As Americans we like our president to be some combination of likable and better than us. Our last two presidents got in this way, albeit in very different ways — Obama shoots hoops and cracks jokes, but he also used to be a Harvard Law professor. George W. Bush was a guy you could get a beer with (nonalcoholic) but he was also from a dynastic political family.
It’s a delicate balance to maintain — be an American while also being the Best American — and this weekend, Jamie Foxx gives it his best attempt in White House Down. He’s the president in need of help of getting to safety, so he’s the audience surrogate. But he also has to help Channing Tatum kick some terrorist ass. Go president!
Here are 10 other memorable (fictional) movie presidents.
I wish the real president was sponsored by Mountain Dew and wore the presidential seal around his neck. I mean, again. That’s how FDR got re-elected three times.
Of Peter Sellers’ 14 roles in probably the best satire of all time, his least showy is that of President Merkin Muffley, a bald, sniffling do-nothing that isn’t played for laughs, unless you realize that he’s doing a stellar impression of forgettable two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
A lot of critics and hardcore fans thought this long-awaited big-screen adaptation of Douglas Adams’ perfect comic novel was a mess, and maybe it was. But Sam Rockwell’s two-headed, split personality Zaphod Beeblebrox heavily inspired by George W. Bush (see presidential duality above) was a nice choice, and a way to make the ’70s material still seem satirically relevant.
Head of State
In this 2003 movie that seemed highly fantastical at the time, Chris Rock plays an African-American councilman who rockets to presidential candidacy. Rock wrote the movie, and achieves the difficult task of mixing bitter political humor, thoughtful commentary on modern-day racism, and tons of heart. You’ll laugh at the white flight out of the suburbs to the polls when the fear of a possible black president sets in (set to Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad”), and you’ll get misty at the triumphant ending.
A big ensemble comedy like what they had in the ’60s, Jack Nicholson plays two roles—a skeevy Burt Reynolds type, and a skeevy Jack Nicholson type who is also president of the United States who, out of options, unctuously tries to capitulate to the monstrous alien invaders.
In which the idea that the president is a regular guy is taken to its comical extreme, in that a regular guy who looks like the president steps in for him for a few days and fixes a lot of the president’s personal and work problems. Populist as fuck.
If there were an alien invasion on par with the one in Independence Day, I’d think we’d all want a president like Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore. He suits back up to fight on the front lines! He shows no fear! He gives one of the most memorable (I know, it’s not real) political speeches of all time!
The American President
Known in some territories as Operation: Get the President Laid.
It’s the prime minister we’re talking about in this one (“prime minister” is an English word that means “England president”). The American president—Billy Bob Thornton was slyly cast, and portrays him as an immoral Southern sexist pig. But While Thornton reflected Clinton, Hugh Grant was the cinema version of young, cool British PM Tony Blair, and his vignette trying to romance his aide is pretty damn winning.
Air Force One
Starring President Harrison Ford as Himself.