Since Donald Trump announced he was running for the Presidency of the United States of America, he’s managed to insult just about everybody on the planet. Somehow, he’s the front-runner and could potentially be in the oval office next year.
This makes me incredibly sad, and not just because this would be the biopic that the late Chris Farley would have been born to play either.
Given that the movies have produced some amazing fictional presidents, from alien-killers to Ruskie fighters, there’s plenty of inspiration for the good men and women of the USA to strive towards.
Given the enormity of the job, who in the land of Hollywood would do a better job? (Other than 2007 Britney Spears and present day Charlie Sheen that is.)
President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman) Deep Impact – 1998
Given that Morgan Freeman could play just about any profession and be everybody’s favourite, his appearance on this list is a given. Not only did he inspire a young Barack Obama to run for the presidency someday (possibly), he stared down a giant chunk of rock and ice hurtling towards the earth at thousands of miles an hour with the quiet poise and cool of James Bond ordering a martini.
Should ‘The Donald’ be faced with a similar threat, he’d most likely create a reality TV series where everyday people compete for a chance to live beneath the earth in caves until the ash cloud dies down. Which, in retrospect, isn’t a bad idea for a movie…
President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) Olympus Has Fallen – 2013
The White House is taken over by North Korean terrorists and Gerard Butler goes all-out as a one-man army to take them down. It’s following the Die Hard formula to the letter and it does it very well. What’s often overlooked is the performance of Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher. In the face of the worst crisis since 911, Asher leads the other hostages and makes hard choices no man should ever face.
His courage is undeniable. In contrast, Donald Trump could well fold like a bad poker player when faced with similar odds for personal survival. When a North Korean super spy has a gun to your face, crying like a baby is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, so I wouldn’t hold it against him.
President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) 24 Season 7 - 2009
Defined by a near unshakable integrity, President Allison Taylor laid the groundwork for future women presidents. Should Hillary take the top job, she could do worse than look to the fictional Taylor for inspiration. Sure, Taylor loses her way briefly, but her leadership shines through and she finds her way in the end.
Quite how Trump would deal with international terrorists and spies is still open for (very topical) debate. Given his outspoken nature, it’s doubtful that he’d be much good with the ‘secret’ part of the whole ‘secret agents’ thing though.
Spies with Go Pro cameras feeding real-time footage direct to cable TV…. A reality TV version of 24 could be on the way sooner than we think….
President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) Doctor Strangelove – 1964
Nuclear annihilation is no joking matter… unless it’s in the classic Doctor Strangelove and the lead role of President Muffley is played by the incomparable Peter Sellers. His role has gone down as one of the most enduring in cinematic history and he was robbed (although nominated) of an Oscar.
Should Donald Trump be faced with Armageddon, his war room antics could be as entertaining as Muffley’s but could be equally disastrous. “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”
President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) The American President – 1995
As the first (official) bachelor president, this movie largely plays out as a romance between Douglas and Annette Benning. The struggles he faces dealing with real-world issues such as gun violence and global warming are balanced between wooing the object of his affections.
So, does he lose the girl due to the demands of the world’s hardest job? Or does the country suffer due to his romance? Neither, he does both better than most could.
He manages to balance it all and overcome personal tragedy with some serious politics. His solutions may not be suitable for everyone but his composure in tough times are a lesson to us all.
Given Trump’s signature style thus far, it’s unlikely that he’d be called understated or serious any time soon…
Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) Dave – 1993
Dave is the story of an everyman who just so happens to be a dead ringer for the President. When asked to impersonate the President for a photo op, things get out of hand when the actual President (Bill Mitchell, also played by Kline) is left comatose.
Quickly thrown into the oval office, Dave finds that he’s totally unprepared for a job that most politicians prepare for for a lifetime. His brief, and utterly illegal, time in office is highlighted by balancing the budget and redistributing wealth to those most in need.
Over twenty years later, these issues are as relevant today as they were then. What would Trump, a man some say is equally unprepared, do in similar circumstances? We may find out very soon…
President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) Air Force One – 1997
Trump’s recent comments about this movie notwithstanding, James Marshall is the President we’d all aspire to be. Harrison Ford is on top form as a president that evades capture and picks off members of a terrorist group with all the kick-ass skills of a true ‘90s action hero. Frankly, most people get lost on a plane walking to the bathroom.
Considering his age and that he’s not in great shape, Trump has been surprisingly energetic on the campaign trail. In a similar situation however, it’s doubtful that he’d fare so well.
Maybe he’d organise a reality TV show where terrorist demands are met based on a public vote?
Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) Battlestar Galactica – 2004
Given that all of humanity owes their very existence to the crew of The Galactica, she’s kind of the messiah. As the secretary for education, and 43rd in line for the presidency, she’s thrown into the top job after humanity is all but annihilated in a surprise nuclear attack.
Fighting evil robots, sedition, starvation, and just about every crisis the universe had to throw at her, President Roslin not only rises to the occasion, she thrives in the role. Even when battling the cancer that ultimately kills her, she leads the remnant of humanity to the promised land, and their salvation.
I’m not even going to suggest what Trump would do in a similar situation, but it’s a fair bet that it would involve the sexy Cylon Number Six and a reality show of some type….
President Josiah Edward ‘Jed’ Bartlet (Martin Sheen) The West Wing – 1999
Fictional presidents that make inspirational speeches and have piles of charisma are nothing new, as this list attests. A fictional president that people would actually vote for is incredibly rare. Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet is a guide to how presidents should act.
Honesty, integrity, courage... words often used, but rarely personified. Sheen won over audiences over many years with his portrayal of Jed Bartlett, with many voters wishing they’d had him as a candidate to vote for.
If Trump is catching any TV during this busy time, he could do far worse than watch The West Wing and see how it’s done.
President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) Independence Day – 1996
Ok, so Independence Day isn’t known for its adherence to plausibility but The President actually leading an air assault against a giant alien spaceship is right up there as one of the most incredible moments of the movie.
Few handle adversity well, fewer handle personal tragedy with grace. President Whitmore deals with aliens destroying half of human civilisation and the death of his wife in the space of a few days.
His initial fightbacks are met with failure and a huge amount of American forces are destroyed in short order. Far from falling apart, his counter-offensive in the final act sees him take the fight to the invaders personally from the cockpit of a fighter jet.
His barnstorming speech on the eve of the final battle is as rousing as any made in history and in the process makes the fourth of July a global holiday and symbol of freedom for all humanity.
If aliens invade and ‘The Donald’ is in charge, I’m not holding out much hope that he’d step up and lead the personal fight back. I could Be wrong though….
2016 is going to be a fascinating year for American, and global, politics. Whether or not Donald Trump makes it to the White House is still in the air, what’s certain is this- when they come to make the movie out of all this, I’ll be right there at the front of the queue wishing Chris Farley was still alive to claim his Oscar for this one……