Five of the Best – Presidents in Movies

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The American Presidents

Oh, say! can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

It’s that night folks, it happens every four years. Tomorrow the world will wake up to news that America has elected a new president. Not only that but we could see history in the making as Hillary Clinton attempts to be the first female and 45th American president . She takes on an apprentice of sorts in republican candidate Donald Trump. This election has car crash written all over it, with both candidates proving largely unpopular with Americans and most of the world. Early forecasts suggest Hillary is winning marginally, but she might just get Trump’d (let’s hope not).

Trump vs. Clinton has gone down like a lead balloon with the public, so I began to think about what makes a good president? I struggled, so I turned to the movies and performances of presidents. For Clarity, these are the actors who assume the role of being the most powerful person in the world for 90+ minutes of wondrous fiction. Here’s the list…


Harrison Ford – Air Force One – (Petersen, 1997)

Best Presidents: Harrison Ford - Air Force One

Harrison Ford takes the first spot in our Five of the Best – Presidents in Movies in Air Force One. For those that don’t know, this film is named after the air traffic control call for the plane carrying the president. Obviously, it takes no enigma code-breaking-whizz-kid to work out the presidents plane among others with a name like Air Force One. It is this exact notion that acts as the main premise for this blockbuster movie. Ford is held hostage on board “Air Force One” and must do everything to save himself and his family.

This movie is directed by two-time Oscar nominee Wolfgang Petersen, who previously directed political thriller In The Line of Fire (Petersen, 1993) featuring a plot to assassinate the president. He clearly thrives off of the political themes for his films as Air Force One and Harrison Ford make for an epic match in this thriller.


Daniel Day Lewis – Lincoln (Spielberg, 2012)

Best Presidents: Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln

This may not be considered one of Steven Spielberg’s classics but if ever you wanted a truer incarnation of a president, then look no further than Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.

Everything from the mannerisms, the physicality and the softly spoken tone of Lincoln is captured brilliantly by Day-Lewis. We are given a close account of Lincoln’s personal battles with many of his own cabinet as he attempts to abolish slavery in America at the time of the American Civil War.

Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Lincoln, it’s a must-see for his acting performance alone.


Michael Douglas – The American President (Reiner, 1995)

Best Presidents: Michael Douglas - The American President

We are changing our angle here, we have opted for comedy-drama film The American President. This time Michael Douglas takes the reins as U.S President Andrew Shepherd. Andrew is widowed and has lost some popularity throughout his tenure for taking it easy in the years build up to an election. That is until he falls for lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade played by Annette Benning.

Unfortunately falling in love comes at an even bigger price for Shepherd as he gets locked in a battle with Senator Bob Rumson. Then the battle gets personal.

Although this film tops the cheesy charts, Douglas really pulls off the aura of being the American president. This is none more so clear than in his presidential speech to the camera in the last act. “You have a problem Bob?, You come to me Bob! Because Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league!”


Morgan Freeman – Deep Impact (Leder, 1998)

Best Presidents: Morgan Freeman - Deep Impact

This film may have just missed out on a spot in our Five of the Best – Disaster Movies but Deep Impact features a fantastic performance from Morgan Freeman as President Beck.  The end of the world is near in Deep Impact when Elijah Wood spots you’re bigger than average comet in the sky one night. Granted it’s basically a dot when he notices it but it’s on a collision course for Earth and only President Beck and a team of astronauts have some answers on how to prevent Armageddon.

Over the year’s we have grown accustomed to the Freeman formula (the dulcet tones ft. a Morgan Freeman voiceover narration) but Deep Impact goes a step further. The gripping monologues and powerhouse speeches show off Freeman’s acting abilities in its entirety.


Kevin Kline – Dave (Reitman, 1993)

Best Presidents: Kevin Kline - Dave

A case of mistaken identity? Everyone knows Dave, don’t they? Kevin Kline plays Mr President twice in Dave.

When the President goes into a coma after an unfortunate series of events, Dave Kovic (an uncanny lookalike for President Bill Mitchell) assumes the role of America’s leader. All this in trying to cover the real presidents ill-health. Trouble emerges however when Dave, who is kind-natured compared to the self-obsessed Bill, becomes greatly favoured over his predecessor and nobody wants him to leave office.

This charming little comedy brings out the best in Kline who plays out the perfect double role with two very different character portrayals. Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley make for a strong ensemble cast, as first lady and vice-president.


Do you agree with our Five Best – Presidents in Movies? Why not cast your vote for your favourite president.

Harrison Ford
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Daniel Day Lewis
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Michael Douglas
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Morgan Freeman
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Kevin Kline (x2)
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