With election season in full bloom, you don’t have to be a political junkie to wish that the vanilla candidates in nearly identical suits and ties would go away, replaced instead by people with something original to say.
Unfortunately, such a fanciful concept exists only in the movies — and with Robin Williams playing a Jon Stewart-like presidential candidate in the new film “Man of the Year,” Hollywood is once again teasing us with a concept better than the real thing. We look at 10 of the most memorable presidents in cinematic history — and how they might fare in the real world:
President Thomas J. Whitmore
Film: “Independence Day” (1996)
Actor: Bill Pullman
Turning point of presidency: Aliens invade Earth, Earth fights back.
Remembered for: Personally leading a squadron of fighter pilots in defense of the planet.
Democrats think: Too much power bestowed on warmongering military commander Donald Rums … um, Robert Loggia.
Republicans think: A president in a flight suit stopping the insurgents? Mission accomplished!
Real-world counterpart: Some sources claim that as president, James Madison led troops into battle — during the War of 1812.
Quote: “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
Approval rating: After saving the world, he’d at least hit the low 90s.
President Joseph Staton
Film: “American Dreamz” (2006)
Actor: Dennis Quaid
Turning point of presidency: After reading a newspaper, the Texas-born, religiously devout prez realizes that the world isn’t as black-and-white as he thought.
Remembered for: Appearing as a guest judge on an “American Idol”-type show.
Democrats think: He’s making a mockery of high office by going on a reality show! (Real thought: Why didn’t we think of that?)
Republicans think: Simon Cowell in ’08?
Real-world counterpart: We’re gonna take a wild stab and say George W. Bush.
Quote: “Maybe it is time I read newspapers. I’ve learned a lot this morning — it turns out North Korea and Iran are not like Doctor Octopus and Magneto at all!”
Approval rating: Consult a newspaper yourself and look under “W” for the latest update.
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President James Marshall
Film: “Air Force One” (1997)
Actor: Harrison Ford
Turning point of presidency: Hijackers take over presidential airplane, action ensues.
Remembered for: Refusing to bow to terrorist demands, single-handedly saving the day — and killing Gary Oldman.
Democrats think: Film is pure fantasy, since President Marshall is elected with a female VP. The DVD, however, has been in Geraldine Ferraro’s Netflix queue since December ’99.
Republicans think: Film is pure fantasy. For the real story on Marshall’s supposed “heroism,” see ads sponsored by Air Force One Veterans for Truth.
Real-world counterpart: A Vietnam War hero/ politician like John McCain.
Quote: “Get off my plane!”
Approval rating: After murdering a man, Marshall might have a hard time securing a second term. We’ll say 50 percent.
President Merkin Muffley
Film: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964)
Actor: Peter Sellers
Turning point of presidency: Flagrantly exceeding his authority, General Jack D. Ripper initiates global nuclear war with the Russians.
Remembered for: Having the world blown up on his watch.
Democrats think: The hidden underground bunker isn’t fully compliant with Americans With Disabilities Act.
Republicans think: Muffley’s plan to end Russian threat by initiating global nuclear war is “weak on terror.”
Real-world counterpart: Adlai Stevenson, whom the character was supposedly spoofing.
Quote: “Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb… The bomb, Dmitri, the hydrogen bomb! Well now, what happened is one of our base commanders, he had a sort of … well, he went a little funny in the head. He went and did a silly thing.”
Approval rating: Is there a number lower than zero?
President Allen Richmond
Film: “Absolute Power” (1997)
Actor: Gene Hackman
Turning point of presidency: Responsible for the death of his mistress when, during sex, the Secret Service breaks into their room and shoots her.
Remembered for: His sweeping tax cuts. No, just kidding — it’s for killing his mistress during sex!
Democrats think: Bubba Clinton doesn’t sound so bad now, does he?
Republicans think: After the Foley scandal, they might actually let it slide.
Real-world counterpart: Whatever did happen to slain Washington, D.C., intern Chandra Levy?
Quote: When asked if he had sex with the woman, President Richmond replies, “I … I don’t know.”
Approval rating: Some people would still insist that his private life is his own business: 33 percent.
