Whether in comedy or drama, as heroes or villains, the U.S. president has always held a special place in Hollywood’s pantheon of screen characters. Celebrate Presidents' Day by rewatching these great movie commanders-in-chief.
Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher - Olympus Has Fallen
In one of two competing blow-up-the-White House flicks last summer, Aaron Eckhart not only has the impossibly square jaw and flinty stare needed to play the prez, he's in top physical shape (he boxes!) and can take a terrorist's crack on the head like a champ. Even as a kidnap victim, this leader of the free world rules.
Jeff Bridges as Jackson Evans – The Contender
Laconic, disarming President Evans would prefer to avoid any and all confrontation and use his considerable charm to get his way instead in. He starts by nominating Sen. Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) to replace his suddenly deceased V.P., setting off a flurry of mudslinging over whether Hanson has a sordid sexcapade in her past. As the wily, Clintonesque leader, Bridges walks off with the show.
James Cromwell as J. Robert Fowler – The Sum of All Fears
The hawkish Pres. Fowler is as dignified and measured as you imagine Cromwell is in real life. In this Tom Clancy adaptation, Fowler gets debriefed by CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) on the Russian Federation’s new president, an ominous hard-liner with suspect military policies that could disrupt Cold War peace. Cromwell is a supporting character, to be sure, but makes one believable Chief Executive.
Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd - The American President
In this Capra-esque rom-com, Douglas’s widower president very publicly woos lobbyist Sydney Wade (Annette Bening) to the detriment of his previously pristine reputation. Breezy and twinkly blue-eyed, Douglas makes the perfect oblivious, yet stand-up, leader of the free world, who reminds you a bit of what Clinton could’ve been without the sleaze.
Harrison Ford as James Marshall – Air Force One
Ford’s one bad dude as the Prez, with a lauded combat background and a propensity to show his non-existent tolerance for terrorists that manifests itself in his kicking one out of his plane at 35,000 feet. Meanwhile, he’s still a devoted family man, football fan and reasonable leader. Couldn’t we have written him in last election year?
Morgan Freeman as Tom Beck – Deep Impact
Always outstanding, Freeman can play God, the U.S. President or the Easy Reader and you’d believe whatever he had to tell you. As Pres. Beck, you absolute buy he’d be able to lead the nation through tremendous tragedy, even one as giant as a comet collision with planet Earth.
Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon – Nixon
Hopkins was Oscar-nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of the embattled Watergate president in Oliver Stone’s film, controversial for its casting of a Brit in the role and implication that Nixon was a paranoid alcoholic. Reviews were mixed, but Hopkins’s difficult, hunching, megalomaniacal Nixon remains a standout presidential performance.
Terry Crews as Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho – Idiocracy
Imagine a world where the president has such a wack moniker. Now imagine that he’s a former wrestler and porn star. That’s exactly the scenario in Mike Judge’s dystopian futureworld, where the U.S. citizenry have devolved into imbeciles who watch award-winning movies titled Ass. Some deemed it brilliant, others labeled it dumb beyond belief, but we like this presidential take.
Kevin Kline as William Harrison "Bill" Mitchell - Dave
As Dave Kovic, presidential impersonator, Kline is recruited by a scheming aide to stand in for the suddenly comatose prez. Passing an employment bill, reorganizing the national budget to help the homeless and improving the president’s image with the people, Dave proves himself a better U.S. leader since…Abe Lincoln?
Bill Pullman as Thomas J. Whitmore - Independence Day
You gotta love a prez who isn’t afraid to take the wheel – er, controls? – of a fighter jet alongside other volunteers in a battle against alien aircraft. He also steps up when ordering massive big-city evacuations and coordinating worldwide nuclear attacks on said aliens.
Now nominate your favorite movie president in the comments.