The U.S. President hasn’t always upheld the moral and ethical values his voters might expect of him (in film). Here’s some of the worst movie presidents to enjoy the silver screen’s limelight…
Top 10 Films delves into the murkier side of the US presidency as it has appeared in cinema. Here’s our top 10 worst movie presidents, the sorts of guys only fiction can concoct (or can it?).
10. Henry Fonda’s Unnamed President
Fail Safe (Lumet, 1964)
Arguably one of the best presidents in film, Henry Fonda’s unnamed POTUS nevertheless sacrifices New York City (and his wife) to appease the Russians after an accidental nuclear strike hits Moscow. This 1964 film from director Sidney Lumet muses on the permutations of nuclear war and the fragility of the systems in place to avoid it. The president’s decision saves the country from all-out nuclear war but is directly responsible for innocent American deaths.
9. President Asher
Olympus Has Fallen / London Has Fallen (Fuqua 2013 / Najafi 2016)
Aaron Eckhart’s President Asher is actually a pretty good guy but a “good” president of the United States he isn’t. Forever getting into scrapes and allowing the U.S. government to be held to ransom, Asher relies upon his vice-president and chief secret service operative to protect the USA’s interests and his own life. The American people surely can’t wait for this guy’s term to be over.
8. President Stillson
The Dead Zone (Cronenberg, 1983)
Christopher Walken’s Johnny Smith has the ability to see the future in David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel. When he sees the future political failings of U.S. Senatorial candidate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) bringing the world to nuclear apocalypse he decides he kill the would-be president in the past to protect the future.
7. Donald Pleasence’s Unnamed President
Escape From New York (Carpenter, 1981)
A self-centred president whose policies merit self-preservation above the needs of his people, Donald Pleasence is a commander-in-chief fit primarily for a fascist state governed by an iron fist.
6. President Dale
Mars Attacks! (Burton, 1996)
Jack Nicholson’s President Dale isn’t the sharpest tool in the box. When aliens attack he’s understandably ill-equipped to deal with the invasion but his attempts to stand in their way only lead to further trouble.
5. Cliff Robertson’s Unnamed President
Escape from L.A. (Carpenter, 1996)
America has degenerated into a Police State with a fascist president dictating a new moral code that removes any personal freedoms. Anyone not willing to abide by these laws is exiled to a prison island off the Los Angeles coast. Oh, and he orders Snake Plissken’s death but the anti-hero, thankfully, has the last laugh.
4. President Muffley
Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick, 1964)
A seemingly well-meaning president, Muffley’s inability to communicate with his Russian counterpart intensifies the threat of nuclear war. Hardly a confident speaker, and short of diplomatic nuance, Peter Sellers’ POTUS in Stanley Kubrick’s enduring classic Dr. Strangelove is a puppet to those department chiefs, advisors and military commanders inside the presidential bubble. One-on-one with his political adversary he’s open to blunder without scriptwriters guiding his tongue.
3. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho
Idiocracy (Judge, 2006)
Mike Judge’s Idiocracy is an unnervingly prescient satire, more relevant as we enter the age of Donald Trump’s tenure as POTUS. As president of a nation whose entire IQ has devolved to the point of stupidity at the highest levels of government, Idiocracy is the result of demagogic figures preying on mass fear (and ignorance) and then abusing their own power to the detriment of their people.
2. President Bennett
Clear and Present Danger (Noyce, 1994)
A feeble, insecure, hesitant, unconstitutional and self-serving president, Donald Moffat’s commander-in-chief wants to enact revenge on the Columbian drug lords responsible for his friend’s death. It just so happens he’s president of the United States of America and has all the resources to carry out a secret, undercover war with highly trained commandoes sneaking through the South American jungle in search of their prey. Thankfully, Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan is on hand to make things right.
1. President Richmond
Absolute Power (Eastwood, 1997)
Gene Hackman gives us his “nasty” best in this gripping adaptation of the David Baldacci novel. Believing the president is above the law he tries to cover-up the death of his mistress after the young woman retaliates when he sexually assaults her and is killed by secret service agents.
Over to you: name your worse movie presidents?