“So, if I’m not in a comedy, I’m either corrupt or kidnapped?”
~Every Fictional Movie President
If you were to list all the film released over the course of cinematic history, you’d find that every single truly great movie takes place in America with the exception of Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and that one part in The Godfather in Sicily that everyone usually forgets about. We are noted film historians, so you’ll have to trust us on this. And with all these American movies, you’d assume that a lot of them have Presidents. And you’d be correct.
Our history is obsessed with looking back on our nation’s past Presidents and trying to rank them, from best to worst. Nixon was a bad President. Lincoln was a great President. Obama was *the world collapses under the immense strain of the arguments occurring in the comments section of this article.* Well, if we can try to rank real Presidents (which, oh God, we will not be doing on this site, we had people giving us shit about movies we gave fake Oscars to, could you imagine us getting into partisan shit?) why can’t we rank fictional Presidents? Well we can.
And we did.
We looked high and low for every fictional President who has appeared in a film. And once we excluded all fictional representations of real Presidents, as well as all the Presidents who appear in a film in name only, and are never seen on camera, we ended up with a list of 142 (why do we do this to ourselves) fake leaders of the fake free world. We’ve split that into, oh, 15 articles, because we’re taking ad revenue now, and we’re going to be completely transparent that while reading this in a small handful of articles is a lot more manageable for you, the reader, it’s also a lot more profitable to us to, the greedy Capitalists, to stretch this out every business day for the next three weeks.
So strap the fuck in. Because this article is filled with the worst Presidents ever.
Every Fictional President in Film History: Ranked (Honorable Mentions and #142-141—The Bottom Two Presidents)
This is as good of a time as any to very clearly state—we will NOT be including TV Presidents
Before we get into the really bad Presidents, we wanted to at least take a moment to mention all the films that one might say has a President, or is about the President, but for one reason or the other, we could not include on the list. Basically, we decided not to rank Presidents who were based on real people, who never actually appear in the films in question, or appear in flashbacks or on photographs and whatever. Since we spent the effort researching the damn things, we stuck those here. Basically, this section is sort of like showing our work in Math class, only it’s even more pointless.
Hunter Killer (2018)
This movie comes out in October of this year, so we can’t really review a President in a movie we haven’t seen.*
*We haven’t seen most of these movies, but like, come on, we at least need like a synopsis or some shit to go off of.
The Spartan (2004)
This Val Kilmer vehicle largely focuses on the President’s daughter, not the President (who appears to be skeevy as shit). So even though we know that there is a “President Newman” in this movie, no actor was cast to play him, so by our arbitrary rules, this movie doesn’t make the list.
The Simpsons Movie (2008)
So there are two Presidents in this movie. The real President is Arnold Schwarzenegger who we can’t include because he’s not fictional, even though his Presidency is. Like, if it was Rainier Wolfcastle, it would have made the list, but instead the writers had to toss in a “lol what if Schwarzenegger was President” gag that was already a bit dated when it was dropped into this movie eleven years ago.
The other President here is Itchy, because in the Itchy and Scratchy movie within the movie, he is the President. But we’re also not going to include Presidents from movies-within-movies. We already regret our decision to write this article series.
First Lady (1937)
First Lady was a behind-the-scenes political…like, old film? Like, it was considered a comedy at the time, because they didn’t really understand genres back then? Anyway, it’s all about determining who will run for President, but we never get an actual President in the whole movie. Which saves us from having to spend any more time thinking about old movies.
Last Best Chance (2005)
Last Best Chance was a free educational 45-minute DVD that’s supposed to teach you about the nuclear threat of international terrorism. We’re not touching that shit.
The Imagemaker (1986)
This is an instance of “the President only appears as a voice” and we can’t really do much with that.
This might seem like an overly specific and completely arbitrary rule, but we’ve made a pact with our staff to never make them write about a movie starring Brian Bosworth. So President John Lawrence Wheeler, played by Stephen Markle, does not make the list.
The Greek Tycoon (1978)
The Greek Tycoon technically has a fictional President, but no it doesn’t. It’s about Aristotle Onassis and his relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy, only all the names were changed. The screenwriter basically was like, “Okay so…uh…Kaqueline Jennedy and Oristotle Anassis are two fictional lovers. This is their story.” In the movie, James Franciscus plays James Cassidy, a President who…gets assassinated… hmm. So yeah, we’re not going to try to place “Fohn K. Jennedy” on this list.
