Oliver Stone's W. opened last week, to decidedly mixed reviews (not that any Houston critics got a chance to see it). While the movie may have received a lukewarm reception, George W. Bush's actual presidency - which is enjoying a 29% approval rating - is sure to go down as one of the worst of all time. But rather than beat a lame duck, we decided to take a look at some movie presidents - fictional or not - that could give Bush II a run for his money.
5. "Andrew Shepherd" (Michael Douglas) - The American President (1995)
Many people are fans of Aaron Sorkin. I myself never bought the concept of repeating each other's lines half a dozen times the benchmark of good writing, but whatever. And anyway, the problem with The American President isn't the dialogue but rather Sorkin's Fantasyland representation of our political leaders as educated persons of conscience and integrity and not, as is usually the case, opportunistic scumbags with the moral fiber of planaria. Shepherd is a Hollywood wet dream, a character embodying such unattainable left wing ideals (good luck on seizing those handguns) he could only exist in the movies.
4. "Merkin Muffley" (Peter Sellers) - Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Don't get me wrong: Dr. Strangelove is a great movie, and Sellers is fantastic in all three of his roles. But this is a list of bad Commanders-in-Chief, and Pres. Muffley is the very embodiment of ineffectual leadership in spite (or perhaps because) of his status as the sole voice of reason amidst the madness.
3. "Thomas J. Whitmore" (Bill Pullman) - Independence Day (1996)
Bad enough that you weren't "in the loop" about that whole Roswell thing, but maybe leading a suicide assault on alien spacecraft isn't the best idea when you're a) the sole surviving member of the Executive Branch, and b) your wife just died and the only person to leave your pre-teen daughter with is a stripper.
And how about crediting Dylan Thomas for your speech?
2. "President Bennett" (Donald Moffat) - Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Bennett wasn't the first Chief Executive to start an illegal war for personal reasons (Saddam, after all, tried to kill someone's "daddy"), and he won't be the last. He merits inclusion here for the completely incompetent way he handled Jack Ryan's (Harrison Ford) declaration that he was going to spill the beans about Bennett's covert South American incursion. If Bennett had any balls, the last scene of that movie would've show Ryan floating facedown in the Anacostia, not testifying before the Senate.
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1. Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Voight) - Pearl Harbor (2001)
The movie about that time "the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle," as Roger Ebert put it, is the worse of the numerous hate crimes Michael Bay has committed against the American moviegoing public. Almost worse than the "romance" involving Kate Beckinsdale and generic homunculoids Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett are the historical inaccuracies, best personified in the cosmetically jowled Voight, playing polio-stricken FDR, standing up under his own power as he delivers the "Day of Infamy" speech.
-- Pete Vonder Haar