Plenty of A-listers have played real presidents in movies, from Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, to Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson in
Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore,
A former fighter pilot in the Persian Gulf War, Pullman’s President Whitmore was tasked with essentially saving the world after aliens threaten humanity’s very existence. Whitmore and his team, including David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), a satellite technician who initially discovered the pending attack, Levinson’s ex-wife and former Communications Director of the White House Constance Spano (Margaret Colin), and Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) rally to fight back, defeat the aliens, and restore society to its natural order. And who can forget that inspirational Fourth of July speech President Whitmore delivered in the film: “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!” Independence Day (1996)
Harrison Ford as President James Marshall,
Four words: “get off my plane.” Ford delivered a badass president that wasn’t scared of kicking some butt and taking some names after a group of Russian terrorists hijack Air Force One. How? Unbeknownst to the terrorists, Marshall was not only the president, but also a Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient. They had no idea what they were in for. No secret service here: this president can handle business on his own, thank you very much. Air Force One (1997)
Morgan Freeman as President Tom Beck,
Widely considered the best president that never actually existed, Freeman’s portrayal of President Tom Beck in the sci-fi disaster was notable for a number of reasons. Not only because of his handling of an Extinction-Level Event (E.L.E.) that could wipe out all of humanity (you know, just another day in office), but also because the character helped blaze a trial for the acceptance of an African-American president. Not to mention that Freeman's voice is enough to gather any crowd in unity. Deep Impact (1998)
Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd,
Who would have thought a movie about a president could be dubbed a romantic comedy? But in the case of this film, Douglas’ fictional president is a widower who falls for an environmental lobbyist while he attempts to pass a new crime control bill. He gets caught in between love and politics, and in the end makes the right choice to satisfy both. Interestingly, Douglas’ Chief of Staff in the film is played by Martin Sheen, who made our list of The American President (1995) best TV presidents for his role as President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing.
Kevin Kline as President Bill Mitchell,
What makes this role so hilarious is that Kline isn’t actually president -- his character Dave Kovic is an impersonator with an uncanny resemblance to the real president. Dave gets called upon to take his, er, skills and convincing looks straight to the White House when the real president unexpectedly falls into a coma. Naturally, he ends up caught in the world of politics, and marital strife with Mitchell’s wife and First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver). Yet he manages to make the people love him, and actually do some good during his “fake” time in office. Despite such a cheesy premise, the film was very well-received, with an impressive 94 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. Dave (1993)
Jack Nicholson as President James Dale,
What could be better than Jack Nicholson as a president? Like Kline, Nicholson plays a dual role in this comedy/sci-fi classic, as both the president of Earth and Las Vegas developer Art Land. As the title implies, Mars is attacking Earth, and Dale must try and negotiate with the Martians who come in peace but believe the people of Earth want war and begin a brutal attack. At one point, Dale delivers a passionate speech that re-inspired the popularity of the saying: “Can’t we all just get along?” Mars Attacks! (1996)
Chris Rock as President Mays Gilliam,
In a strange turn of events, Washington alderman Mays Gilliam is selected as his party’s candidate for the presidency. The party figures, though Gilliam will have zero chance of winning, it will still help them in the next election. The joke’s on them, though, as Gilliam delivers passionate speeches on real issues impacting Americans that result in him rising exponentially in the polls. Despite best efforts by the opposing party, he continues to speak to the people’s needs, and ends up winning the election. Chock one up for the little guy, and the idea that anyone can be president. Head of State (2003)
Dennis Quaid as President Joseph Staton,
This 2006 parody takes a satirical look at the world of politics, with Quaid at the helm as a George W. Bush-inspired president. After having a nervous breakdown, his administration decides to put him on a publicity blitz to prove he hasn’t lost his mind. He ends up as a guest judge on his favorite show, a fictional version of American Dreamz (2006) American Idol called American Dreamz. But little does he know that one of the finalists is actually the member of a group of jihadists who has been tasked with assassinating him. Yes, the movie was a box office flop, and was panned by critics, but Quaid’s dimwitted portrayal of the leader of the free world is hilarious.
Mark Harmon as President James Foster,
In this romantic comedy, Mandy Moore plays the president’s rebellious 18-year-old daughter who tries to ditch the Secret Service at every corner, eventually ending up in Europe and falling in love with a man she doesn’t realize is one of them, and has been sent to protect her. Harmon plays the president/father trying to balance his daughter’s need for independence and his worry about her with his obligations as president – not only does he need to know about world issues, but what does it mean to get to third base again, he asks his administration? It’s an interesting look at a president as a dad, not just the leader of the free world. Chasing Liberty (2004) All the Way. But a myriad of others have played fictional presidents, too. Some seemed so real, we wish they were an actual part of history, while others were so far out there, we’re glad they weren’t.
The list of actors who have played fictional U.S. presidents in movies is lengthy, and spans every genre, from drama to comedy. Most recently, we heard Patrick Wilson voice the president in
, and saw Bill Pullman reprise his role as President Thomas J. Whitmore in the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice . Independence Day sequel, Resurgence
Still, some have naturally risen to the top, so here are 10 of the best fictional movie U.S. presidents to have graced the big screen.