EDITORIAL: The 10 best movie Presidents

In honor of the Presidents Day holiday week in progress, I cooked up a quick editorial of my list of the top movie Presidents.  It takes a heck of a performer to play the so-called "most powerful man in the world" and there are definitely some outstanding performances on this list.  You know it's sad when you read this list and wish some of these characters could be the real U.S. President.  Nevertheless, all of these Presidents are entirely fictitious and will remain admired figments of our movie imaginations.  So, in my opinion, these are the top 10 movie Presidents of all time:

10)  Peter Sellers as Merkin Muffey in Dr. Strangelove-- For me and my movies, I require a President with some gumption and balls.  You'll see on this list that you won't see too many (if any) bumbling and idiotic Presidents like John Travolta in Primary Colors or Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks.  The one moronic portrayal of a movie President that I will allow is the great Peter Sellers hamming it up in Dr. Strangelove.  (trailer)

9)  Jack Lemmon, James Garner, and Dan Aykroyd in My Fellow Americans-- Alright, maybe two comedic examples make the list.  The duo of Lemmon and Garner as retired ex-Presidents on the road with Aykroyd as the current President isn't groundbreaking cinema, but a fun and entertaining diversion.  (quick trailer)

8)  Jeff Bridges as Jackson Evans in The Contender--  While the focus of this 2000 Rod Lurie-directed drama is on the woman (Joan Allen) on trial to assume the role as Vice President, Jeff Bridges does a really nice job as a stalwart supporter of his nominee and gets a few nice scenes.  Far from Top 5 material, though.  (trailer)

7)  Gene Hackman as Allen Richmond in Absolute Power-- Here's the one President on the list that's a bad guy.  Caught unsuspectingly of covering up a crime by a cat burglar (Clint Eastwood, who's also the director adapting a David Baldacci novel), Gene Hackman's President Richmond chews up some great scenes with his trademark Lex Luthor-like evil smile and cackle.  (trailer)

6)  Kevin Kline as Dave Kovic in Dave-- Much like I mentioned in the introduction, it's kind of sad when a fictitious President comes across as more appealing than the real one.  That dynamic is multiplied by Kevin Kline's role as a "fictitious" fictitious President playing a goodhearted nobody look-a-like brought in to cover for the dying President in intensive care.  The movie has some genuinely inspiring and sweet scenes and a nice supporting cast in Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, and Charles Grodin.  (trailer)

5)  Kevin Pollack as Walter Emerson in Deterrence-- A year beforeThe Contender, this small 1999 independent movie is what put Rod Lurie on the Hollywood map.  Set back then in the not-too-distant future, Deterrence is an outstanding slow-boiling political thriller about a President (Pollack) and his staff (led by Timothy Hutton) caught in a wicked Colorado snowstorm and forced to hold up in remote diner.  While stuck there, Iraq re-invades Kuwait and Pollack must act and respond among restaurant of not-so-silent by-standers (most notably Sean Astin).  If you've never seen it (which is very likely), Pollack plays an excellent Commander-in-Chief forced into a tough situation of conservative approval versus pulling the proverbial trigger.  It's worth every penny of the $2.99 rental from Amazon. (Amazon Instant Video with trailer)

4)  Harrison Ford as James Marshall from Air Force One-- Do I need to say more than the "Get off my plane!" line?  Probably not.  Harrison Ford kicks absolute ass in dispatching Gary Oldman and his would-be hijackers of the Presidential jet.  You are not American if you didn't at least cheer a little watching Ford deal a little suit-and-tie justice.  (trailer)

3)  Bill Pullman as Thomas Whitmore in Independence Day--I can hear it now.  "Don, how can you rank Lonestarr fromSpaceballs playing the Prez over Indiana f'in Jones?"  Here's why.  Pullman's pre-dawn/pre-battle July 4th speech (you know what I'm talking about) is absolutely the best piece of Presidential dialogue on this entire list.  That alone, but with the help of his fighter pilot skills, firmly places him in the Top 3.  (trailer)

2)  Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd from The American President-- On the topic of most Presidents, real or fictional, you think of a speechifying talking head, not romance.  Michael Douglas nailed both in, by far, the most complete movie portrayal about a President ever done.  Douglas gives Andrew Shepherd both personal and political layers and asserts himself extremely well in the role that's full of character.  Like Dave, Douglas is surrounding by excellent co-stars like Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, and Richard Dreyfus.  (trailer)

1)  Morgan Freeman as Tom Beck from Deep Impact-- If just Morgan Freeman's voice, not even his entire person, were running for President, it would get more votes than Newt Gingrich.  While not as complete a portrait as Michael Douglas's The American President, Morgan Freeman's Tom Beck is the President I would most follow or go to bat for.  Aided by that great voice, he brings a steady and focused resolve matched by heartfelt devotion and kindness in the face of humanity's possible extinction in Deep Impact.  His final speech is right there with Lonestarr's.  Bring on any comets!  (trailer)

There you have it.  That's my list of the "10 Best Movie Presidents."  Happy Presidents Day, everyone!