My Top 10 Fictional Presidents

This country is on the verge of a historic presidential election in many ways. Not going to get all political about it, but I thought it would be fun to consider some fictional presidents that could conceivably do a better job than the current crop of candidates.

No one else voting on this but me. It’s my list, and thus, it’s somewhat rigged.

 

#10 – The President, from National Treasure: Book of Secrets

I openly admit that the National Treasure franchise is a guilty pleasure of mine. I like the first part more than the second, and I’m still waiting for a third. Bruce Greenwood plays an unnamed President in this movie in a more or less cameo role. He’s only in a couple of scenes, but they’re some of the best scripted scenes of the movie. First, Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) coerces him into exploring an underground tunnel at Mount Vernon to ask him, off the record, about the President’s secret book. Ben says some really profound words about being the President, impressing him enough to reveal the info. But his scene at the end, when he and Ben have a moment about page 47—whatever is on it—that makes me desire a third movie.

 

#9 – President Thomas J. Whitmore, from Independence Day

I openly admit that this movie is silly, particularly how an entire alien race can be defeated by a computer virus that someone whipped up on their Mac at home. And the 3½” floppy disk integrates perfectly with the alien technology. I have a pretty high suspension-of-disbelief threshold, but that’s where I lost it. However, until that moment, Bill Pullman—in his kind of constipated vocal style—does a good job as president. Even though he has lost his wife in the attack, he puts his skills as a fighter pilot to good use. Instead of staying protected in a bunker somewhere, he fights also. And he gives inspirational speeches about…well…Independence Day.

 

#8 – President Thomas Kirkman, from Designated Survivor

He’s the new kid on the block, with the show only premiering this fall, but he has risen to the challenge. During the annual State of the Union address, one member of the President’s cabinet stays away from the Capitol Building. This is an existing policy, just in case something bad were to happen at the Capitol Building. Well, in the show, something very bad happens, and the chief executives and most of the legislature are killed in a terrorist attack of the building. Suddenly, Keifer Sutherland is reluctantly thrust into the Oval Office. It’s an understated, nuanced performance by Keifer Sutherland, much different than his character from 24. He’s great on the small screen, and this is a show where he gets to shine.

 

#7 – President Tom Beck, from Deep Impact

If there’s an asteroid hurtling toward America, what trustworthy figure would you want in the White House? Morgan Freeman, of course! The man is so cool, he can do anything! Just look at some of his previous roles to see his platform. Education: he can make reading easy, as Easy Reader on The Electric Company? Military record: he played a soldier in Glory. Acceptance of diversity: he loves everyone, kinda like God—he’s even played God twice! While the similarly themed Armageddon, released around the same time, went for big action, Morgan and company went more scientific with Deep Impact, and he was a great president.

 

#6 – President Andrew Shepherd, from The American President

Michael Douglas plays a widower President in his second term, likely to be reelected because the country sympathizes with his loss. However, his personal life picks up a bit when he meets and falls for environmental lobbyist Sydney Wade (stunningly portrayed by Annette Bening). Forget the politics in the movie and enjoy the romance and comedy instead. Douglas and Bening have great chemistry, and it’s fun watching him trying to date her—particularly the running gag of him trying to get her flowers. How would a bachelor President even date with the Secret Service always hanging around, no car of his own to drive, no credit cards to use? It’s cute, and Douglas behaves presidentially.

 

#5 – President James Marshall, from Air Force One

What can’t Harrison Ford do? Interstellar Rogue, Tomb-robbing archaeologist? Futuristic robot cop? President of the United States is easy after some of the challenges he’s faced in other movies. When terrorists led by Gary Oldman hijack the titular presidential airplane, he doesn’t just sit around and let the Secret Service save his butt. He gets out and defends himself! His climactic confrontation with Oldman is a classic, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like line: “Get off my plane!” It’s such a fun action movie, and it really plays to Ford’s strengths as an 70s-90s action star.

 

#4 – President Laura Roslin, from Battlestar Galactica

To get an awesome female President from fiction, we’ve got to travel to freakin’ outer space! Nowhere did I say that the president had to be president of the United States! Already on this list, we’ve had presidents dealing with terrorists, asteroids, and aliens, but they were all doing it from the comfort of home. Roslin has to do in it outer space with her entire constituency searching for a new home, all during a war with the Cylons. Oh, and the Cylons have infiltrated the humans, along with the mind of the Vice President! Oh, and she wasn’t the president when it all started but ascended to power as the most senior cabinet member. Mary McDonnell balances all this with humanity, humility, and ballsyness. America can use that.

 

#3 – Dave Kovic, from Dave

In this light Ivan Reitman comedy, Kevin Kline plays Dave Kovic, who runs a temp agency but has a side job impersonating current President Bill Mitchell (also played by Kline). Dave is requested to impersonate the President leaving a hotel, not for any security issue but to cover up the president’s extramarital affair. But then President Mitchell goes into a coma. The Chief of Staff—with political aspirations of his own—has Dave continue the charade, figuring Dave will be a puppet. Eventually, Dave learns of the corruption in the Oval Office and starts to turn things around in a cabinet meeting. After all, who’d question the President? The story may be a little far-fetched and simplistic, but Kevin Kline is charming in the role, and it’s got a good message about expecting our leaders to do what’s right.

 

#2 – President Josiah Bartlet, from The West Wing

After the success of The American President, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin developed a television show about the Presidency. That show went on to be one of the most acclaimed and awarded serial dramas of all time. Start with fantastic writing: Sorkin’s trademark walk-and-talk scenes give the show an urgency befitting of the top office in the country. Then add fantastic casting: The supporting cast is amazing, several of them winning Emmy Awards—although, the man playing the President never did. Martin Sheen (who played the chief of staff in The American President) was perfect because he was idealistic but flawed. Sure, the show may have had an optimistic or moralistic point of view, but it was for entertainment. Don’t we all want a world view like that?

 

Before we get to the best, here are five dis-honorable mentions. These are some not-so-good fictional presidents, either because they’re inept, useless, or just plain evil.

President Snow, from The Hunger Games – No one other than Donald Sutherland had the look and voice to rule over this dystopian series. And his successor, President Coin (Julianne Moore) wasn’t a much better option.

President Hathaway, from Monsters vs. Aliens – As voiced by Stephen Colbert, he is the paragon of ineptitude. The most cartoonish on this list.

President Francis J. Underwood, from House of Cards – Duplicity and sleaziness like only Kevin Spacey can play.

President Merkin Muffley, from Dr. Strangelove – Peter Sellers: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.” ‘Nuff said.

President Charles Logan, from 24 – Totally paranoid and corrupt, but Gregory Itzin made his portrayal a fan favorite.

 

After the worst from 24, we go to the best from that same show, Hail to the Chief, or at least my favorite fictional President…

#1 – PRESIDENT DAVID PALMER, from 24

Before he was the voice of the Allstate commercials and after he was Pedro Cerrano in Major League, Dennis Haysbert was the Commander-In-Chief on this breakthrough series. He wasn’t President in the first season, instead being a candidate for the job. The Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU), particularly field agent extraordinaire Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland—lots of Sutherland appearances in this post), is trying to thwart an assassination attempt on him. He gets elected prior to Season 2, and he serves amid family scandals, mostly from his wife. But he had tremendous gravitas in the role, and he wasn’t afraid to wield his power when needed. I think he’s one fictional President that could really rule this country, and I’d vote for him.

 

Agree? Disagree? Cast your ballot—in the form of a comment!

Comments

  1. Steven Sousa says:

    No President Camacho?

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