2016 is an election year and things are looking pretty grim right now. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up in frustrating and demand that someone push the reset button. However, things could always be worse. From the world of film, here are 8 President so incompetent, corrupt, and sometimes murderous that they will make you long for the dull mediocrity of a Jeb Bush or a Martin O’Malley.
1) The President (William Devane) in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
You’re the leader of the free world and a masked terrorist has just launched a deadly attack on a major U.S. city. He has blown up a major sporting event on national television. He has killed the mayor. He is allowing a crazy sociopath to preside over show trials. The terrorist demands that you neither send troops into the city nor do you aid anyone who is trying to leave. What do you? If you are the President played by William Devane in The Dark Knight Rises, you say, “Okay,” and then breathe a sigh of relief when Batman turns out not to be dead after all. William Devane also played JFK in The Missiles of October and President James Heller on 24. Neither of them would have backed down to Bane as quickly as the President in The Dark Knight Rises.
2) The President (Billy Bob Thornton) in Love Actually (2003)
This President thinks that he can bully the world until he makes the mistake of getting on the bad side of the new British Prime Minister (Hugh Grant). How are you going to call yourself the leader of the free world when even Hugh Grant can make you look like a fool?
3) The President (Donald Pleasence) in Escape From New York (1981)
Hey, Mr. President, when Snake Plisskin nearly gets killed trying to save your life, you might want to try showing a little gratitude. Escape From New York ends with Snake asking The President who he feels about all the people who died rescuing him from New York. When the President can only mutter a few words of regret, Snake responds by destroying the tape that would have presumably prevented World War IV. Way to go, Mr. President! Would it have killed you to shed a few crocodile tears, at least over the fate of Cabbie?
4) The President (Cliff Robertson) in Escape From L.A. (1996)
The President from Escape From New York was practically Lincolnesque compared to the jerk who succeeded him. A theocrat who claimed to have an open line to God, this President banned smoking, drinking, cursing, red meat, guns, atheism, pre-marital sex, and everything else that made life fun. Anyone who disagreed got exiled to the island of California. Good thing that Snake Plisskin was still around to set things straight, even if it did mean that Florida ended up getting conquered by Cuba. Why doesn’t Snake ever run for President?
5) President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) in Independence Day (1996)
In a word, overrated. Yes, President Whitmore did lead the army that repealed the alien invaders but he would not have had to do that in the first place if he had prevented the Earth from being invaded in the first place. How many warning signs did the Whitmore administration ignore until it was too late? And how much funding did his administration cut from the military that the Air Force was left in such poor shape that they could get shown up by Randy Quaid in a crop duster? As for Whitmore’s famous speech and the battle that followed, a sequel to Independence Day is coming in June so he must not have done that good of a job of scaring the aliens off.
6) President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) in Mars Attacks! (1996)
At least President Whitmore got a chance to redeem himself by leading the battle against the invaders. James Dale did not even get that far. After foolishly believing everyone who told him that the aliens came in peace, he made the mistake of offering his hand in friendship and ended up with a flag sticking out of his chest.
7) President Alan Richmond (Gene Hackman) in Absolute Power (1997)
Not only did President Richmond think that he could get away with murder, he also thought he could outsmart Clint Eastwood. Big mistake. Clint Eastwood is no Hugh Grant.
8) President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) in Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
Mixing the raw charisma of Adlai Stevenson and the phone skills of Bob Newhart, President Merkin Muffley attempts to stop the end of the world and fails miserably. He even allows the Soviet ambassador to get a picture of the Big Board! But don’t worry. President Muffley may have failed to prevent nuclear war but he will not allow there to be a mineshaft gap!
When this election year get you down, just remember: things could always be worse!