Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, full of straight-talk and unorthodox, controversial ideas. Given that he cultivated his personality on reality television, perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that Trump often seems more like a movie character than a real politician. But whether you like his straight-shooting style or you find his outsider act to be insincere, Trump is really and truly running for one of the most important offices in the world.
Still, it can be hard to see Trump as anything more than a character, because of his reality past (and his hair, of course). It also doesn’t help that the he pretty much fits the mold of the cinematic outsider presidential candidate, like Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) in Head of State (albeit on the other side of the political spectrum). Since our biggest fear is that Trump could turn out to be a whole lot more like President Camacho (Terry Crews) in Idiocracy than President Gilliam, we’ve put together a list of some of the best big screen presidents who can hopefully serve as a positive example for Trump and his fellow candidates.
So cue up “Hail to the Chief” and get your ballots in order for Screen Rant’s list of 10 Movie Presidents We'd Like to See in the Real White House.
10 President Tom Beck in Deep Impact
If a seven-mile wide comet has its sights set on earth, who would you rather break the news to you than Morgan Freeman? The man just makes everything sound like it’s going to be all right. Even while declaring an Extinction-Level Event and martial law. But President Beck has more than just an easy-listening DJ voice, he also takes care of business. Sure, you might long for a bit more transparency from the leader of the free world, but isn’t it nice to have a president who has a plan?
As a member of the public, the moment you’re told you’ve got everything to fear, President Beck also gives you reason to hope: Messiah and her fearless crew, including craggy old cosmonaut Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall). But just in case that plan fails, Beck’s even got a backup plan (if you’re lucky enough to get picked): think Noah’s Arc on the most massive of scales, and with a lot less floating. Beck, in his most eloquent fashion, makes it all seem like a great opportunity for rebirth.
9 President Bill Mitchell, aka Dave Kovic, in Dave
Not to point fingers at any current poorly coiffed candidates, but often times, people will seek office more for personal, ego-driven reasons than for the good of the country. In Ivan Reitman and Gary Ross’s 1993 collaboration, that is the exact opposite of Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline), who takes the office without even using his own name, but rather that of the current chief, President Mitchell (also Kline). When Mitchell falls into a coma, for the good of the country, Dave steps in. And by the time his goodness has pervaded the office, no one really delves into the legality of the situation.
Speaking of the people, Dave can see the good in all people; not just for who they are, but for what they can become with a little bit of help and a whole lot of faith. As the owner of a temp agency, Dave knows this intrinsically, which helps him put millions of people to work when he does become (acting) president. Perhaps Dave’s best quality, though, is that he puts family first. Granted, it’s not his family, but Dave makes the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver) happy - a really important part of the job, and one that the guy in the coma apparently forgot about.
8 President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day
If ever there was a commander-in-chief we could get behind, it’s the man (Bill Pullman) who made Independence Day a global holiday. First of all, he’s not afraid to go against one way of thinking by opening his ears to outside sources, which is why he allows oddball David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) into his inner circle – an act which ultimately saves many lives, including Whitmore's own.
Once he decides to take action, President Whitmore kicks off the uphill fight against the aliens with one of the best darn rallying speeches in all of cinematic history. And then he hauls off and joins the fight himself. Now that’s leadership. Keep in mind, this is after the man’s house gets blown up. But did he sit around and pout about that? Heck no, he took the fight to those extraterrestrial White House wreckers. In doing so, President Whitmore rallies the entire world to fight as one. Amazing what sort of alliances a common enemy can help forge.
7 President Mays Gilliam in Head of State
It’s nice to know that your president is lucky, right? Certainly you wouldn’t want an unlucky president. So what could be luckier than getting picked out of obscurity to be your party’s candidate? Sure, the premise is a bit far-fetched (even for nefarious purposes), but the idea of finding a normal, everyday American (Chris Rock) and giving him the chance to run for President does have its merits. A man of the people should, theoretically, govern with the people in mind. Something that many elected officials lose track of while constantly pandering for donations.
As you’d expect from a fish-out-of-water film, Gilliam’s not quite prepared for the world of big time politics, which gives us much to laugh about. But at the same time, it is Mays’ naiveté about the world that allows him to see it for what it is. The only way he can rise above such a world is by following his own moral compass, by speaking his mind, and keeping it real. It’s a philosophy that also helps keep the debates entertaining and the state dinners bumping.
6 President Jackson Evans in The Contender
Unfortunately, we couldn’t pick a woman for this list because there really isn’t a strong candidate. Polly Bergen gives up the office to become a housewife in 1964’s Kisses for My President, but that’s about it for big screen female presidents. (Though both Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep and Geena Davis in Commander in Chief would have made this list if we included small screen presidents.) With Hillary Clinton very much in the mix in this election, it’s only a matter of time before a woman becomes president in reality. So hopefully Hollywood will get started showing us what that brave new world fictionally looks like.
