Happy Presidents’ Day!
When it comes to geeky things, one of the things I think I geek out about most is actually politics, history, government, and public policy. It explains my day job and career, and also why I’d choose for my avatar a robot running for President in a nod to Charles Foster Kane.
But since it’s Presidents’ Day, and everyone else is running their lists of the top Presidents and the worst (Spoiler alert: Reagan and JFK are both overrated. Both of the Roosevelts are criminally underrated. Deal with it.) so we thought we’d bring you the list of the top fictional Presidents, and also a couple of Presidential wanna-be’s who might make it to the Oval Office yet.
Let’s start with a couple of honorable mentions. While they didn’t make the top list, it’s worth noting that Roy Schieder, James Cromwell, and Bruce Greenwood have all played presidents multiple times. Because when someone says, “We need a President—who’s an actor who exudes gravitas?” the obvious answer is the guy who blew up Jaws, Farmer Hoggett, and. . .well, Bruce Greenwood. Robert Rodriguez also seems to like to cast random people as presidents in his movies, including George Clooney in “Spy Kids” and Charlie Sheen as the most hilariously named fictional president ever, “President Rathcock,” in “Machete Kills.”
And with that, I present to you, the Top 25 Fictional Presidents of all time
25. President Hathaway -- “Monsters vs. Aliens” played by Stephen Colbert. Because Stephen Colbert as President. Also, the President who decides that the best way to attack aliens is with monsters.
24. "The President of Earth" -- "Star Trek: Voyager" episode 'The Bride of Chaotica' played by Robert Picardo. Voyager had some good moments. This was not one of them. Regardless, it was funny to see the Emergency Medical Hologram get to play-act on the holodeck when the crew makes first contact with a race of creatures that only exist on the holodeck. Mostly it was was for mid-20th-century sci-fi movie serial nostalgia, but still.
23. Tom Beck -- "Deep Impact" played by Morgan Freeman. Ok, I know he belongs on this list, but I get seriously confused about which asteroid movie this was? Oh, this was the one where the asteroid actually hits. Ok. Not with Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis. And was Morgan Freeman also the President in "Olympus Has Fallen"? Oh, no, that was Aaron Eckhart. Almost. Anyway. Morgan Freeman. That is all.
22. Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III – “Scandal” played by Tony Goldwyn. "Fitz" is actually a pretty poor president, who has the distinction of having the excellent taste to be in love with Kerry Washington. From surviving a gunshot wound to the head to murdering a Supreme Court Justice to probably being a war criminal to probably being an alcoholic to having absolutely zero accomplishments as President to being a total crazy stalker on his ex, Fitz is the whole presidential package. As written by Shonda Rhimes. Also the President on this list who has probably had the most explicit on-screen sex-- shocking for a primetime tv show, right? Hail to the Chief, baby.
21. Monroe “Eagle” Cole -- “Welcome to Mooseport” played by Gene Hackman. What ex-president returns to his tiny hometown and then runs for Mayor almost completely out of spite and insatiable competitive spirit? This one does. To be fair, while that seems a little petty, I would also be annoyed at the prospect of Ray Romano running my town.
20. Thomas Whitmore, "Independence Day" played by Bill Pullman. Ok, just watch that clip above. That's the only reason why. Yeah, he flew a fighter jet to save the earth, but so what? Big summer movie speech-- the biggest summeriest speechiest movie speech ever.
19. Vanellope Von Schweetz – “Wreck it Ralph” played by Sarah Silverman. Upon being restored to her rightful place as Princess of Sugar Rush land, Vanellope decides to transition her government into a constitutional democracy and become President. Hey, it's better than ordering the execution of Taffeta Muttonfudge and the others who were mean to her. For being a president who is able to give up supreme executive power in favor of giving it to the people, you made the list, Vanellope.
18. Merkin Mufflin - “Dr. Strangelove” played by Peter Sellers. On this list only for the classic line “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!” And because Peter Sellers.
17. James Dale -- "Mars Attacks!" played by Jack Nicholson. Stealing a vibe from "Dr. Strangelove" and other films, Nicholson is able to channel quite well the hapless president overwhelmed by alien invasion. My favorite is how he keeps believing the worst possible advice. For style, not for substance, you made the list.
16. President Skroob -- "Spaceballs" played by Mel Brooks. It's good to be the king, er, president. Floozies. Unlisted walls. Nobody telling you your ass is so big. Your own canned air supply. Too bad you run a civilization so dumb that it is running out of oxygen. But still, hail Skroob!
15. James Marshall -- "Air Force One" played by Harrison Ford. "Get off of my plane!" That's all you need to make the list. Also, James Marshall seems like a pretty good guy. He's resourceful enough to contact his people and sabotage his own hijacked plane, he can speak Russian in remarks to the Russian government. I always thought this was the "President Jack Ryan" movie that we never got (because "Debt of Honor" and "Executive Orders" will never be made into movies, face it) as a follow up to "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger." Plus, it's Harrison Ford.
14. Richard Nixon's head -- "Futurama" played by Billy West. "NIXON'S BACK!!!" Disproving the adage that there are no second acts in politics, Nixon served as President of Earth for most of the run of "Futurama," providing some awesome times along the way-- brought to you by Shenkman's Rubbing Compound and the great taste of Charleston Chew. Corrupt, easy to anger, and also pretty stupid, it makes us almost forget how bad the actual Richard Nixon was.
