“Wait, but I thought Morgan Freeman was a GOOD President in Deep Impact.”
~You, Encountering the First Listing You Might Disagree With
What makes a good President? Well, ideally you want someone who can help usher peace and prosperity for all Americans. Or, if things go wrong, you want a President who can take charge and guide America through its trials and tribulations with the nation coming out stronger on the other side. Now, how exactly a President can pull off these feats is almost impossible to answer, and every President tries to figure it out in their own way. But it definitely helps if the President is not an imposter working for COBRA in the G.I. Joe universe.
That’s right, we’re back to our ranking of every fictional President to appear in a movie. All 142 of them. We’re still in the “bad President” part of the list, if that COBRA thing wasn’t enough of a clue for you.
Every Fictional President in Film History: Ranked (#120-111—Mostly Inept and Irresponsible Presidents)
120: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
Arnold Vosloo as Zartan/ Jonathan Pryce as the President of the United States
We’re not here to dig into the mythology of the two G.I. Joe live-action movies. Just know that there’s a real President, and then there’s Zartan, who is a villain, who is a master of disguise and acts as President while the real President is kidnapped. He’s an actual villain, but he managed to not, like, destroy the Constitution or nuke New York, so surprisingly “bad guy pretending to be the President” ends up not being “pretty bad, but we’ve seen worse.” Huh.
119: Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Donald Moffat as President Bennett
So in Tom Clancy’s books, the president from The Sum of All Fears replaced this president, who basically got kicked out of office because of the events of this book. Now, this is the film version, so that line of succession hasn’t been confirmed, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he got kicked out of office once this movie ended. He ran a covert war against drug cartels in Colombia, which is not a very cool thing for a president to do. Plus, just look at this fucker. When you look like a bad guy in Robocop, you’re automatically pushing yourself towards the bottom of this list.
118: Americathon (1979)
John Ritter as President Chet Roosevelt
Let’s just quote the trailer, shall we? “We interrupt this theater for a bulletin from 1998, the year that America ran out of gas, oil and cash. Flash! People have stopped driving cars and started living in them! Flash! The President has sold the White House, raffled off the tomb of the unknown soldier, and moved into a rundown condo in Southern California. Flash! The city of San Diego has been bought by Mexico! Flash! The Jews [editor’s note- oh no] and Arabs have joined forces to form the United He-rab Republic [editor’s note- oh, NO].” Um. We really shouldn’t have been allowed to try to make comedies in the 70s.
(Out of deference to the look of shock on your faces right now, we’ll leave out the love affair between the President and the [clearly white, clearly doing a BAD accent] Vietnamese pop star, and the fact that this movie has a fight scene between “Meatloaf versus the Last Living American Car.” Also Elvis Costello is in this movie, and the soundtrack features The Beach Boys. WHAT IS THIS MOVIE?)
117: Wag the Dog (1997)
Michael Belson as The President
The President doesn’t appear much in this David Levinson film, but needless to say when the plot of the movie is “a spin doctor invents a fake war to help a bad President embroiled in a sex scandal win a second term” you’re not a good movie president.
(By the way, the president is the dude resting his arm on a woman’s shoulder, in the picture on the TV screen in this picture. We’re about 75% sure that is the only time you see him in the whole movie. This entry is a bit of a stretch.)
116: My Fellow Americans (1996)
Dan Aykroyd as President William Haney
Never trust Dan Aykroyd with a southern accent. As Vice-President, he took a series of bribes, and then as President orchestrated an elaborate coverup to frame it on his former President. The whole time he was being played by his Vice-President, who he assumed was a blubbering idiot (and yet, he still added him to his ticket?). Oh and he eventually had to resign in order to avoid public humiliation. Bad President.
115: Escape From New York (1981)
Donald Pleasence as The President
The President in Escape From New York was kind of a dick, and not a very good President. Like, everything had gone to shit before his Presidency, so you can’t blame the “all of Manhattan is a prison” thing on him, but, like just look at him. What a putz.
114: Deep Impact (1998)
Morgan Freeman as President Tom Beck
It feels weird putting Morgan Freeman as President so low on this list, but if you really look into it, he was doing some sketchy shit. Admittedly he was dealing with a nearly impossible situation—a giant comet was going to hit Earth and destroy all life. Still, he basically hides the truth of our impending doom, and only eventually reveals it when an investigation was about to expose it.
Here’s the thing to consider. President Beck, through a combination of bad luck and duplicitousness, was indirectly responsible for the death of millions of Americans. He built underground shelters to hold one million people if the mission to destroy the comet failed, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Since he hid the comet’s identity for so long, it wasn’t until after the mission failed that he let everyone know things were going to get messed up. And when the comet was partially destroyed, it managed to land in the Atlantic Ocean, flooding the entire East Coast. An East Coast that could have been evacuated if there were, maybe, a little more notice. We’ll say it right here, Morgan Freeman was great at speeches in Deep Impact, but…shit, you guys, he was a crappy President. This is a shock to us, too.
113: The Peacekeeper (1997)
Roy Scheider as President Robert Baker
Robert Baker used to be the Army’s Chief of Staff, during which time he was responsible for a group of Marines on an undercover operation in Iraq getting left out to dry for some shady political reasons. So, the former Colonel from that mission got revenge by stealing the nuclear codes and nuking Mount Rushmore. Now, the Colonel told the President that he had to kill himself on live TV in order to save Washington D.C., and to Baker’s credit, he actually went through with it. Or rather he tried—he was given an empty gun so that he’d be unable to fulfill the Colonel’s demands, and would have to watch Washington burn, helplessly. But still, this whole scenario was kind of his fault. Thank God a sweaty Dolph Lundgren was there to save the day, or Schneider would be even lower on this list, along with the other movie President he randomly portrayed who had some problems with nukes from our last entry.
112: By Dawn’s Early Light (1990)
Martin Landau as the President of the United States
In By Dawn’s Early Light, the President manages to avoid World War III. That should be enough to make him a good President, right? Not really—he basically nukes a lot of the world. It’s not exactly his fault—a dissident in the Soviet Union launched nukes at the Ukraine, which causes Russia to automatically launch towards the United States. Then Russia allows the United States to retaliate with an equal payload, but when Russia fires a bunch of nukes the President launches a bunch more Russia’s way (even though Russia was actually nuking China). We’re confused too, don’t worry. Listen, point is, a lot of pretty fucked up stuff happened under his watch, is what we’re saying, so dude is going to get dinged for that. It’s only fair.
111: Sum of All Fears (2002)
James Cromwell as President J. Robert Fowler
Okay, to be completely honest—we totally assumed that Morgan Freeman was the president in this movie. He wasn’t. He was the CIA director, and he died when Baltimore got nuked (oh right, yeah, if you haven’t seen Sum of All Fears, some shit goes down in this movie), and it was very sad. But no, James Cromwell was president here. By the end of the movie, he agrees that Russia and the US shouldn’t nuke each other, and gave a joint-speech with Russia’s president to announce measures to counter nuclear proliferation. We guess he was pretty alright. But then again, he also let Baltimore get nuked on his watch with a nuke that was made by the United States, so we can’t really give him too much credit.
There are more Presidents who oversaw nuclear catastrophes to go on our list, because (not surprisingly) a lot of movie Presidents have to deal with nukes for some reason. We’ll cover more of those in our next segment, which will include a freaking Brady Bunch movie. Seriously.