The President of the United States is one of the most influential people in the world. As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump dominate headlines ahead of the November election, and with the June 24 release of Independence Day: Resurgence featuring Sela Ward as the franchise’s first female president, it’s a good time to look back at some of the most memorable fictional presidents in film and television.
These leaders are usually challenged by an enormous obstacle over a complicated plot line, or are often thrown into action hero-type roles. The 1990s was full of examples—think Harrison Ford battling Russian terrorists in Air Force One or Morgan Freeman preparing for a comet colliding with Earth in Deep Impact. The one common trait that is consistent among these films’ varied story lines: unforgettable quotes.
Perhaps the best example is in 1996’s Independence Day, when Bill Pullman’s character, President Thomas Whitmore, gives a motivational speech at an Air Force base before retaliating against alien invaders, “We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation.”
As many dramatic faux-presidential roles as there have been, there are as many that are hilarious. Jack Nicholson portrayed the president in Mars Attacks!, in which TIME said in its 1996 review, “You have to admire everyone’s chutzpah.” In Head of State, Chris Rock hilariously plays Mays Gilliam, an accidental candidate to the presidency with a sharp mouth, who The New York Times reflected, “Helped us imagine [Barack Obama’s] transformative breakthrough before it occurred.” Though it’s Hollywood, one can agree: the presidency isn’t an easy job.
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