Today is the day we’ve been anticipating/dreading for over a year. You’ve probably already voted by now and are nervously awaiting what the next four years might look like. But it could (arguably) be worse! Consider these examples of evil presidents from the annals of science fiction.
Spaceballs director Mel Brooks steps up to play the hilariously inept president of Planet Spaceball—a parody of, but not nearly as villainous as, Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars movies. (Famously, “Skroob” is “Brooks” rearranged.) His schemes (kidnapping, planetary destruction) mostly fail, but he does have the snappiest salute in the galaxy.
Once President of the United States, now the (expletive deleted) President of Earth, still as much of a crook as ever. He does, however, admit to faking the Moon landing... on Venus.
In the alternate future seen in the Old Man Logan comics, the Red Skull himself has become President of the United States after uniting every supervillain to wipe out the majority of Marvel’s heroes. Content to let other villains rule over sections of the apocalyptic country as they see fit, President Skull spent most of his time in Old Man Logan dressing up the White House in Nazi livery and parading around a trophy room of weapons, costumes, and armors from the fallen heroes of the world—and even wearing Captain America’s suit like its the skin of an animal he’s hunted. It’s obvious that Red Skull isn’t exactly the nicest of Presidents in America’s history. Thankfully, Logan eventually puts an end to his term in office by decapitating Red Skull with Cap’s own shield. Very patriotic indeed.
First, this sinister Vice President (played by Gary McGurk) helps bring about the untimely death of the President. One instilled in the top job, and paranoid about alien invaders, he turns Earth into a fascist police state. Then, he dissolves the Senate, takes over the media so he can smear and discredit anyone who opposes him, and starts slaughtering refugees. When he eventually takes his own life to avoid capture, he’s rightfully named a “Traitor to Earth” for all of his tyrannical acts.
He’s not the President of the United States. But he (voiced by Will Ferrell) is Lord Business, as well as President Business, and he rules the Lego Universe with an iron (plastic?) fist.
The first president that readers encounter in Transmetropolitan is The Beast. He’s a gross, outwardly corrupt president in the Richard Nixon mode. But he was soon succeeded by someone even worse in Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s classic cyberpunk comics satire. At first, Transmetropolitan’s main character Spider Jerusalem felt good vibes about Gary Callahan, who seemed like a more caring compassionate alternative to his predecessor. But, the investigations of the gonzo journalist soon revealed that the president’s perma-smile concealed a sadistic hatred of people. The Smiler got Spider fired from his job, and tried to have him assassinated. He also regularly has people in his inner circle killed in secret, so he can use the sympathy around their deaths to stay in power. It all sounds a little too real, doesn’t it?
The supervillain’s political career is chronicled in a variety of mediums, including comics, an animated film, and on Smallville. More than anyone else on this list, Luthor’s name came up quite often as a fictional counterpart to one of the current candidates. Maybe because of his fondness for putting his name on everything?
Okay, Panem isn’t technically America. But it’s not a completely unfamiliar place. And its snappily-dressed ruler is a very, very bad dude (played by Donald Sutherland). He’s a cruel tyrant, a prolific torturer and murderer, and a master of intimidation. Plus, there’s that whole horrific practice of forcing children to fight each other to the death—and also forcing the entire population to watch.
He may not have been legally elected, but mercenary, known Cobra Commander associate, and master of disguise Zartan holds the office anyway thanks to the miracle of “flawless microtechnology” that allows him to look exactly like the current, lawfully-elected POTUS (Jonathan Pryce). Zartan first uses his “office” to frame and attack G.I. Joe, killing all but a few members. Then he blackmails the world into disabling its nuclear arsenals, which sounds good until he reveals Cobra’s orbital lasers and destroys all of London.
In this 1983 film based on the Stephen King novel, psychic Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is able to instantly envision the future of any person he touches. When he shakes the hand of a Stillson, a man running for US Senate (Martin Sheen), he realizes that Stillson’s political career will lift him up to the Oval Office—where he’ll set a devastating nuclear war with Russia in motion.
If that Cold War nightmare wasn’t bad enough, Stillson’s also the kind of guy who’ll use a baby as a shield when a psychic trying to save the world turns would-be assassin.
In the year 1998, a conservative presidential candidate (played by Cliff Robertson) predicts that a giant earthquake will hit the sinful, sinful city of Los Angeles. When said earthquake actually occurs, and LA ends up physically detaching from the United States as a result, the candidate isn’t just elected—he’s made President for Life of “the new, moral America.”
After designating LA a dumping ground for all undesirable types, which is basically anybody who doesn’t agree with the strict rules of his regime, he turns his sights next on global domination, developing a horrific super weapon that has the power to knock out electronic devices everywhere in the world. Unsurprisingly, he’s also a rather terrible father to his rebellious daughter (hilariously named “Utopia”), valuing the weapon over her life when he’s faced with that choice.
Fortunately, a certain bad motherfucker named Snake Plissken ends up getting unwittingly involved in, then taking control of, the situation, much like he did 16 years prior in New York. Except this time, there’s surfing.
Thanks to James Whitbrook and Evan Narcisse for their help with this list.