Best of Enemies

Best of Enemies

About the Film

In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. That year, gunmen assassinated both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Democratic convention in Chicago flared up with protests and violence. Overseas, the Vietnam War raged on, and the streets at home roiled with race riots. With this tense political climate as a backdrop, Best of Enemies captures the legendary televised debates between ideological opposites Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. MORE

Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired Vidal and Buckley to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. Buckley, who founded National Review magazine in 1955, was a leading light of the new conservative movement. Gore Vidal, lifelong Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, was a leftist, taboo-smashing novelist and polemicist. Both believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight boxing bout, they pummeled each other with exchanges that devolved into personal attacks. These live and unscripted quarrels riveted viewers, and the television industry took notice.

Best of Enemies reveals the moment TV’s political ambition shifted from narrative to spectacle, forever altering the way the media — and Americans — talked about politics.

The Filmmakers

Morgan Neville is a documentary filmmaker whose films focus on culture. His acclaimed 20 Feet from Stardom won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary as well as a Grammy Award for Best Music Film in 2015. Best of Enemies was shortlisted for the 2016 Academy Award. Neville has been nominated for three additional Grammys for his films Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, Muddy Waters Can’t Be Satisfied, and Johnny Cash’s America, and won an Emmy Award for his film Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues. Neville’s non-music films include The Cool School and Beauty Is Embarrassing (producer). Recent projects include Chelsea Does, a four-part documentary series, and Keith Richards: Under the Influence — both for Netflix. His film The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble was released by The Orchard and HBO in June 2016, becoming one of the highest-grossing documentaries of the year.

Robert Gordon is a Grammy Award-winning writer and filmmaker. His work has focused on the American South – its music, art, and politics. His films include William Eggleston’s Stranded in Canton, Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, and the verité shocker, Very Extremely Dangerous. His work has been broadcast on PBS, A&E, and numerous international networks, and has been exhibited at the Whitney, LACMA, Haus Der Kunst (Munich), and many other museums the world round. He's written the books It Came From Memphis and Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. LESS

Film Credits

Producer and Director
Morgan Neville
Robert Gordon

Executive Producers
Julie Goldman
Clif Phillips

Caryn Capotosto

Aaron Wickenden
Eileen Meyer

Kelsey Grammer
John Lithgow

Jonathan Kirkscey

Assistant Editor
Lee Rosch

Graphic Design and Animation
Scott Grossman

Consulting Producer
Tom Graves

Line Animation
Tom Foster

Archival Researcher
Jane Kelly Kosek

Additional Research
Emily McCallister

Creative Consultant
Christopher Clements

David Leonard
Graham Willoughby
Mark Schwartzbard

Additional Photography
Martin Albert
Nelson Hume
Steve Dorst
Martim Vian
Jim Flynn

Sound Mixers
Jade Howard
Dennis Hamlin
Aaron Webster
Tom Hurxthal
Ben Posnack
Steve Clack
Michael Lonsdale
Dimitri Tisseyre

Production Assistants
Alaric Campbell
Alix Spence
Kevin Norton
Andrew Paslay
J.R. Thal

Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer
Pete Horner

Sound Designer
Al Nelson

Online Editors
Matt Radecki
Lee Rosch
Andrew Balis

Accounting Services
Les Edwards, CPA
Gursey Schneider, LLP

Archival Footage and Stills
ABC News VideoSource
ABC Photo Archives
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
Alfred Eisenstaedt
Art OKO Film Productions
Associated Press
BBC Broadcast Archive
Bert Morgan
Buyout Footage
CAM Productions
CBC TV Archive Sales
Chicago Film Archives
Collection of Archie Lieberman
Collection of Gore Vidal
Collection of Stanley Tretick
Collection of Wally Pfister
Critical Past
Daphne Productions
Framepool, Inc.
Gary Conklin
Getty Images
Global ImageWorks
Hedi Slimane courtesy of Trunk Archive
Historic Films Archive, LLC
Hoover Institution Library and Archives
Houghton Library / Harvard University
Jerry Cooke
Kerry Waghorn Studio
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division
LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection
National Archives and Records Administration
Oddball Films
Retro Video, Inc.
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
T3 Media
Universal Media, Inc.
WGBH Media Library & Archives
WNET / Thirteen Productions, LLC

Additional Footage and Photographs
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Collection of William F. Buckley Jr.
Chicago Sun-Times
Esquire Magazine
Film Media Group
Fox News
Game Show Network
Image Entertainment
LBJ Library
Little, Brown
King's Rose Archive
Media Match
New York Daily News
The New York Times
Paramount Pictures
Prelinger Archive
Time Magazine
Universal Pictures
The Wall Street Journal
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Washington Free Press
Xenon Pictures

Raymond Scott, "Portofino," Courtesy of Irwin Chusid, Gateway Music and Reckless Night Music
Julien Pierre, "Prelude N°1 in C major, BWV 846" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier No. 6 in D Minor 8,
Johann Sebastian Bach, Massin B-minor Invention No. 14 in B-flat major,
Johann Sebastian Bach, III Allegro Assai,
Johann Sebastian Bach, 2-Part Inventions Invention No. 14 in B-Flat Major,
Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth Che faceste Dite su Witches,
Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth Prelude,
Henry Purcell: Burial Service March Z,
Henry Purcell: Coppelia Valse,
George Frideric Handel: IV Sarabande Harpsichord,
Johann Strauss: Wein Weib und Gesang Walzer,
John Philip Sousa: The Washington Post March Sousa
John Philip Sousa: The Thunderer
Courtesy of Naxos of America, Inc.

Additional music courtesy of Audio Jungle and Audio Micro

Special Thanks
Todd Boyd
Jennifer Brandel
Sen. James Buckley
Noam Chomsky
Don Coxe
Agatha Dowd
DTLA Recording
Doug Easley
Dennis Herring
Jorge Hohagen
James Lea
John Markham
Tara McAdams
Jennette Neville
Wally Pfister
Dawn Porter
Ralph Sargent
Robert Scheer
Ann Schneider
Jorge Trelles
Julie Yannatta

Fiscal Sponsor
International Documentary Association

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Independent Lens Deputy Executive Producer
Lois Vossen

Supervising Producer for ITVS
Michael Kinomoto

Funding Provided By

Best of Enemies is a co-production of Sandbar, LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This program was produced by Sandbar, LLC which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2015, Sandbar, LLC. All rights reserved.

Has television political coverage changed for the better or worse since Vidal and Buckley squared off in 1968? Do you prefer the measured approach of classic newscasters like Walter Cronkite, or does the post-'68 breed of outsize personalities appeal to you?


  • News & Documentary Emmy Award
    Outstanding Historical Documentary
  • National Board of Review Award
    Top Five Documentaries
  • Sundance Film Festival
    Grand Jury Prize (Nominated)
  • Independent Spirit Awards
    Best Documentary (Nominated)
  • Academy Award
    Best Documentary (Shortlist)
  • International Documentary Association Award
    Video Source Award & Creative Recognition Award
Please review our comment guidelines.
Has television political coverage changed for the better or worse since Vidal and Buckley squared off in 1968? Do you prefer the measured approach of classic newscasters like Walter Cronkite, or does the post-'68 breed of outsize personalities appeal to you?