Presidents are people just like the rest of us and have their flaws and foibles (some more than others). But in fiction we can create our ideal leaders, ones of unbending character and altruistic motives. In our more challenging times we look to these characters to imagine living in a more perfect world. With that in mind let’s take a look at the top 5 fictional presidents from movies and TV.
Across 5 seasons of television we watched President Palmer deal with some of the country’s most dangerous and dire moments. Always possessing a calm and collected presence no matter the crisis (including dealing with his own villainous wife). Ever putting his trust in super agent Jack Bauer to save the day, Palmer showed us how a true leader responds to serious threats.
Shepherd entered office as a widower and the subject of his romantic life became major fodder for the tabloid circuit and vicious accusations from his political rivals. Throughout the film we watch him hold to his ideals and refuse to back down from his agenda. His final speech to the press is one of the most inspiring monologues in film history.
Not many presidents seem capable of handling a terrorist takeover of Air Force One, but Marshall shows he is more than capable of throwing down with terrorists. He must weigh the safety of his family against the needs of his country. Proving himself to not only be a spectacular leader but an absolutely badass action hero (it doesn’t hurt that he has the legendary Glenn Close as his vice president).
A full on alien invasion of the planet is a lot to put on anyone’s plate, Whitmore not only rises to the challenge but manages to raise his daughter and get in a fighter jet to take on the aliens himself. He also delivers a speech that rallies the Earth together before starting the major assault against the alien motherships. It’s hard to believe this guy didn’t get named president for life after his heroic actions in the face of annihilation.
Every time I watch this series (which is often) I’m furious that Bartlet is not really my president. He’s a man who leads with his heart, surrounds himself with the smartest people available and weighs the ethics of every decision he makes. He’s not a perfect man by any stretch but he strives to truly help the world every day. He shows a level of compassion and empathy so rarely seen in actual world leaders. He cannot be bought off or threatened and digs in his heels when he knows what must be done. For all these reasons he stands above all other fictional presidents.
Don't forget to check out John's article, "Top 5 TV Detectives."