You may have heard there is an election on the horizon. If not, well at least it's good to know you're in safe hands. See, we like to keep up on current events here at Film.com. We're the elitist of all movie sites! Anyway, since Washington won't define how this helps Joe Six-Pack in his or her movie-obsessed world, we will. Below is a list of my ten favorite movie presidents. Not necessarily the most "presidential," but my favorites nonetheless. Rock the vote.
Dave Kovic is insanely likable. Watching Kline in this movie makes you wonder what happened to his solid run of strong comedic and dramatic roles. His Dave Kovic is a real Joe the Plumber, only with more hair (and brain cells). He's a decent man thrown into a pretty insane situation and Kline is able to evoke that everyman, David-versus-Goliath quality despite holding the most powerful position on Earth. This was probably Ivan Reitman's last real hurrah too.
Michael Douglas is known for playing great slimy characters, but his role as Andrew Shepherd is one of his best. This movie is even more Capra-esque than Dave but that doesn't mean it's more schmaltzy. Douglas gives his character a little more shadow and credibility. He makes questionable ethical decisions; he compromises himself. But in the end, he's the guy you want to follow. Martin Sheen rode shotgun to Shepherd and he ended up in his own oval office. Just shows to go ya.
I like a lot of guys on this list quite a bit, but Jeff Bridges's President Evans is one of my favorites. I love how he uses food (like that shark sandwich) to disarm the people around him. I like his bluntness when asked why he selected Joan Allen's Laine Hanson to join his administration: he wants a female vice president to be part of his legacy. I love his devious precision in dismantling his biggest enemy (Gary Oldman's Shelly Runyon). Many movies that feature presidents rely on whopper final speeches and his ranks among the best.
Yes, he was part of the most evil empire in the galaxy but I think we have to give him a bit of a mulligan on this one. He knew the people around him were idiots so he had to know they couldn't cause the universe that many problems. Give me an evil, incompetent empire any day of the week (no U.S. government jokes please). If your best weapon is a space maid and you let some dog (okay, mog) and the doofus from Ruthless People stop you ... you can't really be all that evil, right? Plus, Skroob did pretty much what I would have done in his situation: he didn't ask many questions. He just went along for the ride. Literally. He jumped in the sack with any bimbo in the galaxy. He was Clinton and Bush I guess.
Beck handled a truly impossible situation. An asteroid was going to destroy the world and he was one cool cucumber. He had to deal with mass hysteria in a world where someone's survival depends on lotto balls.
6. John F. Kennedy, as played by Bruce Greenwood in Thirteen Days
It's become something of a gem since most people ignored it upon its release but Thirteen Days is a solid, effective and intense film about the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the center of its success is a strong script by David Self and a very good performance by Bruce Greenwood as J.F.K. Greenwood cares less about representing the Boston accent as he does about representing Kennedy's sense of resolve, strength, and judgment.
7. Richard Nixon, as played by Anthony Hopkins in Nixon
Okay, so he had that little Watergate dilemma and he helped prolong an unnecessary war, but he was one of our more brilliant heads of state. Hopkins plays him as a tragic figure -- intelligent, stubborn, ambitious but deeply flawed, almost rotting within. This is one of the most effective and deeply moving portrayals of an American figure I've ever seen. Despite the film's over-the-top, kitchen-sink approach, Hopkins finds humanity and truth. His performance makes the more superficial stuff (he looks nothing like Nixon and his accent ranges from terrible to passable) as inconsequential.
Hopkins again. His work as John Quincy Adams kind of sneaks up on you. At first you think he's just portraying a colorful, has-been, senile old bat. But Adams is sharper than we think. He has his wits about him and when he delivers that speech in the end (delivered word-for-word), his words evoke pride and remind us what makes America great. Great steps forward have been the result of speeches like this, spoken by great men that history (and the movies) celebrates. And Hopkins knew just how to nail it.
9. Merkin Muffley, as played by Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Okay, so maybe the world as we know it ended under his watch. But that's no reason not to consider him. Muffley would get my vote for the way he handles an insane cabinet and emotional, drunk Russian leaders.
It's not a requirement to kick unholy ass as President of the United States, but it's gotta help in your reelection campaign. Seriously, what were the chances Marshall wouldn't get elected for another term -- one in a billion? It's been a while since I've seen this movie so I can't remember if he wasn't in his second term already. But if he were, wouldn't the American people have demanded a third? Ass-kickery goes a long way.