Getting the opportunity to portray a US President in film is rare. It can be a dignified role, and many times the actor has to be able to exhibit certain qualities we would traditionally associate with the US head of state. US Presidents are also depicted in film in a variety of ways. Some of them are the main characters for their respective films, where others are simply bit parts designed to represent the figurehead. Other roles may be satires, caricatures, or played for comedic effect. Regardless of the purpose or the depth of the role, there have been a limited number of US President roles in the last century+ of motion picture projection.
Of course, some actors are more Presidential than others. Due to their talents/demeanor or lucky casting, there are only a few actors who have portrayed more than two US Presidents. To get an idea of just how infrequent these roles have been, I decided to put together a list of actors who have portrayed more than one US President in film.
This is by no means a complete list! I only considered cinematically-released films. Many famous actors have portrayed presidents on television, on the stage, or in television/direct-release movies. For the purposes of this list, I was only concerned about theatrically-released Presidents. And yes, I considered both real and fictional presidents because some of the best presidents in film aren’t even real!
First let’s look at the actors who have portrayed three different Presidents:
Tom Kimball (Fictional) – Captain America (1990)
“The President” – Martians Go Home (1989)
Jack Neil (Fictional) – Murder at 1600 (1997)
Abraham Lincoln – Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
“The President” – Fail-Safe (1964)
“The President” – Meteor (1979)
John F. Kennedy – Thirteen Days (2000)
“The President” – National Treasure – Book of Secrets (2007)
“The President of the United States” – Kingsman: Golden Circle (2017)
George Washington – Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
Abraham Lioncoln – Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
Bill Clinton – Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
Abraham Lincoln – Abraham Lincoln (1930)
Judd Hammond (Fictional) – Gabriel Over the White House (1933)
“President of the United States” – The Tunnel (1935)
Now here are the actors that have portrayed two different presidents!
“The President” – Armageddon (1998)
“The President” – The Rock (1996)
George H.W. Bush – W. (2008)
Robert Fowler (Fictional) – The Sum of All Fears (1999)
George Washington – Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)
William Henry Harrison – Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942)
Tom Beck (Fictional) – Deep Impact (1998)
Allan Trumbull (Fictional) – Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Allan Trumbull (Fictional) – Angel Has Fallen (2019)
Woodrow Wilson – Iron Jawed Angels (2004)
Richard Nixon – Elvis Meets Nixon (1997)
Alan Richmond (Fictional) – Absolute Power (1997)
Monroe E. Cole (Fictional) – Welcome to Mooseport (2004)
John Quincy Adams – Amistad (1997)
Richard Nixon – Nixon (1995)
Ulysses S. Grant – Wild Wild West (1999)
William Harrison Mitchell (Fictional) – Dave (1993)
Woodrow Wilson – Wilson (1944)
President Hughes (Fictional) – Crack in the Mirror (1960)
John F. Kennedy – PT 109 (1963)
Jack Cahill (Fictional) – Escape from L.A. (1996)
Lyndon B. Johnson – The Right Stuff (1983)
Edward Bennett (Fictional) – Clear and Present Danger (1994)
George Washington – An American Carol (2008)
Franklin D. Roosevelt – Pearl Harbor (2001)
Dwight D. Eisenhower – The Butler (2013)
Theodore Roosevelt – NIght at the Museum (2006)
Theodore Roosevelt – Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)
Theodore Roosevelt – Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)
James K. Polk – California (1947)
Calvin Coolidge – The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)
Interesting Facts About Actors Portraying Presidents in Film:
The actor with the most presidential feature film roles to date is Sidney Blackmer, who portrayed Theodore Roosevelt in 6 different films from 1937-1948.
No actor to date has portrayed a different president in more than 3 feature films. There have been 12 actors that have portrayed the same president 3 or more times in a feature film.
PT 109, depicting the actions of John F. Kennedy during World War II, was the first biographical film released of a President while that President is still in office.
All presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt except for Donald Trump and Richard Nixon have had a film released during their time in office where an actor portrayed them. The first film depicting a President who was in office at the time of its release was the Three Stooges short film Cash and Carry from 1937. The first feature length film was 1942’s Yankee Doodle Dandy, a biographical musical about a man who got to meet Franklin D. Roosevelt while portraying him in a stage musical.
Daniel Day Lewis is the only actor to have won an Academy Award for Best Actor while portraying an American President, for his work in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Anthony Hopkins is the only actor to have ever been nominated for more than one Academy Award for his portrayal of an American President.
Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, and Jeff Bridges in The Contender, are the only two actors who have been nominated for an Academy Award for their portrayal of a fictional President.
The 2018 film Hunter Killer has the important distinction of being the first non-science fiction, non-comedy feature film to have a female President of the United States. Although there have been many female presidents on Television and in Television Movies, there have been no other major drama/thriller/contemporary action films with a Female President depicted.