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Roland Emmerich, the man in charge of peppering the White House and most of its staff with bombs and bullets, is no stranger to this particular arena. I remember well sitting in a crowded cinema about to watch Judge Dredd (Stallone/Helmetless version) and seeing the trailer for Independence Day, complete with the utter destruction of the White House. Jaws were dropped. Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore gave a rousing speech to a bunch of half drunk hicks and massively over-excited patriots in Air Force uniforms and won the day.

In 2009’s 2012 the director drowned the Danny Glover President and his White House in a tidal wave the size of Sweden. How would his new president fare as his White House was going Down?

Jamie Foxx, as Emmerich’s President Sawyer in the recent White House Down (a name well chosen for its embodiment of an Americana riddled with nostalgic intent), is exactly what you’d expect him to be. When faced with the total collapse of his security forces (not a spoiler, look at the title of the film) does he fall back on his amendments and cower in the Oval Office while elaborate mayhem rockets around him? Does he balls. He picks up the nearest weapon of egregious destruction and kicks the terrorists right in the filibusters.

Along with Channing Tatum, who as an Emmerich hero has to carry around some relationship baggage throughout the film, they are an unstoppable force, outwitting the witless, outmatching the various dirty looking terrorists. His only negotiation with a terrorist is how quickly do they want to die. Cliches abound and enormous fun is had as Emmerich’s wonderful surreality begins to take off as soon as President Sawyer fills his first bad guy with holes. From then on he becomes Mr. President: Walking softly and carrying an enormous gun.

Foxx’s President in one of a very select group of actors who take on this statesman’s role. Only last year Daniel Day-Lewis made good on his muttonchops and embodied Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s film. The same year the same Mr. Lincoln was also involved in a big screen caper in which he decapitated the undead so, as you can see, there’s plenty of scope right here.

To honour this small group of acting Presidents, and their latest gun-toting comrade, Simon Williams has taken a look and found the very best, and the very worst, Movie Presidents. Pledge your allegiance now…

Jon Lyus


 Harrison Ford as President Marshall

Air Force One

Jamie Foxx’s James Sawyer isn’t the first movie President to step up after terrorists invade his personal space. In Air Force One, the titular transporter is hijacked mid-air by rogue Russians on a mission to free their war-mongering boss General Radek. Having earlier given a speech about how he will “never negotiate” with terrorists, President Marshall sets out to put his money where his mouth is, and get those damn renegade Russians off his plane.

Presidential address: “Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons. And to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It’s your turn to be afraid.”

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