Top Five: Film and Television Presidents

Amanda Kirkham

President’s Day was this past Monday and in celebration of our great leaders, I thought I’d do a post on some great leaders from both the big, and small screens. Here are my Top Five Presidents from Film and Television.

5. President Benjamin Asher, Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

We’re first introduced to President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) as he is involved in a friendly boxing match with the head of his secret service detail, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). That’s kind of awesome. He’s not only athletic but he makes sure to keep up on his self defense lessons, which comes in handy later. Then a bunch of bad things happen and the White House is taken over by terrorists. President Asher does his best to keep his fellow hostages safe while they are held captive. He continues fighting until the end, even taking on Kang (Rick Yune), the head terrorist, at one point. All in all, he’s pretty cool as far as fictional Presidents go.

4. President Thomas J. Whitmore, Independence Day (1996)

Unites the entire world after an alien attack? Yeah, he deserves a spot on this list. President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is a young leader, forced into an (literally) out of this world experience. He follows the advice of his counselors until their efforts prove fruitless. Desperate, he listens to David, an engineer (Jeff Goldblum) with whom he had quarreled with in the past, and takes a chance on his theories.  The world comes together, and after delivering a pretty epic speech, President Whitmore even leads the fighter jets in their assault on the invader ships after David and Captain Hiller (Will Smith) deliver the virus to the alien mothership. Turns out David was right (yay) and the world is saved!

3. President James Marshall, Air Force One (1997)

President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is undoubtedly the most bad a** President on this list. First, on his orders, American Special Forces capture General Ivan Radek (Jurgen Prochnow), the dictator of Kazakhstan (this comes back to him eventually). He then delivers a speech in which he stands strong against terrorism. Then, after his plane is hijacked by Russian terrorists, rather than get off the plane in the escape pod, he hides so that he can make sure his family is safe. He takes out a couple of the terrorists before helping the hostages off the plane. In the end he is even the one to finally defeat the terrorist leader, Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman), literally pushing him off the plane, and delivering one of the best lines in action movie history.

2. President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, The West Wing (1999-2006)

The West Wing was Aaron Sorkin’s crowning achievement. The characters were so well developed and that dialogue was so smart and quick. It’s actually kind of funny that President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) became such an icon because Sorkin’s original plan for the show was to focus on the White House staffers and have very little of the President. Sheen was supposed to be more of a guest role. Thankfully Sorkin realized the potential of the character, and of the actor, and wrote him into the show more. Bartlet is kind, sympathetic, and strong in his convictions. He is not without his flaws, which not only makes for a more interesting character but also a more realistic one. Politicians are anything but perfect but Jed Bartlet comes darn close to being the best version of a Commander-in-Chief we could hope for.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis is outstanding in the only performance as an actual American President to make the list. He won an Oscar for it because he was so good. Honestly, I was not excited about the idea of a Brit playing America’s greatest President, and the voice he was doing seemed oddly high pitched and airy. This all changed when I saw the movie. Day-Lewis was brilliant and embodied everything that I imagined Lincoln would be, and the voice quickly faded into the character. He was pensive, kind, and had a playfulness to his interactions that Lincoln was well known for. It was really a one-of-a-kind performance for a one-of-a-kind leader. Even with a strike against him (I guess he can’t help that he’s British), Daniel Day-Lewis did a terrific job portraying Lincoln.


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