Top 10 Real Presidential Portrayals

Dennis Quaid was cast as President George W. Bush today for season two of American Crime Story.  While that may seem like an excellent or strange choice to you, there’s no denying that the first season of ACS was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with Bush and Hurricane Katrina.

With that, let’s take a look at 10 excellent performances of actors portraying real Presidents, either during or after their term.


#10: Philip Baker Hall as Richard Nixon

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Secret Honor is very bizarre, strangely hilarious and outright depressing at times.  Regardless of how you feel about this one-man film, there’s no denying that Philip Baker Hall was fantastic in this.

Prior to making the movie, which by the way was made with mostly a student crew, Hall played Richard Nixon in the play based off the movie where we he won the 1984 Drama Desk Award for Most Outstanding One Man Show.


#9: Martin Sheen as John F. Kennedy

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In 1983, NBC aired a five hour mini-series about President John F. Kennedy with Martin Sheen playing the role.

Even though he would go on to play the best fictional president in television to this date, Sheen gave a performance of JFK well enough to be nominated for a Golden Globe in the role.


#8: Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy

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Though the show was not perfect, The History Channel aired a six hour miniseries in 2011 about the Kennedy family of their personal life, political life, and the conspiracies surrounding the powerhouse family.

The best part of this miniseries was the performances, and Kinnear delivered a fantastic performance of JFK that landed him a nomination for a Primetime Emmy.


#7: Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon

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While it may be odd to cast a British man to play an American President, this isn’t even the only time that Hopkins is on this list.

Oliver Stone’s incredibly long film spanning through the life of Nixon that came out in 1995 was very Oliver Stone and one of Stone’s best films.  Hopkins gave a stellar performance as usual that landed him with an Academy Award Nomination for Best Lead Actor.


#6: Josh Brolin as George W. Bush

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It’s a ballsy move to make a movie about a living president while he’s still in office, but Oliver Stone is one for ballsy decisions with the film W..

In a film surprisingly not as savage as people were expecting, Josh Brolin gives a great performance of President Bush, even if the film itself was pretty underwhelming.


#5: Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams

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What do you do after you’re a British man who plays an American President?  You go make another movie immediately after as a British Man playing an American President!

Amistad is actually a fantastic courtroom drama, where Hopkins plays Adams after he’s already left office, and is called to defend a group of revolting men, and his defense determines whether these men are free or slaves.  It’s very good, and offers a particularly great performance from Hopkins that got him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor.


#4: James Whitmore as Harry Truman

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I’m honestly not the biggest fan of Give’em Hell, Harry!, but I also didn’t live through the Cold War, so I’m pretty sure this film isn’t meant for me.

However, it’s on YouTube, or at least the play, and you can decide for yourself!  Regardless of feelings about the movie, Whitmore undeniably gives an outstanding performance as Truman aka the only character in the entire movie, that landed him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Lead Actor.

I’m noticing it’s very difficult to win an Oscar playing a President.  But an almost guaranteed nomination if you don’t screw it up.


#3: Frank Langella as Richard Nixon

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People love making movies about Nixon, and it’s pretty understandable why.  Frost/Nixon is undoubtedly one of the best.  Even though Michael Sheen is my favorite part of this movie as Frost, Langella delivers a fantastic performance as Nixon.

The movie has some truly iconic dialogue and moments, and was one of the best films of that year (in my opinion).  Langella’s performance led him being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Lead Actor (sticking with the theme of this list).


#2: Paul Giamatti as John Adamspeacefield-1920.jpg

If you haven’t watched the miniseries John Adams, I recommend you go do that after reading this list.  Coming in around 8 hours, it’s one of the best things HBO has produced, and Giamatti is unbelievable in it.

The movie spans over an impressive period of time for seven episodes, and his performance seems to only get better as the show progresses.  It also led to Giamatti winning the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries, to the surprise of no one.


#1: Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

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I mean… obviously.  When you get a method actor as insane/talented as Daniel Day Lewis, you’re going to get an extraordinary performance.

Feeling like you went back in time and seeing things in the past you should be seeing, Lewis gives a fantastic, monologue heavy performance as Abe leading up to his assassination (Spoiler: he dies in the end).

While the movie itself was painfully boring at times, Lewis is the best part of this and steals the show, leading to him winning an Academy Award for his performance.


Did you like this list?  Did you hate this list?  Do you want to start an unneccessary argument about politics in the comments?  Go for it, and while you do, please like, share, and subscribe!

God Bless America,
–EC

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