The 5 Best On-Screen Presidents

To celebrate this momentous day, after which birds will sing and the sun will always shine/nothing will change/disappointment will cloud the land (delete where applicable), here is a rundown of the greatest and worst fictional people in charge of the whole wide world. Well, if you’re American.

1. The First Black President
David Palmer (’24’, Dennis Haysbert)

President David Palmer, '24'


They say that truth is stranger than fiction but who would really have believed that when ’24’ first hit our screens we would actually have a black President within the time that the programme was still running. And what a president he was. Willing to make tough decisions, a background that showed he knew how to kick some ass, a voice so deep it would make Vin Diesel shudder and a best mate that would save the world 7 times and counting.
Finest moment: Taking over from Nixon-a-like Logan in Season Four. Showing once more that he is the only President for times of crisis.
See also: Morgan Freeman as President Tom Beck in ‘Deep Impact’. A black president that never really makes a big deal about being a black president. But he does have to worry about half the world dying, so race isn’t exactly top of his agenda.

2. The Guardian-Loving President
Josiah Bartlett (‘The West Wing’, Martin Sheen)

While David Palmer always had that Republican friend of his Jack Bauer to come and torture people for him, Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlett was the dictionary definition of a leftie Democrat. His accomplishments included granting amnesty to illegal immigrants from the Americas, negotiating a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine, creating millions of new jobs, providing strong support for alternative energy and orchestrating a Social Security reform plan. So Barack, anything less than that and we’ll have your balls.
Finest moment: His introduction. Walking into a room stating, tongue firmly in cheek, “Thou shalt have no other god but me!”.
See also: Jeff Bridges as President Jackson Evans in ‘The Contender’. The Dude as President. Legalising pot and bowling are high on the agenda of this POTUS.

3. The Comedy President
Merkin Muffley (‘Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb’, Peter Sellers)

Nothing is funnier than Nuclear War. Fact. Well, it is if Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers have anything to do with it. Quite possibly the most inept commander-in-chief to feature on the big screen (except possibly that hilarious guy on ‘Farenheit 9/11’, you know the one that obnoxious fat guy followed around, what was his name?), the aptly named Merkin blunders through the Third World War telling people not to fight in his War Room and taking advice from mad ex-Nazi scientists. Fool!
Finest moment: Explaining to a pissed up Russian President that it’s the end of the world as we know it (see clip below). “One of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing…”
See also: Jack Nicholson as President James Dale in ‘Mars Attacks!’ Reasoning with Martians wasn’t really his speciality, so cries of “Why can’t we all just get along!” are met with a swift laser to the face. Luckily his daughter, the wonderful Miss Portman saves the day. Well she did in the version in my head.


4. The Kick Ass President
James Marshall (‘Air Force One’, Harrison Ford)

Someone really should have told the Russians that if Han Indiana Solo-Jones is the President, leave well the fuck alone. That he’s a Vietnam Vet with Special Forces training makes Gary Oldman’s job of hijacking the most famous plane that bit more impossible. Probably the only president on this list to punch someone in the face. Over and over and over again. Even Dick Cheney wasn’t this violent.
Finest moment: “Get off my plane!” Nuff said.
See also: Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore in ‘Independence Day’. Fair enough his speech is ‘God Bless America’ stomach churning gash but at least he has the balls to get in a plane and take ET on head first. Yee-Haw!

5. The ‘Fictional’ President
President Richard M. Nixon (‘Nixon’, Anthony Hopkins)

Tricky Dicky has probably been the most filmed President, such was his celebrity status as an uber-shit. ‘Dick’, ‘All The President’s Men’, the upcoming ‘Frost/Nixon’ and countless episodes of ‘Futurama’ all paint him as a bad, bad man. Yet ‘Nixon’, played by Tony Hopkins, tried to get under the surface and found a conflicted man. Who was pretty bad.
Finest moment: Trying to argue War vs Peace with a bunch of students. Worth a grudgingly small amount of respect for that alone.
See also: Josh Brolin as President George W.Bush in ‘W’. Oliver Stone again tries to find a third dimension to a character and almost succeeds in making him the kind of guy you’d go for a beer with. Almost.