''Seven Days in May'' is a ConspiracyThriller about an attempted MilitaryCoup in the United States. The story first appeared as a 1962 novel by Washington journalists Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. It was adapted by Creator/RodSerling into a 1964 FilmOfTheBook, directed by Creator/JohnFrankenheimer and starring Creator/KirkDouglas, Creator/BurtLancaster, Creator/FredricMarch, and Creator/AvaGardner.

President Jordan Lyman (March) is about to sign a treaty with the Soviet Union for the disarmament of all nuclear weapons. This has caused a record slump in his popularity[[note]]you would think this would ''increase'' it but people feared the USSR would cheat--and in the novel, the Soviets did just that[[/note]] and the public opposition of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the charismatic General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster). Lyman is determined to proceed regardless but then a Pentagon officer, Colonel Martin Casey (Kirk Douglas), approaches him with a shocking revelation. He believes that General Scott is planning a MilitaryCoup, to be staged during a troop mobilization exercise at the end of the week. Although his staff are skeptical, President Lyman is not so sure. He now has [[RaceAgainstTheClock only seven days]] to find proof that [[VillainWithGoodPublicity the most popular general in the country]] is planning treason, and stop him.

When the movie was being filmed, President UsefulNotes/JohnFKennedy gave the producers special access to the White House. The President would even conveniently arrange to visit Hyannis Port for a weekend when the film needed to shoot outside the White House. The Pentagon, in contrast, refused to cooperate at all, leading to the filmmakers doing a bit of covert filming outside the building with star Douglas in costume.

JFK who was killed shortly before the film's release considered the film so important because he believed the events in the book and movie could very well happen. After the spat between UsefulNotes/DouglasMacArthur and President UsefulNotes/HarryTruman, as well as JFK's own problems with his generals, he was well aware that there were those in the military who felt they should be in control of the country instead of him.

The story is said to have been influenced by the right-wing anti-Communist political activities of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Edwin_Walker General Edwin A. Walker]] after he retired from the military. The authors got the idea for the book after interviewing then [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtis_LeMay Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis [=LeMay=]]].