13. Jackson Evans – “The Contender” played by Jeff Bridges. One of my personal favorites, President Jackson Evans spends most of the film trying to outmaneuver a slimy and hypocritical Gary Oldman (the second time he's been the villain on the list! Whaddya know?!?) to get a woman confirmed as his Vice President. Oh, and also trying to order the most ridiculous things from the White House kitchen staff to show them they're unprepared. Jeff Bridges is also part of a family of presidential stars, including his father Lloyd Bridges president in "Hot Shots Part Deux," and brother Beau Bridges as president three times in "10.5," its sequel "10.5 Apocalypse" and an episode of "Stargate SG-1."
12. Kang – “The Simpsons” played by Harry Shearer. When Kang and his sister Kodos take over as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in the 1996 elections, it was only a matter of time before one of them became president. Sure fine winners, especially with classy campaign rhetoric like: “Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others.” "My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!" When it was pointed out that they were aliens, Kodos pointed out it was a two party system. When some idiot said he would vote for a third party candidate, Kang sealed his place in history by saying "Go ahead-- throw your vote away." And that's what make him so high on this list. Don't like it? “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.”
11. President Business – “The Lego Movie” played by Will Farrell. Both greed and conformity personified, President Business is perhaps the most subversive choice on this entire list. Most kids will never get the dystopian overtones, but if Gordon Gecko and Big Brother made a child out of Legos, this would be it. Also, that awesome hat and those legs. Those legs. Genius.
10. Lex Luthor – “Superman.” Compared to who he's after (#11) and before (#8), who knew that Lex Luthor would be one of the least evil and least overt of the great villain presidents? The best thing about Luthor as President (and always with Luthor) is he doesn't think he's the villain. He even gets the majority of America to agree with him. True genius.
9. Leslie Knope – “Parks and Recreation” played by Amy Poehler. Ok, so she's not president yet. She's not even on the Pawnee City Council anymore. But she will be. Because unlike most of the rest of these dopes in the top 10, Leslie Knope embodies gumption and honesty and has yet to be corrupted by political power. And we hope she never does. We love you, Leslie Knope. Knope/Swanson 2016.
8. Frank Underwood – “House of Cards” played by Kevin Spacey. Ok, so we haven't seen Season 3 yet, but we have no doubt Underwood's presidency is going to be just as juicy as his rise to power. Using tactics that even Machiavelli might shrink from, Underwood is ruthless. Nothing is beneath him. And like Luthor, he thinks he is the good guy in his story. Too bad his public policy is so terrible. Seriously? What was with that education bill? What a piece of garbage. And his "solutions" to the energy crisis in season 2? Ask anyone who knows anything about the energy sector and they don't make a lick of sense. That's ok. That's not why we watch. And it's why this lying, murdering, son of a bitch is at #8.
7. Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho -- "Idiocracy" played by Terry Crews. The smartest president in the not-too-distant-future, President Comacho was wise enough to let his Secretary of the Interior Not Sure put water from the toilet on the crops, even though we all know plants crave the electrolyes in Brawndo, the thirst mutilator. Also, he's a champion wrestler, and who doesn't want that in the White House?
6. Dave Kovic impersonating President Bill Mitchell -- "Dave" played by Kevin Kline. In the second-greatest Ivan Reitman film of all time, we get to see what would happen if we actually let a regular guy be president. And the answer is a not half-bad job. Dave's jobs program makes sense to me, and his approach to trimming the budget to keep a homeless shelter open? Would that we could actually do that. While not the most accurate portrayal of Washington, it's a version I wish we lived in and less like the real world Washington that Frank Underwood operates in.
5. President Lindberg -- "The Fifth Element" played by Tiny Lister. As one of the many presidents on this list who have faced destruction of the planet, he handled it the best. And perhaps the best part is where he gets yelled at by Corbin Dallas's overbearing mother (above).
4. David Palmer -- "24" played by Dennis Haysbert. Possibly the most badass of our top 5 presidents, David Palmer stood up to assassination attempts, terror attacks, and Kim getting menaced by a cougar (ok, so not that last one). He was also the only guy who seemed to be able to control Jack Bauer, which probably qualifies you to be on this list anyway. Also, crazy murdery wife. A competent brother who made a good president in his own right. But he was no David Palmer. Few people are.
2. [tie] Josiah "Jed" Bartlett/Andy Shepard -- "The West Wing"/"The American President" played by Martin Sheen/Michael Douglas. This is a tie because you can't truly separate these two characters, as they both personify Aaron Sorkin's idealized White House full of competent, well-meaning people. Yes, it's a fantasy in itself. But it's one we wish we had. Still one of my favorite tv shows of all time and one of my favorite movies of all time. Also, I think it's time to reboot "The West Wing" in the first two years of President Sam Seaborn's first term. Who's with me?
1. Laura Roslin -- "Battlestar Galactica" played by Mary McDonnell. A lot of fictional presidents have faced down apocalyptic threats to Earth. Few of them have had to live on after the apocalypse. Laura Roslin did that and more. Despite being completely unintentionally thrown into the presidency (she was a schoolteacher and Sec of Education before) she filled the role like few others could. And she held her own against Adama, against Tom Zarek, against those fraking cylons, and finally against cancer. She made mistakes along the way, but she rose to what she needed to do. And that is why she is the best. So say we all.