Let’s face it, the president of the United States is probably the most influential person in the world. The Queen of England, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin are of course in that same realm. Ultimate power with the ability to either better or hinder the society they inherit. With this election being so divisive, let’s take a look at some of the best and worst presidents in movie history. These are my Top 10 Presidential Movies. Some are fictional and others are based on real figure, but not documentaries.
10. Henry Fonda as “The President” (Fail Safe):
What if you were tasked with imminent global nuclear war? How do you lead people through such a total catastrophic event? That was what Henry Fonda’s unnamed character “The President” was faced with in “Fail Safe”. A glitch in the system has ordered several U.S.A. bombers to drop nuclear weapons onto various targets against the Soviet Union. While most are averted or destroyed, one gets through and is heading straight for Moscow. The question then becomes for Fonda to decide how can he prove to the global power that America did not plan this. “Fail Safe” boils down to a tense situation every president faces and how a leader must solve it faster than expected.
9. Terry Crews as “President Camacho” (Idiocracy):
It is hard to argue that director Mike Judge made perhaps the most prophetic movie about the direction America is going ever with “Idiocracy”. And it is continuing now in real life. An average private soldier (Luke Wilson) is selected for an experimental hibernation program. When he wakes up five centuries later, the entire country is full of idiots and the planet is dying. Crops are no longer being watered but instead being fed Gatorade. Wilson, initially imprisoned, is found by an IQ test to be the smartest man alive. The president, a crazy yet hilarious wannabe rockstar played by Terry Crews has agreed to pardon Wilson. The only condition is that he solves the world’s problems, like the fact that crops won’t grow. President Camacho and his entire cabinet are stunned when Wilson shows them that using water instead of Gatorade might be the better course of action. What a thought! “Idiocracy” continues to become more true as time goes on and society increasingly gets dumber (‘Jersey Shore’ anyone). But ya know what, President Camacho would probably be a lot of fun.
8. Kevin Kline as “Dave” (Dave):
“Dave” is a love-able picture as well as the ideal look of what a normal, altruistic citizen might do given the chance to run the Oval Office. Kevin Kline plays Dave, a run of the mill temp agency owner who moonlights as an impersonator for the president of the United States because they are a spitting image of each other. The real president is a scumbag obsessed with his own power (sound familiar?). When the actual president has a heart attack while banging a secretary, the high end White House staff goes into panic mode and snaps up Dave to be a puppet so that the media and public thinks that everything is fine in order to get several bills that will screw over tax payers passed. After the initial shock, the good-hearted Dave finds his footing and goes into attack mode to help citizens. Gee, what a thought. The big-wig political players are not exactly happy with the policies a kind person was laying out. On top of that, the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver) doesn’t know what to make of her husband suddenly not being an asshole. Look, politics are a shady business no question. People do some bad things to get ahead because frankly they have to. Wouldn’t it be nice for a normal, decent guy to get a shot at sitting in the top seat. Even if it is just for a short period of time.
7. Bill Pullman as “Thomas J. Whitmore” (Independence Day):
The Cold War, Vietnam, slavery, 9/11. All horrible events in history to deal with in real-life history as the leader of the free world. But can you imagine trying to rally a country whilst facing an insurmountable force from space. Aliens invade Earth, destroying multiple monuments around the world including the Empire State Building and the White House. These ugly squid-like bastards are out for blood in their plan to annihilate humanity. Soldiers fight, but it is up to President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) to rally the troops not just in America but also around the world in hopes of defeating the greatest threat humanity has ever seen. Before taking up arms in a fighter jet with a makeshift group of soldiers, Tommy gives an unforgettable speech as far as epic action movies are concerned. Yes sir, today we will celebrate our “Independence Day”.
6. Chris Rock as “Mays Gilliam” (Head of State):
Funny how “Head of State” also became prophetic a few years later. During the height of the Bush administration and before Obama showed up, Chris Rock decided to do a comedy about America having to deal with a black dude in charge. After the President and Vice-Presidential candidates die in a plane crash, the Democrats are scrambling. Willing to concede, the corrupt dems bring in a man that is certain to lose. Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) and his brother Mitch (Bernie Mac) know they are puppets in the political system, being set up to lose against the incumbent Vice Prez. Then Mays gets in front of the microphone and it is on. Gilliam, with nothing to lose, starts spitting truth that no presidential candidate ever, including Obama, would have the balls to say. And all of the sudden this dude is gaining ground no political pundit could for-see. And it is all truth. Be careful what you wish for. Looking in the mirror is not always pleasant America.
