President’s Day: The 7 Best Films and Television Shows About the Commander in Chief
February 18, 2013
Bill Murray as FDR in ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’/Image © Focus Features
In honor of President’s Day we put together a list of our favorite films and television moments revolving around the role of the chief. We looked at biopics of some of our great leaders as well as some fictional presidents, some of whom we wish were real. The list could go on and on so take a look at ours and then tell us what you think about the ones we picked, the ones we missed, and the ones you’ll be watching this President’s Day.
Released at the end of 2012, “Lincoln” is the newest film to make our list. The film is packed with stars from Steven Spielberg’s direction, to Tony Kushner’s script and to Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. The film, which is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals, was nominated for seven Golden Globes and twelve Academy Awards. Instead of an epic biopic, the producers opted for a narrower focus and picked the last few months of his life, in particular Lincoln’s pursuit of passing the thirteenth amendment.
“Hyde Park on Hudson” (2012)
I must admit that I was reluctant to add this to the list as I didn’t very much care for the film. That being said, Bill Murray put together one of the best performances of his career as Franklin D. Roosevelt, a performance that is greatly underappreciated due to the quality of the picture. The film takes place in the summer of 1939, during which time King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit Roosevelt in hopes of securing his support before the start of WWII. Again, watch it for Bill Murray!
“John Adams (2008)
Paul Giamatti is a brilliant actor and he was no better than when he played President John Adams in the HBO miniseries “John Adams.” The series, which is based on the biography by David McCullough, won four Golden Globes and thirteen Emmys. Tom Hooper directed the entire series, which covers about the first fifty years of the United States. The miniseries was a perfect option for the story as they had the opportunity to cover such a large timeframe without having to rush through the meaningful moments.
“Primary Colors” (1998)
John Travolta stars as Jack Stanton, a governor vying for the democratic nomination for president. The film covers the course of the campaign amid incriminating allegations over past infidelities. The film is based on the novel written by Joe Klein, a journalist who covered Bill Clinton’s campaign for Newsweek. Although names were changed and the story somewhat fictionalized, the obvious connections between Clinton and Stanton were drawn — and rightfully so — particularly when the novel was originally published anonymously.
“The American President” (1995)
This one is a particular favorite. The film has another great bill with Rob Reiner’s direction, Aaron Sorkin’s script, and one of Michael Douglas’ better roles. Douglas plays Democratic President Andrew Shepherd as he prepares to run for re-election, all the while falling in love with an environmental lobbyist played by Annette Bening. At its core, the film is a romantic comedy. Douglas plays a very likeable, approachable president. As a widower, you’re rooting for him to succeed in finding love and as a popular president you’re rooting for his re-election.
“The West Wing” (1999 – 2006)
Following the success of “The American President,” Aaron Sorkin developed a television series about the west wing of the White House. The hour drama ran for seven seasons (Sorkin left after the forth). Martin Sheen, who played Chief of Staff in “The American President,” took on the part of Josiah Bartlet, President of the United States. The show featured an ensemble cast allowing for multiple story lines and Sorkin’s fireball-style dialog.
“Air Force One” (1997)
This film stars Harrison Ford as a fictional president — and a bad-ass one at that. When Air Force One is hijacked by a terrorist group posing as media, Ford as President James Marshall ignores the secret service’s request to leave the plane via the escape pod in order to protect his family and friends aboard the plane. Although over the years the film has become a bit dated, the idea of a president who not only can defend himself but one who can defeat a terrorist is something we haven’t seen in too many modern day political films.
- 'Arrested Development' Redux: The Bastard Child of Stephen King? Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz reveals that Step...
- Behind the Candelabra: A Conversation with Richard LaGravenese Word & Film recently had a chance to talk with Richard LaGra...
- Downton Disney Abbey: Recasting the Classics with the Crawley Crew In this spoiler-heavy exercise in imagination, Word & Film c...
- Unpacking the Literary References Informing 'Mad Men' Season 6 Everything in 'Mad Men' is freighted with meaning -- so here...
- 'The Hangover III' as Muse: 10 of the Best On-Screen Trios in Movie History From the Dude and his motley crew to a handful of stooges, W...
- Unpacking the Literary References Informing 'Mad Men' Season 6Everything in 'Mad Men' is freighted with meaning -- so...
- 'Arrested Development' Redux: The Bastard Child of Stephen King? Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz reveals that...
- A User's Guide to Watching (and Keeping Up With) 'Cloud Atlas'Without a doubt, the Booker prize short-listed, cult fa...