Monday is Presidents Day, also known as George Washington’s birthday. It is the day when Americans remember and honor those who have led as the President of the United States.
With whomever holds the office being the most prominent figure in America for four to eight years, it makes sense that the POTUS position has been immortalized on screen by many actors and scrutinized by many documentarians. This Presidents Day, while you take the day off from work to sit around and watch Netflix, why not get into the spirit of the holiday by checking out these actors who played the president and documentaries about the prestigious position.
1. President Beck (Morgan Freeman) In “Deep Impact”
Being the president is hard, but it’s made all the more difficult when there’s a gigantic comet headed for Earth. Freeman’s character, President Beck, not only secretly organizes a plan to divert the comet’s path in deep space but he is forced to come up with a contingency plan to save the planet once the divergence plan fails. While any president deciding who lives or dies is directly against what the Founding Fathers had in mind, the circumstances force Beck to lead both Americans and the world on an organized path of survival.
2. Joseph Staton (Dennis Quaid) In “American Dreamz”
The film opens with the president of the United States picking up a newspaper for the first time in years, which leads him to develop a social conscious and retreat to his bedroom for a long time. To get him reacquainted with the spotlight, he starts guest judging a show called “American Dreamz.” Dennis Quaid finds a way to take a silly-sounding role and give it some real cultural relevance in a post-9/11, pro-“American Idol” nation. This parody of both the entertainment industry and the political world is the perfect shot in the arm that your Presidents Day needs.
3. Ronald Reagan In “The Reagan Presidency”
Maybe you’re looking to go the extra mile this year and learn about a real-life president. This documentary miniseries about the complex presidency of America’s 40th president is both informative and powerful. From his domestic policy to his foreign policy, the work of Ronald Reagan can be hotly debated in political circles for hours. This series finds a way to condense it all into three one-hour episodes.
4. Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) In “Olympus Has Fallen”
When North Korean terrorists kidnap the president in the hopes of getting an access code to a missile stockpile, the only thing standing between them is a tough-as-nails Eckhart refusing to give up the information -- no matter how many times he or the people around him get punched square in the face. Exhibiting the classic “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” demeanor that movie presidents have become known for, Asher holds out just long enough for disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to save the day. Honorable presidential shout-out goes to Speaker Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), who takes command once the president is kidnapped.
5. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) In “House of Cards”
Hope his inclusion on the list didn’t spoil it for anyone, but Underwood manipulates his way into the oval office by the end of the popular Netflix Original’s second season. While the presidency is a job that is typically viewed with reverence and poise, “House of Cards” finds a way to peak behind the wizard's curtain and show the backstabbing and villainy that can lead a man to the powerful position. Whether it’s covering up a murder or giving a direct-to-camera monologue with an ominous southern drawl, Spacey’s performance is a thing of beauty in this political thriller, which will debut its third season later this month.
6. Abraham Lincoln (Bill Oberst Jr.) In“Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies”
Not to be confused with the popular hit “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” this straight-to-video movie from 2012 sees the Great Emancipator combat Confederate undead zombies at the height of the Civil War. Admittedly, this is absolutely the strangest movie on the list, but it’s hard not to get excited about seeing the 16th president of the United States battle hordes of the undead with a six-shooter and a scythe.
7. John F. Kennedy In “American Experience: JFK,” “JFK: A President Betrayed” And More
There is no former president that embodies the idea of “celebrity status” more than John F. Kennedy. Whether it’s his foreign policy disputes (e.g., the Cuban Missile Crisis), his personal life or the mystery surrounding his death, JFK is a fascinating study of what it’s like to rise and fall under the banner of the POTUS. Netflix has a bevy of documentaries about the man, whether you’re interested in learning about his work as a president or finding out how the assassination of a president affects the nation.
8. Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) In “The West Wing”
This is an obvious choice for the list. Sheen played Bartlet perfectly for the show’s seven-season run. He had to be intelligent, exhibit impeccable leadership and rebuild after poor decisions. While many movies and documentaries can portray the life of a United States president, “The West Wing” gave people a small look at what the day-to-day life is like for a man tasked with running the country. He gets sick, he loses his temper, and he holds grudges. Although he’s not based on any real person, Josiah Bartlet is perhaps the most presidential fake president on this list.
9. Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) In “The Contender”
When the vice president dies tragically, Jeff Bridges’ character must select a new person to be his second-in-command for the remainder of his second term. What puts him on our list is his decision to try and break the glass ceiling by giving his support to a very talented female senator from Ohio. Although this begins the portrayal of the terrible mudslinging and political distractions that come with American politics, Bridges plays the role of a lame-duck president with ease.
10. Mitt Romney In “Mitt”
Although this isn’t technically about a president, it certainly fits the bill for Presidents Day viewing more than most. In 2014, Mitt Romney ran as the Republican candidate for president against Barack Obama. Although he ultimately lost the election, a camera crew stuck with him on the campaign trail to catch every moment that goes into a real honest bid for the presidency.