Five Memorable American Movie Presidents

Happy President’s Day!


In celebration of American presidents in the past 234 years, here are five actors who’ve played the role of U.S. Commander in Chief in the past couple of decades:

Michael Douglas – Andrew Shepherd in The American President (1995)

This movie is full of great scenes between Douglas and his love interest played brilliantly by Annette Benning, but this telephone banter that ends up with the prez asking her out is absolutely endearing. Of course there’s also the rousing speech that’s arguably one of the best movie speeches ever, and one that’s worthy to be in one of my top 20 favorite scenes list.

Morgan Freeman – Tom Beck in Deep Impact (1998)

Cool and collected even in a major crisis. With a regal stature and deep, soothing voice, Mr. Beck is the kind of leader we all wish to have suppose a giant meteor threatens to wipe out the entire humanity. ‘We will prevail. Life will go on,’ he said in the movie, and as implausible and absurd as the circumstances seemed to be, we’re somehow inclined to believe him.


Kevin Kline – William Harrison Mitchell in Dave (1993)

One minute Dave Kovic is just a regular guy who does uncanny impersonation, the next he’s in the same bedroom in the White house with the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver). Kline’s brand of mischievous humor is perfect for this role, and this scene where he sings the entire chorus of Anne in the middle of a traffic stop is a real hoot! Equally memorable in this flix is Frank Langella as Chief of Staff Bob Alexander. A decade and a half later, he scored an Oscar nomination playing a historical president Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

Apparently isn’t the only time he plays the prez, he played the role of the 18th US President Ulysses S. Grant in the Western action-comedy Wild Wild West with Will Smith.

Bill Pullman – Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day (1996)

Whitmore’s freedom speech is unabashedly mawkish, sure, but hey, if some giant aliens were about to annihilate the entire earth population, I think one’s allowed to get just a tad sentimental, no?


Donald Moffat – President Bennett in Clear and Present Danger (1994)

The confrontation between President Bennett and an infuriated Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) in the Oval Office remains one of my fave scenes of the movie.
The President:
How dare you come in here and lecture me!
Jack Ryan:
How dare *you*, sir!
The President:
How dare you come into this office and bark at me like some little junkyard dog? I am the President of the United States!

Of course my favorite line comes from the heroic CIA analyst himself after Bennett’s spiel on who gets punished for ‘Reciprocity’ (from IMDb quotes page): “I’m sorry, Mr. President, I don’t dance.” Bennett’s expression as Ryan walked out is priceless! The 80-year-old Brit has played a US president twice, the other time as historical prez Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff.

Hmmm, I just realized all of them on this list are from the 90s. It’s pure coincidence really, I guess I can’t really remember one memorable movie prez of the last decade. They all seem to be the daft caricatures: the doofus version Dennis Quaid played in American Dreamz, the sleazeball one in Love, Actually (Billy Bob Thornton), and Tim Robbins in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Any other movie president(s) stick out to you?

14 thoughts on “Five Memorable American Movie Presidents

    1. I know, that guy is amazing… and that voice! But from the trailer, he didn’t really impress me as Mandela, but I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see the movie. Douglas will probably hold the top spot for a while, his charismatic performance is a tough act to follow.

    1. I know! I think Ford will always be Jack Ryan to me, Affleck is just terrible in ‘The Sum of All Fears.’ I mean, a CIA analyst must have a bunch of things on his mind so he’s got to have that permanent miffed look about him which Ford nailed perfectly. It’s amazing how many successful franchises this guy have done, not many actors could match him!

  1. PrairieGirl

    LOVED Douglas and Benning in TAP, and LOVED the phone scene! You are right, Douglas is the winner in the contest of the presidents.

    1. Regardless of my political view, I can watch that movie over and over because of Douglas-Benning’s chemistry. They’re so good together, love the witty banters between them.

    1. Haven’t seen My Fellow Americans, but with that cast it’s gotta be fun! I haven’t seen Frost/Nixon either, but I did mention about Langella as he played the Chief of Staff in ‘Dave.’ I’m sure if I’ve seen that movie, he’s likely to bump one of these five guys off my list. Great photo, that Reagan one is spot on! 🙂

  2. Great choices, I love Michael Douglas in The American President. He really is just brilliant. His charisma and charm get me every time.

    Morgan Freeman is also brilliant, who else could play the president in one film then God in another?! Just Morgan I reckon.

  3. We definitely agree on a couple – especially Bill Pullman and Michael Douglas. I love Independence Day and wanted Bill Pullman to be the real President for a while.

    1. Glad to hear Louise. Pullman’s speech is a classic, he’s surprisingly good and heroic though initially I thought he was kind of an unlikely choice.

  4. Pingback: Music Break: Independence Day (1996) patriotic score by David Arnold – FlixChatter Film Blog

  5. Pingback: Independence Day (1996) patriotic score by David Arnold – FlixChatter Film Blog – 123 Movie News

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