Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Top 4 Best US Presidents on the Silver Screen

Happy birthday, America! The US has given film some pretty incredible gifts over the years: being a safe haven to European directors during the World Wars and pushing Hollywood to be the world's movie production capitol, among other things. In return, Hollywood has turned the President of the US into one of its most iconic roles. To celebrate Independence Day, here are my top 4 favorite presidential portrayals in film. (Note the lack of women, but then again, the White House also lacks women. I digress.)
The American President

4. Michael Douglas: The American President

Michael Douglas plays bad better than almost anyone else. He has a certain loathsome charm wrapped in a magnetic personality. However, his role as President Andrew Shepherd in The American President (1995, Rob Reiner) plays to his softer, more sympathetic side. President Shepherd is a rarity in America: a single president. The film focuses on the president's personal life, an often overlooked aspect in film. President Shepherd may not be incredibly powerful, but he is highly admirable and, above all, human.

Air Force One

3. Harrison Ford: Air Force One

Harrison Ford has a lot going for him. Outer space fighter pilot with a heart of gold? Check. Bumbling archeologist who goes on zany adventures? Double check. American president who beats the crap out of the terrorist Gary Oldman? Triple check! Ford's James Marshall in Air Force One (1997, Wolfgang Petersen) is the definition of a badass. Not only does he kill a bevy of terrorists, he also takes control of the airplane to save the day. "Get off my plane", indeed. Bonus points for Marshall having a female vice-president, portrayed flawlessly by Glenn Close.

Mars Attacks!

2. Jack Nicholson: Mars Attacks!

When aliens inevitably invade the planet, the president will inevitably have to guide the people. Nicholson's President James Dale in Mars Attacks! (1996, Tim Burton) strongly resists calls for nuclear retaliation. Instead, he tries to reason with the aliens while keeping the American people calm, which is no small task. Although his stellar performance is in a comedy, it could easily be translated to a dramatic film for a wider audience. Bonus points for the First Lady, also played by Glenn Close.

Independence Day

1. Bill Pullman: Independence Day

Bill Pullman's President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day (1996, Roland Emmerich) has all of the qualifications we look for in a president: intelligent, handsome, calm, and authoritative. Like Harrison Ford's Marshall, President Whitmore has a background as a fighter pilot. When America comes under attack by aliens, the president refuses to sit around with diplomats. Instead, he straps into the pilot seat and assists other pilots deliver a nuclear weapon to the aliens. Way to be a hands-on president while staying cool and collected, President Whitmore! (And it goes without saying that his hair is flawless throughout the movie.)

Of course, there are plenty more silver screen presidents, but those are my personal favorites. Have a happy Independence Day!


  1. Watching Independence Day now! I'd forgotten that Data (Brent Spiner) and Jayne (Adam Baldwin) were in it. And Jean informs me that Mary McDonnell (First Lady Whitmore) got her job as President Roslin in Battlestar Galactica b/c the director saw her in Independence Day and loved her. Yay trivia!

    1. The supporting cast is amazing. It's also the 32nd highest grossing film of all time, believe it or not. Hooray for America!