Happy Presidents’ Day!
With everyone else running their lists of the top Presidents and the worst and because our current occupant of the Oval Office is, ahhem, how do I put it?
Quite right. So, we thought we’d bring you the list of the top fictional Presidents to help us set our sights higher.
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. Stephen Colbert / President Hathaway — Marvel Comics/Monsters vs. Aliens played by Stephen Colbert.
Because the Executive Producer of Our Cartoon President has also been. . . a cartoon president. Specifically, a president who decides that the best way to attack aliens is with monsters. This film was genius and I never quite understood why it didn’t take off more.
Also, we should always remember that time in Marvel comics when Colbert (his persona as a loudmouth host of The Colbert Report, not his nicer, more mainstream self as host of The Late Show) ran as an independent, won the popular vote, and lost the Electoral College to Obama.
Losing the popular vote but being elected anyway? “Preposterous! Only in comic books!” you say? Sounds right.
Ok, so not exactly a president. But he’s right in that hall of almost presidents with Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Samuel Tilden. And none of them got to team up with Spider-Man. (Yet.)
24. James Dale — Mars Attacks! played by Jack Nicholson.
Stealing a vibe from Dr. Strangelove and other b-movie alien invasion 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.
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. Cory Doctorow / Wil Wheaton, Ready Player One.
Are you ready for Ready Player One?
With the movie coming in just a few weeks, hype is in full gear. Worth noting, in Ernest Cline’s book that the film is based off of, it mentioned the very real people Cory Doctorow and Wil Wheaton had been elected president and vice-president of the Oasis, the giant online system everyone uses for games, education, second life. At this point, who controlled the Oasis was far more important than who was actually president, as the real world really sucked.
Real people, fake product, fake presidents– but we could use more people like them in politics and fewer like, well, most of the people in charge these days.
21. Preston Rickard / Beth Ross, Prez from DC Comics
Kids elected president? We could do much worse. In this satire where future presidents are elected by Twitter because turnout is so low and kids are allowed to vote, somehow a social media star gets elected president. In the 2015 reboot, they even bring back the original Prez from the 1970’s. It’s great satire because our politics have literally gotten just that bad. You can read a more full review we ran here and also here, and here, and an interview with the writer here. A series that was cancelled too soon, maybe it will get rebooted again in another 40 years.
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. And please try to forget that Independence Day 2 ever happened.
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. Also, looking forward to your sequel and you possibly becoming. . . a Disney Princess?
18. Merkin Mufflin – Dr. Strangelove played by Peter Sellers.
On this list if only for the classic line “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!” And because Peter Sellers.
17. Zaphod Beeblebrox — The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Finally, a president whose narcissism rivals that of our own! Two heads, three arms, and the biggest idiot, he was elected president of the galaxy — a position which has no power and is only there to distract people from who’s really in charge. There are a lot of satirical presidents on this list, but this is one of the best. If he had Twitter, no doubt he’d be tweeting about being “a very stable genius” “despite all the negative press covfefe.” Also, the only president with his own music video (from the 2005 film starring Sam Rockwell as our president) — and he’s better looking, too.
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. (I’m betting Scott Pruitt runs Spaceballs’ EPA) 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, let’s face it, Debt of Honor and Executive Orders will never be made into movies) 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. And it also seems pretty spot-on these days.
13. Jackson Evans – The Contender played by Jeff Bridges.
One of my personal and pet 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. They were sure fire 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.
Also genius– you notice those are coffee mugs on his hat, right?
If only we’d heeded the warning of electing a “businessman” to be president. If Trump invited everyone to a Taco Tuesday, we know something evil is about to happen.
10. Lex Luthor – Superman.
Compared to the other villains on this list (and the current POTUS) 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 was never explicitly president on the show. But the show’s finale sure seemed to hint at it. And let’s be honest? She is exactly what we need right now.
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.
8. Lisa Simpson – The Simpsons played by Yeardley Smith.
Speaking of competent, smart, earnest women who could take over the presidency in a heartbeat. . . .
This is the clip everyone knows where The Simpsons predicted President Trump and a huge debt crisis because of his policies. But what we can hope for is the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will have the intelligence and empathy of Lisa Simpson. I’m not so sure about Secretary of the Treasury Milhouse Van Houten, though. I guess if (Producer of Suicide Squad) Steve Mnuchin can do it. . .
7. Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho — Idiocracy played by Terry Crews.
The smartest president in the not-too-distant-future (and Cassandra-like warning of our current administration), 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, which is more petty and full of incompetents — like Veep.
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.
Because what every president should do when facing disaster in the 90’s? Throw Bruce Willis (in this case Corbin Dallas) at it. And perhaps the best part is where he gets yelled at by Corbin Dallas’s overbearing mother.
Wait. . . Gary Oldman’s the bad guy in this one, too! Definitely a pattern. . . and maybe a metaphor for this year’s Best Actor Oscar race, too.
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, a crazy murdery wife. And 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. Sorkin said he’d reboot it with Sterling K. Brown as president, but I think we could do even better. Pitch: It’s the first two years of President Seaborn’s first term. Except President Seaborn is actually Sam’s wife, and she’s played by, oh, I dunno. . . Gina Torres, Eva Mendes, Eva Longoria, or Rosario Dawson. Who’s with me?
Honorable mention here to President Santos, our first Latino fictional president.
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.
So, who did we miss? There’s a couple intentionally left off here for very real, non fictional reasons, but if we missed your favorite, or think we rated someone too high or too low, let us know in the comments!