Reels to the White House: A Look at Presidential Cinema

With the election just around the corner, let’s take a look at movies that involve U.S. presidents.

From Zanuck’s presidential bio picture Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) starring Henry Fonda as the titular role, to Zack Snyder’s dystopian future President Nixon in the Watchmen (2009), to President Whitmore’s classic speech in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996), we’ve seen many incarnations of what it means to be the US President grace the big screen.

Maybe it’s because an actor comes about that resembles the look of a classic president. Teddy Roosevelt was played by three actors, Sidney Blackmer, Wallis Clark, and Ed Casssidy, in over ten films including westerns and musicals during the 1930s-50s; and then again three times by Robin Williams in the Night at the Museum trilogy. Charlton Heston played President Andrew Jackson twice in two separate romance movies in the 1950s, and Brett Stimely just seems to pop up as JFK in recent films.

Or maybe it’s just simply because the President is truly our country’s top job. Scrutinized, idolized, the patsy, the fall guy, the victim, the hostage, the target, the hero, the leader into a brighter future. The President is a mirror of who we are and who we want to be. Not only a country, but as individual citizens.

Great stories always seem to be about the shoes we want to fill and the dreams we want to accomplish. From great stories hopefully come great films, or at least some shit with some bad-ass explosions to kill time. I leave you with the words of the cinemas greatest President, “be excellent to each other” and a list of said time killers.


John Malkovich and Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire (1993)

In the Line of Fire (1993)

Clint Eastwood as old-school bad-ass Secret Service agent vs. bat-shit cray cray Malkovich as he plots to shoot the President with some mother fucking homemade gun. Plastic homemade gun?!?! If that ain’t some bass-ass shit I don’t know what is.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson, John Mahoney, John Heard


Robin Wright in The Conspirator (2011)

The Conspirator (2011)

Robin Wright in a courtroom drama period piece. Sign us all up.

Director: Robert Redford

Starring: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, Danny Huston, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel, Toby Kebbell, Tom Wilkinson


Van Johnson in The Price of Power (1969)

The Price of Power (1969)

Hey, those Italian cowboys are trying to kill President Garfield with multiple shooters on a grassy knoll. Oh shit that just like….oh shit…mind…blown.

Director: Tonino Valerii.

Starring: Jose Calvo, Maria Cuadra, Manuel Zarzo



Air Force One (1997)

Harrison Ford will straight up punch you in the dick.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell, William H. Macy


White House Down (2013)

Not really Secret Service agent Tatum, Channing protects President Jamie Foxx as they take on mother fucker James Woods.

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods


Morgan Freedman in Deep Impact (1998)

Deep Impact (1998)

An asteroid is threatening to destroy earth and only Robert Duvall and his space crew can stop it. President Morgan Freedman provides all types of exposition via televised speeches. Plus creepy child wedding.

Director: Mimi Leder

Starring: Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Redgrave, Leelee Sobieski, James Cromwell, Jon Favreau


Forest Whitaker, Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox in Vantage Point (2008)

Vantage Point (2008)

Quaid and that dude from Lost try to figure out who assassinated the President using video from Forest Whitaker and Sigourney Weaver and shit.

Director: Pete Travis

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Fox, Edgar Ramirez, Ayelet Zurer, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt


Onni Tommila and Samuel L. Jackson in Big Game (2015)

Big Game (2015)

Air Force One is shot down but they save the President Samuel L. Jackson in some sorta fucking droid-esque escape pod, where he runs into a weird kid with a bow and arrow who helps him camp, and fight the nameless corrupt government guy that’s behind the attack. Pretty much it’s your basic buddy action flick, but with Sammy L and some crazy twelve-year-old kid in the woods.

Director: Jalmari Helander

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Felicity Huffman, Victor Garber, Ted Levine


Kurt Russell in Escape from New York (1981)

Escape from New York (1981)

Dystopian future New York. Kurt Russell. Eye Patch. Guns.

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau



Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst in Dick (1999)

Dick (1999)

Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are some dumb ass fucks as they befriend President Dan Hedaya in this 70s farce with an ensemble of character actors from Kids in the Hall, SNL and other live televised sketch type comedy shows.

Director: Andrew Fleming

Starring: Kirsten Dunst; Michelle Williams; Dan Hedaya; Will Ferrell, Bruce McCulloch, Teri Garr, Dave Foley, Jim Breuer, Ana Gasteyer, Harry Shearer, Ted McGinley, Ryan Reynolds


Barry Bostwick in FDR: American Badass! (2012)

FDR: American Badass! (2012)

Shot in someone’s Palo Alto backyard, this barely watchable, dick-joke infested, full-length Funny-or-Die feature, has werewolves too.