* TheAlcoholic: Senator Clark. At one stage when he's being 'detained' on a military base, the conspirators send in a bottle every hour to keep him quiet. Clark has to keep pouring them down the toilet, which doesn't improve his disposition.
* BackgroundHalo: One scene has Colonel Casey standing in front of a US flag, and General Scott standing in front of a display of missiles.
* CanNotSpitItOut: Colonel Casey can't bring himself to actually ''say'' the unthinkable -- that there's a coup planned -- and starts waffling until the President tells him to stop screwing about.
* ChekhovsGun: White House aide Paul Girard gets a signed statement from an admiral who was approached but refused to take part in the conspiracy. Worried about it being stolen on the way back to Washington, Girard hides the statement in his metal cigarette case. Thus it survives his death in a plane crash and gets returned to the US embassy with his other personal effects, JustInTime to save the day.
* DayOfTheJackboot: Unlike other fiction based on the same concept, ''Seven Days in May'' goes to great lengths to portray its subject realistically. There are no gunfights or car chases, both sides are operating covertly with only limited personnel, and an essential condition for any successful coup -- the public relations factor -- is an important part of the planning.
* TheDeepSouth: Lyman's ally Raymond Clark is a senator from Georgia. In the novel, he can go between a Southern drawl and his normal voice at will.
* DiscreetDrinkDisposal: Senator Clark has been that a Colonel Henderson might know something about the coup. When he turns up at a secret military base demanding to speak to Henderson, the conspirators place Clark under temporary detention, sending in a bottle every half hour so he'll be too drunk to talk sense. Clark has to keep pouring the booze down the toilet, which doesn't improve his disposition when Henderson does turn up.
* DrivenToSuicide: The novel implies that this is the fate of Senator Prentice, one of Scott's co-conspirators, who crashes his car when he learns that the coup has failed.
* DuelingStarsMovie: Kirk Douglas vs Burt Lancaster.
* EmpathyDollShot: A Spanish policeman finds a doll in the wreckage of a plane crash.
* EngineeredPublicConfession: Averted. Even when the President confronts him with a direct accusation, General Scott never admits to anything.
* GullibleLemmings: Colonel William "Mutt" Henderson, part of the secret ECOMCON strike force, has no idea why he's training to seize communications assets rather than defend them until Senator Clark informs him of the plot. He then helps the Senator escape.
* HonorBeforeReason: After seven days the President still doesn't have firm proof of the conspiracy, but he does have letters Scott wrote to his mistress, which his colleagues urge him to use to [[JusticeByOtherLegalMeans force Scott to resign]]. For a moment it looks like the President will use them, but he refuses to stoop to crude {{blackmail}}. However, in the novel Secretary of the Treasury Chris Todd and Senator Clark aren't so particular, warning Scott against seeking a Presidential nomination in the next elections. Todd: "The President is a gentleman. [[BadassBoast I am a trial lawyer; a mean son of a bitch."]]
* UsefulNotes/TheKoreanWar: Part of Jordan Lyman's BackStory in the novel. Lyman suffers a HeroicBSOD caused by what is now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder until another soldier, Raymond Clark, [[GetAHoldOfYourselfMan slaps him out of it]]. Clark goes on to become a senator--and Lyman's lifelong friend and most trusted political ally.
* MyCountryRightOrWrong: Colonel Casey also disagrees with the President's disarmament treaty, but has sworn to defend the Constitution.
* ANaziByAnyOtherName: General Scott at the American Veterans rally.
* NotSoDifferent: At the end, hoping to bring Scott onto his side (or at least dissuade him from being his enemy), President Lyman asks him what he would do about the possibility of the Soviets cheating on the treaty if Scott were in power. After Scott replies, Lyman says that is exactly what Lyman is planning to do. Scott doesn't believe him.
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: For once this helps the good guys. When an Air Force general (CINC-NORAD) complains about 'classified' flights that he hadn't authorized, the President realises he's not part of the conspiracy and orders him to ground the aircraft at once.
* ReassignedToAntarctica: Averted when a Pentagon communications officer tells Colonel Casey about a seemingly-innocuous bit of gambling by some high-ranking officers (it's actually a code indicating their willingness to join the coup). Instead of a heavy-handed punishment detail, General Scott wisely has the blabber shipped off to a highly-desirable post in UsefulNotes/{{Hawaii}}, and orders Casey to take a few days leave so he won't be in a position to observe anything else suspicious.
** This turns into a BrickJoke at the end of the novel, when the officer, now working in Hawaii, hears about Scott's resignation and thinks that President Lyman sure must hate gambling.
* TheRemake: by HBO as ''The Enemy Within'' in 1994, with Sam Waterson as the President, Jason Robards as the General, and Creator/ForestWhitaker as the Colonel. Updated for a post-UsefulNotes/ColdWar world, and the conspirators planning to use the TwentyFifthAmendment to declare the President incompetent to serve.
* RevealingCoverUp: Averted. There's only one death under suspicious circumstances (of a White House aide carrying absolute proof of the conspiracy) and that's never shown to have been anything other than [[MakeItLookLikeAnAccident an ordinary plane crash]]. Two people who look like they've been 'disappeared' turn out to have been merely detained on various pretexts. The closest we get to this trope is when a conspirator angrily tells Colonel Casey to shut up about the gambling signal -- it's this overreaction that first raises Casey's suspicions.
* RousingSpeech: General Scott was to give this once communications had been seized. Even when the coup is foiled Scott still believes he can force the President's impeachment by arranging an interview with all the major networks. Instead it's President Lyman who gets the standing ovation at the end.
* ShutUpHannibal:
-->'''General Scott:''' I asked you a question -- do you know who Judas was?!
-->'''Colonel Casey:''' Yes, I know who Judas was. [[BrokenPedestal He was a man I worked for and admired until he disgraced the four stars on his uniform.]]
* StrawmanNewsMedia: Type 3, with a dash of Type 5. The only member of the media given both a face and a name is a member of the conspiracy.
* TreacheryCoverUp: President Lyman decides that what happened must never become public knowledge, in order to preserve the idea that a military coup against the United States government is simply unthinkable.
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The novel on which the film is based (published in 1962) is set in May 1974, after a stalemated war in Iran. The motion picture is set in 1970 and features the then-futuristic technology of video teleconferencing.
* VideoPhone: The President uses a video phone to communicate with Scott, and later with another Air Force general.
* WavingSignsAround: The film opens with two groups of people picketing outside the White House--one group holding signs protesting the disarmament treaty, and the other group holding signs supporting the treaty. Fisticuffs ensue.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: General Scott could possibly be interpreted as this, depending on your politics.
* WildCard: Vice Admiral Barnswell is approached to take part in the coup, but thinks it's too risky and declines. Knowing this the President sends his aide to force him into providing a signed statement about the conspiracy, which is lost when the aide's plane crashes on its way back to Washington, whereupon [[HeelFaceRevolvingDoor Barnswell claims he knows nothing about any such statement]].