The Fictional US Presidents We Wish Were Real

Fictional Presidents In Movies
By  · Published on February 15th, 2016

President’s Day is a time to reflect on some great leaders this nation has had in the past. As pop culture geeks, we like to spend the occasion remembering some great fictional leaders we’ve had in movies and television, too.

This year, we also look to the future, because it’s a major election year and depending on our political leanings, our next president could be someone we’re immediately really unhappy with.

So, we’re wishing the following favorite fictional commanders-in-chief were real, and electable alternatives to the candidates we do have. Let us know which movie or TV president you’d rather have in office in the comments section.

The President (Donald Pleasence) from Escape from New York

When it comes to listing the best career performances of Sir Donald Pleasence (and he is SIR Donald, and must be referred to as such in perpetuity) you can do a lot worse than the President in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. His simpering cowardice and signature line readings (“You’re the Duke, you’re A-Number 1!”) make him one of the decade’s most fun characters to quote, and nothing – and I do mean nothing – quite beats the sight of a man built like George Costanza unloading an assault rifle onscreen. None of this, of course, represents a particularly controversial perspective on the film.

But as far as fictitious presidents goes? Here is where I think we’ve been selling President Pleasence a little short. It’s not that he makes for a particularly strong or decisive leader; instead, let’s think about the 24 hour news cycle. In the universe that Carpenter and Russell created, the most powerful man on the planet cracks like an egg when imprisoned by extras from The Road Warrior and spends the rest of the movie whimpering lines of subservience to the self-named Duke before gunning him down on the sidewalk. If you think Fox News and MSNBC are crazy now, can you imagine what television and social media would be like once word of that filtered back to the public? Can you picture President Pleasence sitting down with Bill O’Reilly to discuss his second amendment rights? I mean, if we Kickstart it on his behalf, Carpenter has to make it. I’m pretty sure that’s how crowdfunding works. [Matthew Monagle]

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) from Dave

Cinema is filled with fictional American presidents who entertain with their fists (Air Force One), their choice of friends (Olympus Has Fallen) and their humanity (The American President), but if I had to pick one who I’d actually want to see occupy the Oval Office in the real world there’s really only one choice: Dave, from 1993’s Dave.

The film itself is fantastic – a brilliantly talented cast and a sharp script come together for Ivan Reitman’s last great feature – and at the heart of it all is Dave (Kevin Kline). Sure, he wasn’t technically elected into the position, but in his short time there he does the one thing most presidents – real or imagined – fail to do. He gets shit done. It’s mostly due to his personality, but his lack of political ambition is just as important. The movie makes an unintentional argument for a single-term presidency which would allow the person running the country to focus on doing their job rather than trading favors and stumping for re-election. It’ll never happen, unfortunately, but Dave serves as a wonderful fantasy for adults and wish-fulfillment for those who hope the government would someday take their job seriously. Kline gives a warm and witty performance, too, so much so that you might just find yourself writing in “Dave” for the next presidential election. [Rob Hunter]

President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) in The Contender

If you crossed Bill Clinton with Barack Obama, you might get a president like Jeff Bridges as Jackson Evans. He’s an ideal, charismatic Democrat, hip and erudite and well-spoken and, hilariously, always eating something. It’s interesting to now see some of Obama in him, because he’s a character in a movie released four years before the current commander-in-chief was even elected to the US Senate. The Contender came out just a few weeks before the 2000 presidential election, and Evans was therefore linked primarily to the departing Clinton. The fictional president also was heading out the door of the White House. Evans has always come across to me as more stately and genuine than his real counterpart. He comes off almost too perfect.

The plot of the movie has Evans in need of replacing his vice president, who has suddenly died. He chooses a woman senator, and it’s mostly because she’s a woman that she’s his pick. For history, mostly his own, as in his legacy. That’s not the best reason to pick someone for office, no more than it’s good that his opposition wants to reject her solely because of her gender. We don’t really see any of his other flaws or low points for his two terms as president. But he is damn likable and makes a pretty damn powerful speech at the end of the movie regarding the ugliness of partisanship getting in the way of what’s right. I was reminded of the speech over the weekend, in fact, with Obama’s statement on the passing of Justice Scalia, especially the response to those opposing his right to appoint a successor. [Christopher Campbell]

President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) from Veep

One of HBO’s best shows, Veep features Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer, and using her words, she fucking hates her job. We can’t really blame her, though, as the faceless POTUS takes every opportunity to marginalize her role in the White House, such as making her the face of obesity in America.

Meyer finally gets her day when the president is forced to resign at the end of season 3. Enter President Meyer, the first female president. However, since roughly 80 percent of the comedy in Veep is derived from gross incompetence, Meyer’s presidency is marked by a privacy scandal, involving the White House using the personal information of recently bereaved parents, and most notably, through a complex series of events involving the electoral college and the 12th Amendment, loses the subsequent election … to her Vice President. Still, I’d vote for her. [James Kozanitis]

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