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Best President Movies

The best president movies can entertain and educate liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between.

By Stephen HamiltonPublished 8 years ago 6 min read

With Republicans and Democrats placing their bids in the US presidential elections every four years, and a slew of campaigning to be done before the election season can begin, it seems the news is constantly full of debates and predictions. The race to the White House is documented full force, and what better way to celebrate the perpetual competition than watching the best president movies? After all, the presidents in films like W., Air Force One, and The Contender, often do a better job than the real ones.

Whether you love him or hate him, there is no question that George W. Bush is one of the most controversial public figures in recent memory. In an unprecedented undertaking, acclaimed director Oliver Stone brought the life of our 43rd president to the big screen as only he can in the film W. The film takes viewers through Bush's struggles and triumphs in his eventful life, from ne'er-do-well party boy and son of privilege, how he found both his wife and his faith, to when he became president of the United States. This film shows George trading in booze for religion, mending his aimless ways and setting his sights first on the Texas governorship, then on the presidency. And ending, of course, with the critical days leading up to Bush's decision to invade Iraq and decrease his approval rating.

After making a stirring speech in Moscow outlining the USA's new "zero-tolerance" policy with respect to terrorism and vowing to never negotiate with terrorists, President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) boards Air Force One with his family and advisers. The President's principles are put to the test when a group of terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov hijacks the flight and plan to execute one hostage every half-hour until their demands are met. However, the President, a former Medal of Honor winner, feigns escape, and stows away in the aircraft, racing against time to rescue his family and everyone else on board. The terrorists may be in for a surprise…

In the political thriller The Contender, Senator Laine Hanson is chosen by the President to sit as Vice President when the sitting Vice President dies, making her the first woman to hold the office. The selection is met with opposition from members of both parties, in particular a powerful political adversary who will seemingly stop at nothing to discredit her. During her confirmation process, Laine is the victim of a vicious attack on her personal life in which stories of sexual deviancy are spread. The hearings set off a firestorm of controversy as shocking secrets from Laine's past are revealed, threatening her personal life, as well as her political future. She is torn as to whether she should fight back, or stick to her high principles and refuse to comment on the allegations.

In The American President, Michael Douglas stars as President Andrew Shepherd, who is approaching the end of his first term as President of the United States. He's a widower with a young daughter and has proved to be popular with the public. His re-election seems assured, until he meets Sydney Ellen Wade, a paid political activist working for an environmental lobby group. He's immediately smitten with her and after several amusing attempts, they finally manage to go on a date (which happens to be a State dinner for the visiting President of France). His relationship with Wade opens the door for his prime political opponent, Senator Bob Rumson, to launch an attack on the President's character, something he could not do in the previous election as Shepherd's wife had only recently died.

The Ides Of March shows a realistic side of politics. As Ohio's Democratic primary nears, charming Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) seems a shoo-in for the nomination over his opponent, Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell). Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, Morris' idealistic press secretary, a brilliant young man, second in command of Governor Mike Morris' presidential campaign, and a true believer in his candidate's integrity and the democratic process. But Meyers' gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail, after his meeting with Pullman's campaign manager and a dalliance with a young intern sets in motion events that threaten Morris' election chances.

In the summer of 1839, 53 Africans. held captive in the cramped cargo holds of the Spanish slave ship Amistad, set sail from Cuba to America. During the long trip, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) leads the slaves in an unprecedented uprising. After two months on a ragged course up the Eastern seaboard, the Amistad is captured by an American naval ship off the coast of Connecticut and the Africans were charged for murder and piracy. In the beginning, the Africans are championed by abolitionists Theodore Joadson and Lewis Tappan, and a young real estate attorney named Roger Baldwin. However, as the case becomes the symbol of a nation divided, two great Americans lock horns in the debate. Pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren, seeking re-election, is willing to sacrifice the Africans to appease the South, as well as Queen Isabella of Spain. But his will is challenged by former President John Quincy Adams, who comes out of retirement to fight the Africans' cause in the United State Supreme Court.

With the nation in still another year with a high death count, the Civil War continues to rage, and President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) struggles to deal with the continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves. Bringing the full measure of his passion, humanity, and political skill to what would become his defining legacy, the president attempts to end the war and permanently abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment. Having great courage and moral fortitude, Lincoln pushes forward to compel the nation, and those in government who oppose him, to aim toward a greater good for all mankind.

Frost/Nixon is the dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon. In the summer of 1977, three years after the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency, Nixon, played by Frank Langella, selects TV personality Frost (Michael Sheen) to conduct a one-on-one, exclusive interview. Disgraced president Nixon believes it will be easy to mislead Frost and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans. Frost's team has doubts about their boss' ability to hold his own and stand up to the former president. But when the cameras start rolling, what actually unfolds is a charged battle of wits, an unexpectedly candid and revealing interview before the court of public opinion.

In Fail Safe, a misguided transmission sends a squadron of bombers hurtling towards Russia. During the Cold War, US bomber jets are equipped with fail-safe boxes that instruct pilots when and if to attack. When an attack order is inadvertently administered due to a system malfunction, the President of the United States (Henry Fonda) must scramble to fix the mistake before the bombs are dropped on Moscow. He manages to stop almost all the bombers headed for Moscow, except for one determined pilot, Air Force commander Frank Overton. Frank desperately tries to establish radio contact with the bombers, but once the pilots have passed the "fail safe" point, they've been instructed to disregard any reversal of orders. He manages to complete his mission, with deadly consequences.

The November 22, 1963 assassination of US President JFK shocked the nation and the world. This acclaimed Oliver Stone drama presents the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy led by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner). When Garrison begins to doubt conventional thinking on the murder, he faces government resistance, and, after the killing of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman), he closes the case. Later, however, Garrison reopens the investigation, finding evidence of an extensive conspiracy behind Kennedy's death. In making this movie, director Oliver Stone had his pick of supposed or real investigative flaws to draw from and has constructed what some reviewers felt was one of the most compelling (and controversial) political detective thrillers ever to emerge from American cinema. Long before filming was completed, Stone was fending off heated accusations of artistic and historical irresponsibility, and these only intensified after the film was released.

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About the Creator

Stephen Hamilton

Definitive movie buff. Quickly realized that it was more financially prudent to write about film than trying to beg for millions of dollars to make his own.

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    Stephen HamiltonWritten by Stephen Hamilton

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