President Bill Mitchell
Film: “Dave” (1993)
Actor: Kevin Kline
Turning point of presidency: He has a stroke during an affair and is replaced by a look-alike named Dave.
Remembered for: Being the most prophetic commander in chief in history. After calling the presidency a “temp job,” he immediately dies.
Democrats think: Pulled over by police while driving through Washington, Dave sings “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie.” Indicative, perhaps, of support for same-sex marriage?
Republicans think: The notion of behind-the-scenes strategists putting words in the president’s ear is preposterous!
Real-world counterpart: Reagan during nap time.
Quote: “Do I have to dial 9?”
Approval rating: Mitchell peaks at 40 percent, but Dave’s charm could’ve gotten him as high as the 80s.
President Baxter Harris
Films: “Scary Movie 3″ (2003) and “Scary Movie 4″ (2006)
Actor: Leslie Nielsen
Turning point of presidency: During an attack on America, he chooses to sit in a schoolroom and continue the PR stunt of listening to a children’s story rather than reacting immediately. Precious seconds are wasted while alien triPods carry out their attack.
Remembered for: Demonstrating a gun that vaporizes clothing, Harris shoots himself and then stands before the United Nations assembly stark naked.
Democrats think: Well, he may be nude, but at least he’s not just another guy in a suit and red or blue tie.
Republicans think: If there are five more “Scary Movie” flicks, do we get five more terms?
Real-world counterpart: We think a “to the death” Bush-off should be scheduled between Quaid and Nielsen.
Quote: “These men died defending their country — send flowers to their bitches and hos.”
Approval rating: Goofy grandpa-type presidents tend to do well (just look at Reagan!): 70 percent.
President Greg Stillson
Film: “The Dead Zone” (1983)
Actor: Martin Sheen
Turning point of presidency: Shaking hands with a crazed Christopher Walken, whose psychic powers convince him that a Stillson presidency will result in nuclear war and the death of millions.
Remembered for: Being upstaged by Walken’s untamable hair.
Democrats think: Maybe this psychic Walken guy could save us a lot of trouble and tell us whether to let Hillary run in ’08.
Republicans think: Walken for president (Walken2008.com)!
Real-world counterpart: Howard Dean, a 2004 presidential candidate supported by Sheen whose career similarly went off the tracks due to a poorly timed maniacal moment at a rally.
Quote: “I have had a vision that I am going to be president of the United States someday. And nobody — I mean nobody — is going to stop me!”
Approval rating: 2 percent, with a 2 percent margin of error.
President Andrew Shepherd
Film: “The American President” (1995)
Actor: Michael Douglas
Turning point of presidency: A widower, President Shepherd begins to court a lobbyist.
Remembered for: After his failed candidacy as Greg Stillson, “American President” Chief of Staff A.J. MacInerney (Martin Sheen again) is boosted by the Shepherd presidency, and Sheen goes on to finally win an election under the name Josiah Bartlet.
Democrats think: If only John Kerry’s stump speeches could have been written by Aaron Sorkin …
Republicans think: Thank God Kerry’s stump speeches weren’t written by Aaron Sorkin.
Real-world counterpart: James Buchanan, the last bachelor commander in chief.
Quote: “You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that — celebrate that in your classrooms.”
Approval rating: The tabloid coverage would take its toll — 60 percent, tops.
Film: “Superman II” (1980)
Actor: Terence Stamp
Turning point of presidency: Freed from the Phantom Zone, General Zod and his Kryptonian cohorts head to Earth, forcing the president to fork over his White House powers to the bearded supervillain.
Remembered for: Enslaving the nation, solving the problem of prison overcrowding with flying shards of glass, outfitting every military rifle with a Kryptonite bayonet.
Democrats think: They’d better keep quiet, or he’ll hit ‘em with some heat vision.
Republicans think: An ’08 ticket with Zod and Bizarro? Unstoppable (Zod2008.com)!
Real-world counterpart: Um … Carter?
Quote: “Kneel before Zod!”
Approval rating: A solid 100 percent — and we’re not just saying that because we want Zod to be the villain in the next Bryan Singer flick.
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