Pop 5: Cinematic Presidents

daniel cohen looks at his five favorite U.S. Presidents to ever grace the silver screen …

pop5presidents

In Hollywood, the President of the United States can take many forms. Sometimes he’s an action star. Sometimes he’s Martin Sheen. And sometimes he’ll even be a vampire hunter. Whatever the case may be, Presidents will always be in movies till the end of time. And this weekend, it’s Aaron Eckhart who gets elected into the role in the new thriller Olympus Has Fallen. In honor of this film, it’s my civic duty to bring you the Pop 5 Best Fictional Presidents in Motion Pictures. My fellow Americans … let’s get started:

5. President Arnold Schwarzenegger voiced by Harry Shearer (The Simpsons Movie, 2007):

While technically a real person, this is pretty much a fictional character. And while I think this concept is hilarious, I don’t understand why the President wasn’t fictional film actor Ranier Wolfcastle. As all Simpsons fans know, Ranier Wolfcastle is basically Arnold Schwarzenegger. In The Simpsons Movie, Shearer is doing the exact same character, but for some reason they decide to call him Arnold Schwarzenegger. Was this to relate more to an main stream audience? Whatever the case, he’s still really funny. And even though he has little screen time, Schwarzenegger makes his moments stick. His scenes are also enhanced by the villain, Russ Cargill, head of the EPA and voiced by Albert Brooks. There’s a lot that works about the Simpsons Movie, and a lot that doesn’t work. The scenes with President Arnold definitely work.

4. President James Dale played by Jack Nicholson (Mars Attacks!, 1996):

This was a weird movie. I’ve only seen it once, and parts here and there on other occasions, and I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to feel about it. One of the things I did love though was Jack Nicholson as the President. This is the only truly silly comedy I can remember Nicholson being in, and his overall Nicholson-esque performance comes off as really funny in this very zany environment. But his best moment is right before his death. Dale makes a desperate speech that is really well acted, with patriotic music playing in the background, but you know by the end of it, these Martians are going to kill him. Nicholson has such great presence in all his films, and there’s something about seeing him powerless against these stupid looking cartoon Martians that really works.

3. President Abraham Lincoln played by Robert Barron (Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1988):

Forget Daniel Day-Lewis … this is the best Abraham Lincoln on film. And while this is based on an actual President, once again, it’s safe to say this is a fictionalized version. This poor actor (Robert Barron) wasn’t really heard from again after this movie. And while Lincoln really isn’t in the film very much, his last line will live on forever … “PARTY ON, DUDES!!!” Awesome.

2. President James Marshall played by Harrison Ford (Air Force One, 1997):

When you really break this down, this movie is a ridiculously stupid concept. But for whatever reason, it worked. It’s a classic 90’s action movie…dumb, but pure entertainment. It’s watching the President kick terrorist ass all over the place for 90 minutes. What’s really sad though is the argument can be made that this was Harrison Ford’s last good movie … yikes. But in regards to President Marshall, what else is there to say other then …

1. President Thomas J. Whitmore played by Bill Pullman (Independence Day, 1996):

I love Independence Day. I get all the flaws, but I don’t care. But one of the reasons I love this movie so much is that damn speech at the end. And this is why Whitmore goes down as my favorite fictional President. I don’t care how cheesy it is, Pullman leaves it all out on the field. It’s still inspiring to this day. If this doesn’t make you want to cheer at the end, then check your pulse. Plus, Whitmore jumps in a plane and joins the aerial attack against the aliens … bad ass.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.