One man who sought to break the glass ceiling was President Jackson Evans, who dared to dream big enough to nominate Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) to be his new vice president. As you’d expect, the boysè club in D.C. does its misogynistic best to undermine the nomination. But Evans is too big a man to allow that to happen. Even while putting his own administration at risk, Evans refuses to allow Hanson to withdraw her name from consideration, while helping the “American people to explode into this new millennium.” 15 years later, we're still waiting for that explosion, but that doesn't discredit President Evans' noble efforts.
5 Ronny Cox in Fill in the Blank
After notable turns in Deliverance, Beverly Hills Cop, and Robo Cop, casting agents started looking at Ronny Cox in a more presidential light. Cox has played the big cheese in no less than four motion pictures. In 1989’s Martians Go Home, Cox stars opposite Randy Quaid as a songwriter who accidentally causes the world to be overrun with aliens (who are played by stand-up comics).
Cox steps into the uncomfortable loafers of President Tom Kimball in 1990’s less-well-received Captain America, a Marvel-produced direct-to-video version starring J.D. Salinger’s son, Matt Salinger, in the heroic, titular role.
In 1997’s Murder at 1600, Cox plays President Jack Neil, who happens to be in office when Wesley Snipes gets called in to investigate the murder of a White House secretary.
And as President Simmons, Cox gets first billing (you probably don’t know anyone else in the film) in one of 2016’s less well-known coming attractions, Nadia's Promise. And while this is specifically a list of movie presidents, we would be remiss if we didn’t also mention the fact that Cox also played the part of President Robert Kinsey on Syfy’s Stargate SG-1. The man's just got the right presidential stuff.
4 The President in Amazing Grace and Chuck
Besides being the single greatest movie starring a Denver Nugget, Mike Newell’s Amazing Grace and Chuck also features Peck, who has the distinction of playing one of the noblest characters ever created, Atticus Finch. As he did in To Kill a Mockingbird, Peck makes difficult truths easier to understand, not just for a youngster, but for all of us.
In Amazing Grace and Chuck, that youngster is Chuck (Josh Zuehlke, in his only film role), a Little Leaguer who refuses to pitch as a protest against nuclear weapons. When NBA star “Amazing Grace” Smith (Alex English) hears about Chuck’s action, he decides to sit out of games as well, which causes a chain reaction that ultimately draws in the president. Fortunately for mankind, Peck’s president is capable of walking a mile in another person’s skin, to see the full complexity of an issue, and to explain it in such a way that the sports world can get back to delivering nightly above-the-rim action.
3 President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Muffley (Peter Sellers) may not be the smartest president we’ve seen on the big screen, but he is the most earnest. Instead of just going ahead and allowing America’s rogue nuclear strike to go boom without warning, he calls the Russian prime minister to smooth things out. In doing so, we get a glimpse of Muffley’s earnest statesmanship, because he really is sorry about the whole situation, and he’s not afraid to say it. A refreshing attitude from any politician.
Also, he’s a shape-shifter. If the president can be not just the president, but also a British RAF exchange officer and a former-Nazi mad scientist at the same time, then imagine the kind of intel work he can accomplish. Historically, the president does gain entree into the most secure buildings around, with the most well-guarded secrets. Think about it, a president who can go all Mission Impossible while still conducting state business would gain us a huge uptick in the World Power Rankings.
2 The President in Being There
Peter Sellers goes from the most earnest film president to advising the president who is crazy like a fox (Jack Warden). Like we’ve seen in other movies featuring presidents, Warden’s President is not afraid to take outside advice from unlikely sources. And who could be more unlikely than Chance the Gardener, a man who only speaks gardening and television? And who could have a better sense of the populace than a man raised by TV?
Though the president isn’t necessarily aware of the origin of Chance’s simple message, he’s in touch with the world enough to see the good in such simplicity. Though Chance’s views on politics and life may be as simple as the seasons, they are also optimistic, hopeful, and refreshing. All adjectives we’d love to use more of while describing our current political climate.
1 President James Marshall in Air Force One
The world could only benefit from a president who looks and acts like Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Like those two stalwarts of American cinema, President Marshall is similarly gutsy and resourceful. President Marshall is so brash, he basically picks a fight with terrorists, and tells them what kind of a whupping they’ll get if they mess with the U.S. of A..
Yet somehow, in Wolfgang Peterson’s airborne adventure, the terrorists think Marshall is bluffing. So they bring the fight not just to Marshall, but to his family. Big mistake. When they mess with this bull, they get the horns of a former Medal of Honor winner. Though his politics may seem a bit hawkish at times, President Marshall is a walking, talking, flying American hero. And having a hero in the White House is never a bad thing; it's especially good for the country's moral.
These ten men faithfully, dutifully, and fictionally served in our great nation’s greatest office. They did so with such aplomb and gallantry, that if they were true and actual candidates, we’re pretty sure they’d be front-runners in this election. Heck, if Trump can do it, why not?
As always, this list isn’t meant to be definitive. So if you think another nominee should be considered, by all means, vote for your selection in the comments section below.
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