Throughout the history of cinema and television, the Presidents of the United States have often found themselves caught up in all manner of danger, ranging from a plane hijacking to a full on alien invasion. And while they may not have always been a valuable leader or a good person, any appearance of the President is often very entertaining.
However, it’s typically the fictionalized versions of these characters that provide the most entertainment. While epics like Lincoln and Frost-Nixon stand as excellent representations of true stories, it’s the tales of corruption and heroism that follow the imaginary iterations that keep us hooked.
5. Thomas J. Whitmore - Independence Day (Bill Pullman)
Opening up our list is President Thomas J. Whitmore, in office during the late nineties. The ex-Gulf War pilot may not have been the most popular President among the electorate, but it was during the invasion of Earth seen in Independence Day that cemented his place on this list.
Whitmore, aware of his waning popularity, felt it necessary to prove to the people of the world he was the leader they needed. Following an inspiring message to the people of Earth, Whitmore put his own life on the line by suiting up and leading the aerial assault on the alien ship. While he may not be the most politically minded President on the list, he’s definitely one of the bravest.
4. David Palmer – 24 (Dennis Haysbert)
David Palmer hasn’t exactly had it easy over the years. Starring in the first five seasons of 24, David Palmer’s presidency began with a failed assassination attempt at his primary election. From that point on, his entire run in the Oval Office was far from normal. Palmer had an informal relationship with Counter Terrorism Unit Agent Jack Bauer, which often resulted in him being dragged into several crises where a President would not feel at home.
Aside from his involvement with the CTU, Palmer had a very rocky career as the President of the United States. He was the victim of multiple failed assassination attempts while President and suffered countless personal losses. Even after he stepped down after just one term, he still played a key role in the inner workings of the government and was a keen ally to Bauer regardless of the situation.
3. Jed Bartlet - The West Wing (Martin Sheen)
Don't let the uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump mislead you. The fact that Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet was, at the time, named “one of the most popular Democratic Presidents in recent memory” really says it all about him. Portrayed by the legendary Martin Sheen, Jed Bartlet was a firm but fair leader who never hesitated to do what was necessary.
Bartlet didn't have the easiest presidency. Although he was never forced to deal with an oncoming alien invasion or countless acts of terrorism, he was constantly having to deal with his own personal issues, such as his battle with multiple sclerosis. One of his greatest achievements was overseeing a peace settlement between Palestine and Israel, which is no mean feat. He also received a Nobel Prize, which has to be worth something, right?
2. James Marshall - Air Force One (Harrison Ford)
How many Presidents do you know that have punched another guy in the face? James Marshall, played by Harrison Ford, is the closest you're going to get to a badass action hero President. When Air Force One, the President's personal aircraft, is hijacked by Gary Oldman pretending to be a Russian terrorist, Marshall is forced to use the experience from his Army days to regain control.
As far as being President goes, Marshall does very little. Aside from a diplomatic conference with the Russians, Marshall doesn't seem to have much experience on the political side of the job but in the grand scheme of things, it's not really important. I mean, he actually throws a dude out of a plane and later jumps out himself to escape crashing into the ocean. Let's just say I'd definitely vote for him.
1. Frank Underwood - House of Cards (Kevin Spacey)
Who else could it be but Frank Underwood? Kevin Spacey's corrupt Senator-turned-President may not be the audience's choice for best suited for the job, but he's definitely one of the most entertaining. For those of you that haven't yet seen House of Cards, all you need to know is that Frank is a nasty piece of work and is willing to do anything and everything to get what he wants.
Frank Underwood stands as one of entertainment's greatest antiheroes, often found just behind Breaking Bad's own Walter White. He's been described as evil by many and often lives up to his infamy. Intelligent and scheming, Frank is, in many aspects, perfect for the role of President. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, and Frank has gotten very good at shunning that responsibility. He became President for his own gain, not for the country. In my opinion, it's only a matter of time before he meets his untimely end.