Our film fanaticism is borderline unhealthy here. For most of the staff of Audiences Everywhere, it’s difficult to understand anything without putting it into film terms first. So it’s no surprise that today’s holiday sparked a conversation about our favorite fictional movie presidents. Below is a list of the best candidates.
President James Marshall, Air Force One (Sean Fallon)
My favorite movie president is President James Marshall, played by Harrison Ford in 1997’s Air Force One (aka The last good Harrison Ford film). When Air Force One is taken over by shifty Russian shits led by Gary Oldman, it’s up to President Marshall to John McClane his way through the plane in an effort to save his wife, his daughter, his chief of staff, his national security advisor, his classified papers, AND his baseball glove! President Marshall is everything you want in a president: a handsome family man with a hard line on terrorists, the ability to kill his enemies, and someone who’ll deal out a killer one liner before dispatching his nemesis.
President Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove (Richard Newby)
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!” President Merkin Muffley is a joke. He’s incompetent, ill-prepared, mannerable to a fault, and despite his best intentions, makes decisions that lead to a nuclear holocaust. So why on earth would I place him on this list of respected fictional heroes? Because in Stanley Kubrick’s cold war satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the utter lack of heroes or real leadership is a deeply funny and brutally honest reflection of nuclear powers and failsafe methods. President Muffley, played by the incredible Peter Sellers (who improvised in a Kubrick movie!), is an absolutely terrible President who allows us to recognize the absurdity within government systems, past and present.
President Beck, Deep Impact (David Shreve)
You know why President Beck would win both of his first two elections? Because Morgan Freeman has become the official storytelling grandfather of America. If he entered a presidential debate, most of the country would immediately just think of his unlucky opponent as a bully. We’ll believe anything Freeman says. Think about it: In Deep Impact, President Beck announces that everyone is going to die and that there’s going to be a classist lottery to pick survivors and American families just hug on the couch like “Welp, it’s been a good run.” President Beck stands with the American people against the apocalypse and then again when we win the fight against Armageddon and start to rebuild. That’s value in your vote. Bonus perk: President Beck also indirectly provided us the best Presidential satire skit of all time in Dave Chapelle’s Black Bush. Forty nations, ready to roll!
President Thomas J. Whitmore, Independence Day (Travis Losh)
President Thomas J. Whitmore is a badass. Not only does he deliver a chill-inducing speech to inspire a ragtag, makeshift aerial fleet and oh yeah, global unity, but also he jumps right on the pony. “I’m a fighter pilot, Will. I belong in the air,” he coolly explains before flying into battle against alien invaders. Independence Day is outrageous summer blockbuster meets oddly, somewhat consistent political drama (take drama lightly), and Bill Pullman holds the balance it in all of its absurdity (and all of its horrid visual effects). I would fly into battle with President Whitmore and crazy-ass Randy Quaid any day.
Who are your favorite fictional movie presidents? Let’s have a mock election in the comments below. Write-ins welcome!
Featured Image: Air Force One, Columbia Pictures