The best movie presidents ever, ranked (including Morgan Freeman in 'Angel Has Fallen')


Gerard Butler is the prime suspect after an assassination attempt on the president in “Angel Has Fallen.”

Hail to the chiefs, we salute them one and all – well, maybe not all of us and perhaps not each one, but at least those onscreen have been pretty boss. 

Going back to the early days of Hollywood, actors have been playing fictional presidents of the United States. Some have been dramatic (Jeff Bridges in “The Contender”), many comedic (looking at you, Terry Crews, aka President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in “Idiocracy”) and a bunch lean adventurous (Samuel L. Jackson vs. a psychopath in “Big Game”).

The new action thriller “Angel Has Fallen” (in theaters Friday) brings back an old pro at being POTUS: Morgan Freeman stars as President Allan Trumbull, the target of an assassination attempt in which his loyal Secret Service man Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is named as the No. 1 suspect.

In honor of Freeman’s second term as commander-in-chief (following 1998’s “Deep Impact”), here are the best big-screen presidents, ranked: 

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10. James Dale (Jack Nicholson, ‘Mars Attacks!’)

It’s a toss-up which not-so-great president to put in this slot: Billy Bob Thornton’s sexual harasser-in-chief from 2003’s “Love Actually” or Nicholson’s naive leader? The latter gets the call just for the no-win situation that plays out in Tim Burton’s 1996 sci-fi comedy: Martians invade and Dale tries be diplomatic, though ends up getting impaled for his efforts and has a flag planted in his corpse. So much for re-election!

9. (tied) Russell Kramer and Matt Douglas (Jack Lemmon and James Garner, ‘My Fellow Americans’)

In the 1996 buddy comedy, Kramer (Lemmon) and Douglas (Garner) are ex-presidents who have been longtime rivals in everything, from winning elections to who can get their memoir out faster. However, the political foes team up for mystery, banter and even some friendship when someone tries to blow them both up – and the culprit might just the guy (Dan Aykroyd) currently residing on Pennsylvania Avenue.

8. Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman, ‘Angel Has Fallen’)

The action-packed “Has Fallen” movies gave Freeman’s character a whole political career, from speaker of the House in 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen” to vice president in 2016’s “London Has Fallen” to now leader of the free world. Trumbull barely survives a heinous drone attack but has no problem being presidential even in a hospital room.

7. Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers, ‘Dr. Strangelove’)

Sellers plays three characters in the classic 1964 Cold War satire, including the embattled president who gets great one-liners (“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the war room!”) and one hilariously awkward scene where Muffley has to call the Soviet premier with an epic apology after a rogue general orders a nuclear strike on them.

6. Jack Stanton (John Travolta, ‘Primary Colors’)

You can’t say Travolta didn’t have ample inspiration here to play a Southern governor running for president and dealing with sex scandals: He whips out his best Bill Clinton impersonation – with down-home twang, poufy gray hair and even the hand mannerisms – and Emma Thompson lets loose as the de facto Hillary in Mike Nichols’ politically incisive 1998 dramedy.

5. Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman, ‘Deep Impact’)

Freeman’s been God – twice! – and Nelson Mandela, so playing the U.S. president when a meteor is headed to Earth and about to wipe out mankind tracks with his overall career path. With all hell about to break loose and pummel the planet in the 1998 disaster-piece, the good-hearted Beck is serene yet strong in bringing everyone together with his speeches, even when it looks like all hope is indeed lost. 

4. James Marshall (Harrison Ford, ‘Air Force One’)

“Get off my plane!” Only the erstwhile Han Solo could have pulled off such an on-the-nose line with rousing chutzpah. Gary Oldman co-stars in the 1997 action thriller as the Russian terrorist who hijacks America’s most famous aircraft, though Marshall, a soldier-turned-politician, is having none of that mess and fights back against a crew of bad guys – made even more awesome with Ford wearing his iconic scowl.

3. Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline, ‘Dave’)

When the real POTUS, Bill Mitchell (also Kline), is rendered comatose after an extramarital tryst with a staffer, the White House brain trust enlists lookalike Dave to fool everyone, including the first lady (Sigourney Weaver). Of course, Dave’s a much nicer guy – and a better president – and Kline’s splendid with both roles in the feel-good 1993 comedy.

2. Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas, ‘The American President’)

Boosted by a well-done Aaron Sorkin script, Douglas gets our vote for most eligible – and electable – bachelor: In the 1995 romance, Shepherd is a widower who gets involved with a charming environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening). If only the D.C. dating scene was his primary issue, because the prez also has an unpopular crime bill on his plate plus nonstop barbs tossed at him by his senatorial foe (Richard Dreyfuss) in the upcoming election.

1. Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman, ‘Independence Day’)

Dangerous meteors, assassination attempts and making time for love are all annoying obstacles, but so is an alien invasion that annihilates the White House. But Whitmore steps up in every single way when the chips – and global landmarks – are down in this 1996 sci-fi extravaganza, unleashing a fist-pumping speech that rallies his troops and getting into the cockpit of a fighter jet to take on the bad guys’ mothership. Your move, Morgan Freeman!


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