5 Phenomenal Movie Presidents


It seems that the end of this exasperating election season is mercifully in sight. And as partisans delude themselves with grandeur, the rest of us brace for impact. In the meantime I thought it would be fun to slip away from the curdled political landscape and look at some of my favorite movie presidents. It goes without saying that the movies have used the office of the presidency in a myriad of fun ways and here are some of my favorites. In light of that I wouldn’t consider this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these five movie presidents are most certainly phenomenal.

#5 – President Benjamin Asher


Ok don’t laugh, but this one is admittedly a guilty pleasure. Aaron Eckhart’s President Benjamin Asher was a key part of the corny but fun shoot-em-up “Olympus Has Fallen” and the best part of its forgettable sequel “London Has Fallen”. Eckhart ends up being a great fit, bringing what the role needs most – physicality and believability. And that’s saying something in movies where believability is more-or-less tossed out the window.

#4 – President Thomas J. Whitmore


I mean President Whitmore from “Independence Day” has to be on the list right? I mean a leader who can give that kind of speech during a global alien invasion is pretty much a lock. Bill Pullman’s Whitmore not only says the right things but he puts his money where his mouth his, entering the fight against the invading alien forces and saving the earth as we know it. If that doesn’t earn his a second term nothing can.

#3 – President James Marshall


This pick could have easily been #1 on my list. Harrison Ford became everyone’s president when “Air Force One” came out back in 1997. Ford is terrific as President Marshall – tough, determined, and not too fond of hijackers taking over his plane. Don’t believe me? Just ask Gary Oldman. There’s a vulnerability to Marshall but also a firm resolve to save his staff members at 35,000 feet. Who wouldn’t cast their ballot for a guy like that?

#2 – President Merkin Muffley


I make no apologies for having President Merkin Muffley from “Dr. Strangelove” this high on my list. In fact he could’ve easily taken the top spot just for his hysterical phone call with Dimitri, his Russian counterpart. President Muffley is one of three parts Peter Sellers plays in this Stanley Kubrick classic and it’s easily my favorite. His sly mix of humor and sincerity really anchors this 1964 Cold War black comedy and watching his War Room jostling never gets old.

#1 – President Abraham Lincoln


For a while I was tempted to limit my list to only fictional movie presidents. But during the entire time I was putting this thing together, I couldn’t quit thinking about what may be the preeminent portrayal of a president ever put on screen. Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning performance in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is a master class on bringing detail and utter commitment to a role. It’s stunning work from one of our greatest living actors.

And there is my list. What do you think? What would have made your list? Please let me hear from you in the comments section below.

26 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movie Presidents

  1. Michael Douglas was pretty good. Bruce Greenwood in “Thirteen Days” is very good. And more as a good movie than for the portrayal of a president, “Seven Days in May” is a good political thriller. I agree with your number one pick, great performance, great screenplay, well done all around.

    Have you seen the Bill Murray as FDR movie and is it any good? Has never interested me quite enough to track it down and watch it.

  2. I love Kevin Kline in Dave (1993)
    Jeff Bridges in The Contender (2000)
    and Moragn Freeman in Deep Impact (1997)

    as for real Presidents –
    Greenwood in 13 Days (2000)
    Hopkins in Amistad (1997)
    James Whitmore in Give Em Hell Harry (1976)
    Bryan Cranston in All the Way (2016)

    Any of these would be better than the choices we’ve had 😦

  3. The American President with Michael Douglas was cute. So was Dave starring Kevin Kline.
    I like 13 Days with Bruce Greenwood as JFK.
    I thought Anthony Hopkins was perfect as John Quincy Adams.
    Frank Langella was awesome as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

  4. With the exception of Aaron Eckhart in those Fallen films (which I haven’t seen and refuse to), I bet all of those choices would be a better president than the one we had for the past 4 years or whoever is going to be the president. I’ll throw Chris Rock’s name in that list from Head of State as an alderman who runs for the presidency as a political tool only to do things his way and reach the people in a big way.

      • It’s a pretty funny film and came out 5 years before Obama got elected. Add Bernie Mac playing his brother and running mate, Dylan Baker and Lynn Whitfield as advisors, it’s a funny film. “That ain’t right!”

        I miss Obama. Hell, I’d rather have 8 more years of W. than those last 4 years w/ Dookie Tank.

  5. Yeah – I agree that Day Lewis’s Lincoln needed to be included. That was truly a remarkable performance. And OBVIOUSLY Thomas Whitmore of Independence Day too 🙂 🙂 I also second the mentions here of Bruce Greenwood as JFK in 13 Days. And I do feel the need to mention, because this movie is actually up there on my favorite comedies list, Jack Lemmon and James Garner as Presidents Matt Douglas and Russell Kramer in “My Fellow Americans.” 🙂 If you haven’t seen it, the film is a Grumpy Old Men meets the White House haha 🙂

  6. I agrre with your choices, but I’m also going to extend the category 😀, the best visual medium fictional US Presidents have to be Martin Sheen as President Bartlett in The West Wing series, and Ralph Bellamy as FDR in Winds of War.

  7. President Whitmore FTW! I might be biased here but who could forget that Independence Day speech!?!? I’m right there with ya on Aaron Eckhart. Guilty pleasure pick for sure, but heyyyy that chin’s gotta be put to good use!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s