Director: Garrett Brawith

Starring: Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, Bruce McGill, Ray Wise, Kevin Sorbo


Hal Landon Jr. in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

These two dumb asses don’t know shit about history until George Carlin shows up from the future in a shoulder padded, belted leather trench coat and some fucking Z Cavariccis to teach them all about that shit with a something that obviously exists in the future, a phone-booth. So they pick up all these mother fuckers, who don’t teach them shit about history, but are enamored with their shitty surfer dude lingo and party time attitude. Moral of the story, no matter what the century, people love smoking doobies. And since the Wyld Stallyns, have yet to arrive to torture the world with their Van Halen-esque riffs, I’m gonna say that’s a win win for everyone.

Director: Stephen Herek

Starring: Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, George Carlin, Bernie Casey, Jane Wiedlin, Hal Landon Jr., Robert V. Barron


Terry Crews in Idiocracy (2006)

Idiocracy (2006)

It’s the future and we’re all fucking morons cause of TV. We pretty much live this shit except Luke Wilson isn’t the world’s smartest man and Terry Crewes doesn’t rock the blonde wig.

Director: Mike Judge

Starring: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crewes, David Herman, Stephen Root, Justin Long, Thomas Haden Church


Dan Aykroyd in My Fellow Americans (1996)

My Fellow Americans (1996)

Pretty much Grumpy Old Men, except that they are ex-Presidents and President Dan Aykroyd is the “Ann-Margret”

Director: Peter Segal

Starring: Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd Director: Peter Segal , John Heard, Wilford Brimely, Lauren Bacall, Everett McGill, Bradley Whitford



Gary Oldman as Shelly Runyon in The Contender (2000)

The Contender (2000)

Gary Oldman’s bad hair will stop at nothing to derail Joan Allen’s vice presidential campaign — as styled by Ellen DeGeneres. The Academy loved this shit, will you?

Director: Rod Lurie

Starring: Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges, Sam Elliott, Christian Slater, William Petersen, Philip Baker Hall, Saul Rubinek, Mariel Hemingway


John Travolta in Primary Colors (1998)

Primary Colors (1998)

John Travolta does a “not” Bill Clinton impression for like two, two-and-a-half hours.

Director: Mike Nichols

Starring: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton Kathy Bates, Adrian Lester, Maura Tierney, Larry Hagman, Paul Guilfoyle, Diane Ladd, Rob Reiner, Tony Shalhoub


Anne Heche, Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog (1997)

Wag the Dog (1997)

Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Anne Heche try their hand at comedy in this Politico snooze-fest.

Director: Barry Levinson

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, Woody Harrelson, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, John Michael Higgins, Kirsten Dunst, Willam H. Macy


Philip Baker Hall in Secret Honor (1984)

Secret Honor (1984)

Disgraced President Philip Baker Hall yells a lot as he struggles with suicide this one room play on film. Unfortunate spoiler, it’s take a while and you never see him blow his brains out.

Director: Robert Altman

Starring: Philip Baker Hall


Kevin Costner and Steven Culp in Thirteen Days (2000)

Thirteen Days (2000)

Hey Kevin Costner in another movie about JFK. Who’da thunk it.

Director: Roger Donaldson

Starring: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp


PT 109 (1963)

Hey they made this movie about JFK being a hero while that mother fucker was the President. Man that’s some bad ass shit.

Director: Leslie H. Martinson

Starring: Cliff Robertson, Ty Hardin, James Gregory


Amistad (1997)

Spielberg’s 1840s courtroom drama about a slaves and stuff, with President Sideburns Anthony Hopkins, a young McConaughey and Morgan Freeman as wise old black guy.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Nigel Hawthorne, Djimon Hounsou, David Paymer, Stellan Skarsgård


Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Forest Whitaker in The Butler (2013)

The Butler (2013)

Hey Forest Whitaker is the Butler at the White House through a whole bunch of presidents.

Director: Lee Daniels

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda


Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln (2012)

Seems like Daniel Day Lewis was actually friends with Abraham Lincoln. This film clearly outs him as an immortal vampire. Don’t invite him into your house it will render you powerless to the Day-Lewis.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, James Spader



JFK (1991)

Stars abound in this puzzling shit storm of a conspiracy theory movie. Government officials are corrupt? No way Oliver. Wait till Junior High hears about this.

Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Rooker, Laurie Metcalf, Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Edward Asner, John Candy, Kevin Bacon, Brian Doyle-Murray, Sally Kirkland, Vincent D’Onofrio, Wayne Knight, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Frank Whaley


And if there was a second rifleman, then by definition, there had to be a conspiracy.

Nixon (1995)

Hey America Nixon was kind of a dick-face and American politics can be corrupt. Thanks again for the mind expanding info Oliver.

Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Powers Boothe, Ed Harris, Bob Hoskins, EG Marshall, David Paymer, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Sorvino, Mary Steenburgen, JT Walsh, James Woods, Kevin Dunn,


W. (2008)

Dear Mr Stone please stop making these movies. Sincerely the theater going public.

Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn, James CromwellRichard Dreyfuss, Jeffery Wright, Scott Glenn, Stacey Keach, Bruce McGill



Klinton Spilsbury in Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)

Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)

In the one where Tonto isn’t the main character. Lone movie starring Klinton Spilsbury is unwatchable even with Jason Robards and you don’t fuck with the Robards.

Director: William A. Fraker

Starring: Klinton Spilsbury; Michael Horse, Christopher Lloyd, Matt Clark, Jason Robards


Revolution (1985)

This film was such a piece of crap that Pacino took a four-year hiatus from films until 1989’s Sea of Love. Woooo-aaahhh.

Director: Hugh Hudson

Starring: Al Pacino; Donald Sutherland; Nastassja Kinski; Steven Berkoff; Annie Lennox; Robbie Coltrane; Graham Greene


Deterrence (1999)

Kevin Pollak + Timothy Hutton obviously = Spellbinding

Director: Rod Lurie

Starring: Kevin Pollak; Timothy Hutton; Sheryl Lee Ralph; Clotilde Courau; Badja Djola; June Lockhart; Michael Mantell; Sean Austin


Kevin Kline and Will Smith in Wild Wild West (1999)

Wild Wild West (1999)

In this pre-Steam punk visual nightmare, Will Smith says some vague hip hop influenced old west lines as Kenneth Branagh twirls his mustache with the shittiest southern accent ever on film for like two hours. Oh and Salma Hayek’s boobs.

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Starring: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, Bai Ling, Ted Levine, M. Emmet Walsh, Frederique Van Der Wal, Sofia Eng


Jonah Hex (2010)

Josh Brolin is some obscure comic book super hero guy no one gives a shit about.

Director: Jimmy Hayward

Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Tom Wopat, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn



Nick Nolte as Tomas Jefferson in Jefferson in Paris (1995)

Jefferson in Paris (1995)

Nick Nolte be fucking everybody. France.

Director: James Ivory

Starring: Nick Nolte, Greta Scacchi, Seth Gilliam, James Earl Jones, Gwyneth Paltrow


Michael Douglas in The American President (1995)

The American President (1995)

President Michael Douglas wants to bang Annette Bening but not if that wease-ly fuck Richard Dreyfuss has anything to say about it. With token Reiner subplot of gen x child telling baby boomer parent that its okay to move on to their second marriage.

Directed by Rob Reiner.

Starring: Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, David Paymer, Richard Dreyfuss, Samantha Mathis


Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in Dave (1993)

Dave (1993)

Kevin Kline is a Presidential look-like who becomes President when the real one dies. Mr. Deeds hijinks ensue. Plus Kevin Kline banging Sigourney Weaver, eww.

Director: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley, Frank Langella, Laura Linney, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Dunn, Charles Grodin


Joan Crawford in The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)

The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)

Everyone wants to bang Joan Crawford who knows President Lionel Barrymore, in this muddled clap-trap of a period piece.

Director: Clarence Brown

Starring: Joan Crawford, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart


Charlton Heston in The President’s Lady (1953)

The President’s Lady (1953)

Nothing can stop Charlton Heston from banging Susan Hayward, setting him on a collision course with the Presidency.

Director: Henry Levin

Stars: Susan Hayward, Charlton Heston, John McIntire



Gene Hackman as President Allen Richmond in Absolute Power (1997)

Absolute Power (1997)

Eastwood is a thief who witnesses President Hackman straight-up murder a bitch, in this psychological cat and mouse.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Gene Hackman, Judy Davis, Dennis Haysbert, E.g. Marshall


John Candy and Kevin J O’Connor in Canadian Bacon (1995)

Canadian Bacon (1995)

Starring: Alan Alda, John Candy, Rhea Perlman

Michael Moore made a non documentary movie? Yes, and no one was required to act in it either. Alda as a dick. Candy as a loveable fat guy. Steven Wright as a mumbler. Kevin Pollak as a smarmy little shit. James Belushi as pointless. And Rip Torn as always as awesome.

Director: Michael Moore

Starring: Alan Alda, John Candy, Rhea Perlman, Kevin Pollak, Rip Torn, Steven Wright, James Belushi


Harrison Ford and Willen Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Hey Mr President. You send bad-ass Willem Dafoe in to murder some Colombian drug cartel piece-of-shit and now you wanna cover that shit up?!?! Well not if Harrison Ford and his overblown sense of justice has anything to say about it.

Director Phillip Noyce

Starring: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Anne Archer, Donald Moffat, Miguel Sandoval, Benjamin Brat, Raymond Cruz, Thora Birch