5. Anthony Hopkins as “Richard Nixon” (Nixon):
Good ol’ tricky-dick Nixon was a real mean son of a bitch. Before becoming a president he was a key figure in the communist witch trial led by that a-hole Joseph McCarthy. Total nonsense that led to the most disgusting war America ever saw, Vietnam. At least all of the other wars had some kind of semblance of a reason, be it right or wrong. But what do we remember Nixon for most? The only president to leave office in the middle of his term, the highly right wing based Watergate Scandal attempted cover-up sealed the deal for this piece of garbage who did not realize what time in society he was living in. Anthony Hopkins portrayed him phenomenally in director Oliver Stone’s take on the polarizing figure. Whether you liked him or not, Nixon must continue to be written about in history books. After all, he is not a crook.
4. Henry Fonda as “Abraham Lincoln” (Young Mr. Lincoln):
Unless you remain a racist and refuse to accept #blacklivesmatter is a positive movement, there is no question Abraham Lincoln is our nation’s greatest president ever. He fought against a collection of old white men to make change and started the process, which is still going on now, towards everyone coming to a point in which we disagree but all of us have the right to be human beings. There have been several iterations of the man with the most badass top hat in history. Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for it. But that movie overall, “Lincoln”, was ‘meh’. My money is on Henry Fonda in “Young Mr. Lincoln”. The struggles during his presidency are well documented. “Young Mr. Lincoln” takes a look at what led to the man becoming such an amazing leader. He was a lawyer fighting for everyones right not to be hung when it was easy to do so for racist’s in power. Just watch the clip…
3. Peter Sellers as “President Merkin Muffley” (Dr. Strangelove):
Peter Sellers absolutely owned director Stanley Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece “Dr. Strangelove”. The guy played three different characters, all of which are arguably the best in the film. While the titular performance is most well known visually, how can anyone forget the love-able yet overwhelmed President Merkin Muffley. With the Cold War heating up, two superpowers are ready to blow each other up after a general says ‘Screw It’ and launches nukes towards Russia. President Muffley scrambles to avoid a worldwide disaster, bringing all of his top advisors together. The problem, his top advisors are idiots. A phone call trying to massage the ego of the Russian president Dmitri is eerily similar to today. And who can forget Sellers breaking up a fight between a Russian ambassador and a crazed general screaming “GENTLEMAN, YOU CAN’T FIGHT IN HERE! THIS IS THE WAR ROOM!”. When it comes to world peace, couldn’t have said it better myself.
2. Harrison Ford as “President James Marshall” (Air Force One):
Several presidents have fought in combat. Some did so ‘supposedly’. Some led the fight during the Civil War. Some led soldiers during the revolution. Yet the biggest badass who refuses to say no was President James Marshall. Depicted by Harrison Ford, President Marshall has the guts to stand up against a Russian rebellion leader and his opposing regime that takes over Air Force One. With his family held hostage and multiple staff member’s lives in jeopardy, President Marshall steps into action as he eliminates terrorists one-by-one and saving as many innocent people on board possible. In the words of Harrison Ford; “GET OFF MY PLANE”.
1. Michael Douglas as “Andrew Shephard” (The American President):
Andrew Shephard represents a character that we wish would be a reality of a president. Washington great, but he also loved slaves. Kennedy is an all-time phenomenal leader, but let us not get into his personal life. Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepard in “The American President” represents what one would wish a leader of a country would represent. A democrat widower and father running for reelection, Andrew makes mistakes just like the rest of us. He places a crime bill that the public wants in theory over an environmental protection bill America needs. Trying to please all of the people does not make a good leader. Those in power must believe in decisions that our best for a country. Shephard also burns his relationship with new girlfriend Sydney Allen Wade (Annette Benning) in the process by crushing the environmental bill. President Shepard finally does the right thing not because he is in love, but because it is the right decision as president.