Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd in The American President, 1995.
Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd in The American President, 1995.Columbia Pictures
Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd in The American President, 1995.
Jack Nicholson as James Dale in Mars Attacks!, 1996.
Bill Pullman as Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day, 1996.
Gene Hackman as Alan Richmond in Absolute Power, 1997.
Harrison Ford as James Marshall in Air Force One, 1997.
Morgan Freeman as Tom Beck in Deep Impact, 1998.
John Travolta as Jack Stanton in Primary Colors, 1998.
Martin Sheen as Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing, 1999.
Dennis Haysbert, as David Palmer, and Cherry Jones, as Allison Taylor, in 24, 2001, 2009.
Chris Rock as Mays Gilliam in Head of State, 2003.
Danny Glover in Thomas Wilson in 2012, 2009.
Charlie Sheen as President Rathcock in Machete Kills, 2013.
Jamie Foxx as James William Sawyer in White House Down, 2013.
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards, 2014.
Samuel L. Jackson as William Alan Moore in Big Game, 2014.
Sela Ward as Elizabeth Lanford in Independence Day: Resurgence.
Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepherd in The American President, 1995.
Columbia Pictures
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Independence Day: Here Are 17 of the Best Fictional Presidents

Jun 23, 2016

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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