White House Down is out today, which stars Jamie Foxx as the President and Channing Tatum as the Secret Service Agent who saves him during an attack on the White House. “Magic Mike Saves Obama” is just the latest in a long line of movies where the Commander-in-Chief is little more than a damsel in distress, waiting to be saved, so in anticipation of Jamie Foxx’s President Sawyer joining the Wussy President Hall-of-Fame, let’s see who his fellow inductees are.
10. Cotter Smith as President McKenna in X-Men 2
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Film Corp
The first five minutes of X-Men 2 is still one of the coolest sequences in any comic book movie. The teleporting mutant Nightcrawler takes down about a dozen secret service agents before getting within an inch of stabbing the President to death (he does take a bullet and teleport away, but he got pretty damn close to finishing the job). You could argue that there’s no way that the Secret Service could have been prepared for a super-agile teleporting X-Man trying to take out the President, but they should at least have a stern talking-to with whoever runs the front desk for letting in a blue guy with glowing yellow eyes and a tail.
9. William Hurt as President Ashton in Vantage Point
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Vantage Point is a movie about an assassination attempt on the President while he’s overseas. Lots of Presidents get shot in lots of movies, but what’s special about this movie is how many times the President gets shot. Since the film is told from seven different perspectives, even though William Hurt’s President Ashton is shot only once, the moment is replayed seven different times. You get to see him shot. Then, you get to see him shot from a little to the left. Then, he’s shot from a little more to the left. Then you get to see him shot while you’re wearing sunglasses… After a while, you just get tired of seeing the poor guy get shot so much while absolutely no one flings themselves in the path of the bullet.
8. Donald Pleasence as The President in Escape from New York
Photo by Avco Embassy/courtesy Everett Collection
Way in the future, in the unimaginably far-off year of 1997, New York is nothing more than a penal colony for America’s worst prisoners. In this dismal future, World War III rages on, and while on its way to a peace conference, Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists. The President escapes via an escape pod (because passenger jets have those), but he lands dead center in the middle of Manhattan and spends a good few hours being terrorized by Isaac Hayes before being rescued by Kurt Russell. So we guess what we’re asking here is, when designing Presidential security features, why the hell did no one think to spend the extra hundred bucks to install a steering wheel in the escape pod?
7. Aaron Eckhart as President Asher in Olympus Has Fallen
Courtesy of FilmDistrict
In the beginning of Olympus Has Fallen, the President’s limo hits an icy patch and swerves off the road. The President is saved by his lead Secret Service Agent, Gerard Butler, but the First Lady dies, and following the crash, the President fires Gerard Butler because he reminds him too much of his wife’s death. Now, look, we’re sorry about your wife, Mr. President, but if you’ve got Leonidas from 300 as your bodyguard, you keep him as your bodyguard no matter what. A point swiftly proven as terrorists take over the White House and kidnap Asher, thoughtfully leaving just enough time for repair work before more terrorists show up for White House Down four months later.
6. William Sadler as President Ellis in Iron Man 3
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Spoiler warning for anyone who has yet to see Iron Man 3: Iron Harder - the President is a total wuss in this movie, getting kidnapped by an empty suit of armor while bad guys blow up cities left and right. He is eventually rescued not by Iron Man, but by Don Cheadle in a brightly colored polo shirt. All of which, frankly, he deserved for turning the awesome War Machine into the crap-tastic Iron Patriot.
5. Danny Glover as President Wilson in 2012
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
In the disaster movie 2012, Danny Glover is President during the apocalypse, and he decides that he will allow himself to perish with the rest of humanity when a giant tsunami destroys America. Who the hell is looking after this guy, and why are they letting him do this? Also, compare that with Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact: When he heard a comet was coming to destroy Earth, he decided to round up America’s best athletes, scientists, and beautiful people, and have them all hide out in a cave with him. Now, you could argue Danny Glover was being heroic, but all we know is that Morgan Freeman is chilling underground with a bunch of supermodels and the New York Yankees, and Danny Glover is dead at the bottom of the ocean. So, sorry Danny, you’re on the list both for vulnerability and lack of baller-ness.
4. Jack Nicholson as President Dale in Mars Attacks
Photo by Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
For another side-by-side comparison, take the President in Independence Day versus the one in Mars Attacks. In the former, aliens invade and Bill Pullman jumps in his fighter jet to go shove a nuke up the bastards’ collective a-hole (or whatever aliens have instead of an a-hole). In Mars Attacks, Jack Nicholson tries to make peace with the invaders, even after the Martians disintegrate the entire legislative branch (which, actually, may not be a bad idea in real life). While shaking hands with the head Martian, the Martian’s hand detaches, releasing a scorpion-like robot, which stabs the President through the heart and raises the Martian flag through Nicholson’s dead body. Did no one explain to him that the President isn’t supposed to negotiate with terrorists?
3. Peter Sellers as President Muffley in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
When President Merkin Muffley assembles his team in the War Room to try to stop all-out nuclear war, he is able to call back every jet but one. Even this one lone jet is a potential disaster, though, since we eventually find out that if Russia is bombed, it will trigger a Doomsday Device that will destroy the planet. At the end of the movie, a nuclear holocaust takes place and everyone on Earth dies, but even this isn’t the most vulnerable flaw exposed by Merkin Muffley’s Presidency: No, his biggest lapse was allowing the Russians to have built a Doomsday Device without building one for America. America cannot abide a Doomsday gap!
2. Gene Hackman as President Richmond in Absolute Power
Photo by Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
Gene Hackman’s ruthless President Richmond has an affair with the wife of his biggest supporter, then kills her to keep her mouth shut, all of which is witnessed by Clint Eastwood, who plays a jewel thief who happens to be heisting the White House on the night of the murder. Apparently, this White House is totally devoid of Secret Service agents, because a murder and a robbery take place on the same night, and they don’t see either of them. When the President gets on TV and blames the murder on the thief, Clint - who seems oddly sensitive about his reputation, considering he’s a jewel thief - is furious and sets out to take down the President. Clint tells the husband of the dead woman who really killed his wife, and the husband takes a knife into the White House (again - no Secret Service!) and stabs the President. The moral of the story is, er…keep it in your pants when Clint Eastwood’s around, we guess?
1. E.G. Marshall as The President in Superman II
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Why is this guy number one? Because he has the worst security advisors of all time. Their entire plan is, “Let’s get a decoy in to distract Zod, but while he’s busy doing that, instead of, say, rushing you out a back entrance and into a concrete bunker, just sort of lurk behind us, near the curtains, thereby making the entire ringer idea pointless.” It also doesn’t help that he has no backbone: No standing firm for this guy, no spitting in Zod’s face or telling him he has a stupid-looking outfit - nope, he says, “Sure, no problem!” to kneeling, and drops right down in the Oval Office like Bizarro Monica Lewinsky. What would’ve happened if Abraham Lincoln had bowed to General Lee like that? Granted, General Lee probably didn’t have laser eyes and super strength (OR DID HE?) but as the Commander-in-Chief, the President should stand firm against any enemy - even blouse-wearing ones from Krypton.
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