Five Best Fictional Cinematic American Presidents
Bill Pullman, Aaron Eckhart, Harrison Ford and others have helped create some of America's best on-screen leaders
America may have had 45 presidents in its history — but in the eternal land of cinema, it would be impossible to count how many have sat in the Oval Office.
Each one is usually facing an alien invasion or major terrorist attack or some other world-threatening event — so we usually get to see what they are made of pretty quickly.
In celebration of Presidents Day, let’s take a look at the five best fictional presidents who have stood tall on the silver screen.
1.) President James Marshall (Harrison Ford), “Air Force One” (1997). Harrison Ford’s President James Marshall was a man who could handle himself. When Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists, he himself thwarts the terrorists’ plans — and takes back his plane.
By the time Ford (pictured above right) mutters the famous catchphrase “Get off my plane,” we’re already sold and ready to hit the ballot box.
2.) President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013). When terrorists storm the White House and take the president hostage, the country’s only hope is a disgraced Secret Service agent named Mike Banning (Gerard Butler).
Though Butler is the star of this movie, Eckhart (above middle) is throwing down right next to him at one point. This is a president who refuses to negotiate with terrorists no matter the situation; and for an added bonus, he can throw a mean punch.
President Asher showed even more action prowess — and bad luck — when he and Banning are forced to escape a terrorist-seized London in the sequel “London Has Fallen.”
Both characters will return in “Angel Has Fallen” later this year.
3.) President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), “Independence Day” (1996). President Whitmore (Bill Pullman, above left) belongs on this list not only for helping America fight off an alien invasion, but also for a rousing speech that should get the most disappointed patriot on his or her feet.
Before jumping into a plane and joining in on the assault against the invading aliens himself, Whitmore gives a speech that isn’t quite Lincoln’s Gettysburg address — but it’s close enough.
“We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist, and should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice, ‘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!” says Whitmore. By the time he’s finished, viewers are just about ready to jump into the cockpit with him.
4.) President Camacho/President Joe Bauers (Terry Crews/Luke Wilson), “Idiocracy” (2006). The world of “Idiocracy” — where common sense is dead, the rules of Darwin are null and void, and people hydrate with energy drinks while glued to reality television — unfortunately becomes more real every day.
The president, at the beginning of the film, is ex-wrestler Camacho (Terry Crews) — and while he’s not the smartest man in the world, he’s got plenty of energy. He’s one of the most fun characters in a comedy in the last 20 years.
Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) is an everyman underachiever riding out his 20 years in the military until he gets a cozy retirement. He’s told to join an experimental program that eventually hurls him into the future America lorded over by President Camacho. Even with his limited knowledge, Bauers becomes the smartest man alive and helps America turn things around by eventually becoming president.
Bauers solves problems with common sense and is never consumed with the power that can come with public office. And both of these “presidents” make people laugh.
5.) President Rush Limbaugh (Rush Limbaugh), “The ½ Hour News Hour” (2007). Yes, Rush Limbaugh is a very real person, but the short-lived right-leaning satire program “The ½ Hour News Hour” gave him the chance to be president.
Produced by Joel Surnow (“24,” “Small Time”), this program was an attempt at a conservative “Daily Show.” While Fox News axed the series after only a season, it’s still worth noting for a handful of very funny skits, including a recurring one in which Limbaugh addresses the country as its president. With conservative commentator Ann Coulter by his side as vice president, the running joke is that the two are rather bored since they’ve solved every single problem in America.
Check out an appearance by “President Rush Limbaugh” in a segment below: