott.[16]


  1. ^ "BEST OF ENEMIES (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 13, 2015. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  2. ^ a b McCoy, Chris (August 13, 2015). "Best of Enemies". Memphis Flyer. Contemporary Media. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
  3. ^ "Best of Enemies". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  4. ^ Ge, Linda (January 28, 2015). "Gore Vidal Doc Best of Enemies Acquired by Magnolia, Participant Media". TheWrap. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  5. ^ "Best of Enemies". Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  6. ^ Wills, Garry (August 11, 2015). "The Buckley Myth". New York Review of Books. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Leydon, Joe (January 23, 2015). "Sundance Film Review: 'Best of Enemies'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  8. ^ Scott, A. O. (July 30, 2015). "Review: 'Best of Enemies' Recalls Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr.'s TV Battles". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  9. ^ Kojen, Natalie (December 1, 2015). "15 DOCUMENTARY FEATURES ADVANCE IN 2015 OSCAR® RACE". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  10. ^ "Best of Enemies". Independent Lens. PBS. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  11. ^ "Best of Enemies (2015)". The Numbers. Nahs Information Services. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  12. ^ "Best of Enemies (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "Best of Enemies". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  14. ^ Yuan, Jada; Buchanan, Kyle; Ebiri, Bilge (February 18, 2015). "The 18 Best Films from Sundance 2015". Vulture. New York Media. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  15. ^ Kirkscey, Jonathan. "Bio & Contact". Jonathan Kirkscey, Composer. Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  16. ^ "Filmography". Reckless Night Music. Retrieved August 22, 2018.

External links[edit]