Mail to the Chief (2000)
Mail to the Chief is a tv-movie where pre-crazy Randy Quaid is the President, and he starts an online friendship under the not-at-all suspicious screenname “Average Joe” with a kid who gives him advice. That’s kind of delightful? But it was just an episode of The Wonderful World of Disney, so we’re counting it as TV and not film.
Our Man Flint (1966)
Van Williams provides the voice of the United States’ President in this movie, but it’s just him doing an impression of Lyndon B. Johnson, so we’re going to count it as a non-fictional President. Weirdly enough, the sequel to the film does have a fictional President, so you can look forward to him in a later article (he wasn’t very good).
Saturday’s Heroes (1937)
In theory the President of the United States shows up in this movie about like, NCAA rules ethics, but if you put a gun to our head to make us watch a 1937 film about NCAA rules ethics you better be man enough to pull that fucking trigger, you coward.
This film noir cast Frank Sinatra as an assassin who tries to kill the President…only you never see the President. He decides not to stop at the California town Sinatra was hiding out in, and moves on, sight unseen. Can’t rank a President you can’t see. That’s literally in our company mission statement.
Somehow, a 28-minute long student film (that, yes, features a US President as a minor role) got itself listed on IMDB, but sorry guys, we’re not going to let this make the list. Also, you guys, it’s painstakingly obvious that everyone who wrote a IMDB review of this movie clearly worked on the movie. Seriously, Peteman-2, “Compared to this movie, The Godfather sucked!!”? Fucking, ease up on the throttle there a bit, buddy. Though we do secretly love the fact that Peteman-2 has two reviews on IMDB—the movie he clearly worked on, and…Swingers. Okay we’ve gotten off topic.
The Dead Zone (1983)
In The Dead Zone, Jimmy Smith (played by Christopher Walken!) develops physic powers because comas or whatever. Meanwhile, Greg Stillson (played by Martin Sheen!) is a third party candidate running for the Senate. Jimmy Smith uses his coma-powers to determine that in the future, Stillson will become a President and help cause a nuclear holocaust. But he never becomes President, since Smith changes his future by the end of the movie. So we almost got a bad President, but instead we got another entry to this suddenly really fucking long list of honorable mentions.
We’re going with the rule that Presidents from events preceding the actual movie can’t make the list. So Fred Willard does play a President in this movie, but he only exists in a recording that is literally 700 years old.
Guarding Tess (1994)
Guarding Tess is about the widow to a former President, who is friends with the current President, and her put upon Secret Service agent. We see her former husband, played by George Gomes, in archive footage, and the current President only appears as a voice on the phone. It’s close—if we had to add these to the list, they’d be right in the “purely neutral” category, but since you never see a President who is President at any point throughout the actual events of the film, we’re not going to include it.
Nicholas Cage plays the Secret Service agent. His name is Doug Chesnic. That’s a nerdy name, guys.
Most Wanted (1997)
This movie centers on the assassination of the first lady, and the subsequent frame up by the perpetrators. So there is a President (his name is Hartfield) in this film, but he never appears on camera.
Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec God? (1972)
Listen, you can watch the only six minute clip we could find of this film where, in theory, God sends an Angel to become the President, and if you make it all the way through this shit and want us to do more digging to answer the “how good was the Angel/Black Face Actor (seriously) President, really” question you still have, fucking let us know.
Okay, all set? Good. Now let’s get into the meat of things. Here are the two worst Presidents, to set the stage for the rest of this incredibly long series.
142: Fail-Safe (1964)
Henry Fonda as The President
Listen, this President bombed New York. That’s not a good President. Like, he seems to be a really nice guy, but guess what, this isn’t “who’s, golly, the nicest fictional President” this is the “um, if you nuke New York, you’re in last place on this list” list. In case you haven’t seen this movie, or the made-for-tv remake, the involves America accidentally sending bombers to Russia, and in order to stop World War III, after we bomb Moscow, the President decides to nuke the Empire State Building. We understand he was in an impossible situation, and this list is extremely subjective, but, yeah, if you’re the President who nuked New York, you’re the worst President.
Peter Sellers at President Merkin Muffley
This is sort of the same deal as Fail Safe. When the entire world gets nuked into oblivion because of a cowboy riding a nuke down to Russia on your watch, you’re probably not a good president. That’s just simple math. Also, Merkin’s a nerdy fucking name. You could argue that Muffley should be the worst President, because he let a Doomsday device go off ending almost all human life, but at least he didn’t personally nuke New York, you know? Anyway, this all just serves as a teaser for what’s to come, anyway. Because we have literally 140 more Presidents to talk about, and it’s going to be a hot minute until you find out who the best one really is. So stay tuned, because you’re going to see so many kidnappings!