Four Great Movie Presidents for July 4

It’s almost the Fourth of July, a time of year to put out the stars and stripes while enjoying some BBQ and parades.

Since it’s an American holiday, it’s worth taking a look at American leaders from movies. Here are who I consider some of the best fictional presidents featured in movies.

Honorable Mention – President Dave Kovic* – “Dave” (1993)

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Dave Kovic only gets an honorable mention here because he wasn’t really the president. An impersonator, Kovic is thrust into the role when the real president, Bill Mitchell, suffers a stroke. So, he never really took the oath of office.

With that said, during his time as a sort of de facto acting president, Kovic made some good impacts. He managed to find $650 million worth of savings in the federal budget, with help from his accountant friend, to keep homeless shelters open.

Then, he exposes a major fraud scandal, and does so in a way that preserves the sanctity of the office. Plus, before ending his time impersonating Mitchell, Kovic sets up a smooth transition for the honorable Vice President Gary Nance to assume the presidency.

President Andrew Shepherd – “The American President” (1995)

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Shepherd already seems to be a popular president at the outset of this mid-90s flick. In fact his rating is above 60%, which is pretty good for a person in that position.

He clearly is a charismatic, smart and steady leader in the country. However, what really pushes his status up are his ambitions in the role.

At the conclusion of the film, Shepherd promises to push through a large environmental bill and strong crime legislation. As shown in the movie, neither would be necessarily easy to pass.

Yet at the end of the movie, Shepherd shows great resolve and would likely be effective in using the bully pulpit to get things done.

President James Marshall – “Air Force One” (1997)

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At the outset of “Air Force One,” President Marshall shows he is strong when it comes to foreign policy. The film opens with him praising the combined work of American and Russian forces to capture a dangerous terrorist leader and promises continued cooperation in fighting such threats.

Then, of course, there’s the whole taking back Air Force One thing. Marshall isn’t just fighting a group of terrorists, though, he is also doing his best to keep in contact with Washington D.C. to ensure the White House is informed on what’s happening.

Obviously it’s great how Marshall becomes a badass in fighting the terrorists. However, what elevates his level is his willingness to put others before himself. He makes sure several staffers can escape via parachute and then is the last good guy to leave the plane.

He picked a pretty good staff, too. His Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd, military aide Major Norman Caldwell and Vice President Kathryn Bennett all perform dutifully during the crisis.

President Tom Beck – “Deep Impact” (1998)

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Cool, calm and collected. That’s exactly what President Tom Beck is throughout an extinction level event.

Beck portrays extraordinary leadership, calling for order and even imposing rules to prevent price gouging when the comet is first announced. Likely at the direction of scientists and staff, Beck also appears to have everything well planned.

A spacecraft was authorized to deal with the comet by the time the movie starts, meaning that was approved right away, as were a series of underground shelters. Even when things went wrong, such as the comet being split in two, Beck remained calm, imposed martial law to ensure order, and continued with established backup plans.

That kind of leadership would certainly be welcome as the east coast of the United States is rebuilt after the smaller piece of the comet struck Earth.

President Thomas Whitmore – “Independence Day” (1996)

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President Thomas Whitmore appeared to be a sort of game manager president at the film’s outset. The notable quote that comes up early on is “they elected a warrior and got a wimp” in reference to Whitmore failing to get a piece of legislation passed.

Maybe he wasn’t as much of an arm-twister as Lyndon B. Johnson, but according to the novelization of the movie, he was trying to take on a lot of reforms and sometimes that takes a while in Congress, and it doesn’t always result in being super popular. The most important thing, though, is how he handled the war with the invaders.

At the start, with no sign of communication, Whitmore stayed in Washington to give the appearance of calm during the situation and called for order. It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and say he should have evacuated the city right away, but there were a lot of unknowns as to what the aliens wanted to do.

Keep in mind, in “District 9,” a similar ship came down and it was a group of refugees. Whitmore’s first action was wisely to try to communicate with the aliens, which was a smart move.

Whitmore also wisely listened to scientific experts, such as Dave Levinson, when presented with information about the attack countdown.

He then approved a counterstrike while continuing command of the country in the air on Air Force One. There’s no doubt he wouldn’t have called for the attack had he known about the shields, and he demands the forces are called back when the fighters aren’t having any luck.

His decision to use a nuclear strike made sense, too. It was soon after learning the aliens had no intention for peace or a ceasefire. It was a good decision to use the nation’s strongest arsenal and he made sure to evacuate Houston before the strike.

Again, it’s easy to say after the fact that this was a bad idea, but in the moment, I don’t think it was. Keep in mind, sometimes force shields can be worn down, such as in the “Star Fox” video game series.

Following the strike, he immediately calls off other attempts when it’s shown to be futile. He then fires his awful secretary of defense, and listens to science again when he finds out that there’s a way to bring down the shields.

He even volunteers to fight alongside the rest of the forces, since he’s told specifically that more airmen are needed. This took place after a bold speech about breaking down boundaries to allow humanity to come together more, and have the Fourth of July mark a new era for people putting aside differences.

According to series lore, he follows through with this, as after the defeat of the aliens, he leads the rebuilding effort and was key in developing the Earth Space Defense program.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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