Eight surprising depictions of the President of the United States

Will Ferrell’s casting as Ronald Reagan got us thinking of other memorable POTUS portrayals in the movies.


Henry Heffer


Although more famous for playing a bemused George W Bush Jr, Will Ferrell is said to be eyeing up a political satire which will see him star as a dementia-ridden Ronald Reagan. The Black List endorsed script, titled simply ‘Reagan’, is reportedly as controversial as it is hilarious.

Of course, it’s not the first time a former US Commander-in-Chief will be portrayed with blunt honesty. To acknowledge a fresh interpretation of the one-time actor and 40th President of the United States, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the most interesting, inventive and downright weird appearances of the leader of the free world on the big screen.

Josh Brolin in W. (2008)

Mired in more controversy than perhaps any Oliver Stone film before it, W. sees an almost unrecognisable Josh Brolin make a bold attempt to humanise the war-loving President and painter. However, the film failed to reveal anything new and was cast out as the least factual of Stone’s numerous forays into political filmmaking.


Benjamin Walker, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

While thousands died in horrifically bloody battles during the civil war, Lincoln seemed only to be philosophising. Such was the burden of being the big cheese. In this slick interpretation of how Honest Abe came by his famous nickname, the President is seen kicking ass, taking names and generally dispensing some good ’ol Constitutional justice.


Nick Nolte in Jefferson in Paris (1995)

The secrets of the Jefferson Rose Line aside, Nolte manages to convey a real sense of the man behind the most important document in American history. Jefferson was a unique mind battling with personal tragedy, while being expected to birth a new nation into prosperity. Nolte summons the performance of a man at odds with the women in his life, the country he is forced to entertain and the young nation he has left behind.


Polly Bergan in Kisses for my President (1964)

Sometimes it takes a film 40 years to become relevant. But when it does, boy does it make for fascinating viewing. Who would have ever have considered the possibility of a female US President in 1964? Polly Bergan certainly wasn’t deterred by what at the time was a highly unlikely prospect, carrying herself with dignity and poise throughout.


Brett Stimely in Watchmen (2009)

Having played JFK no less than five times prior to appearing in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, Stimely was the obvious choice to pull off a convincing profile shot with little alteration. Then there’s the alternate portrayal of the most tragic moment in US Presidential history, which set the tone for a new style of comic book adaptation.


Lloyd Bridges in Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

A fantastically compromised performance that straddles the heroic and the ridiculous. Bridges found great humour in the role before George “Dubbya” Jr was even elected as Senator of the state of Texas. He set the blueprint for how comedians would portray Presidents for years to come.


Stephanie Paul in Iron Sky (2012)

Turning the Oval Office into some bizarre hunting lodge and mistakenly hiring Nazis to handle her marketing campaign, Stephanie Paul’s Sarah Palin parody is regrettably one of the few occasions where a woman has got the top job on screen. Her performance says a lot about how many Americans still view the notion of a woman in the White House.


Philip Baker Hall in Secret Honour (1984)

Richard Nixon’s epic fight against his invisible tormentors is furiously played out in this astonishing one man show. In the Oval Office of his subconscious, the President addresses his demons in the ultimate loaded gun scenario. Philip Baker Hall passionately reenacts Nixon’s descent, while still taking great care to not dive straight into paranoia.

Published 28 Apr 2016

Tags: Donald Trump US Election US President

Suggested For You

Could a Speedy Gonzales movie be the antidote to Donald Trump’s America?

By Phil W Bayles

The beloved Looney Toon is set to make his big screen bow courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Purge: Election Year makes perfect sense in this election year

By Chris Barsanti

The upcoming horror threequel looks to tap into the current US political climate.

How Our Brand Is Crisis evokes the sparky political satire of Election

By Katherine McLaughlin

Sandra Bullock’s spin doctor reminds us of another memorably strong and highly strung antiheroine.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.