Whether the country is facing an unprecedented crisis, is desperate for better leadership, or simply needs to have a bit of fun, it helps to have our commanders in chief by our side. But when those actually in power royally suck, you’ve gotta turn to science fiction to find something to believe in.
We previously covered the worst presidents in sci-fi, including The Hunger Games’ President Snow (who for some reason is getting a prequel novel about his early years). For this Presidents’ Day, in an election year nonetheless, we thought we’d look at the fictional presidents and leaders who inspire hope and change... instead of *waving hands* whatever this is.
This was a president prepared for anything—including the apocalypse. In Deep Impact, an investigative journalist discovered a secret government project helmed by President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman). It wasn’t a military coup or attempts to coerce another country into digging up dirt on his political rivals, but plans to save Earth from a comet.
Although the mission to stop the comet failed, it was OK because there was a back-up plan. President Beck and his fellow world leaders had built underground bunkers that could ensure the survival of the human race. Luckily, the day was saved before the bunkers needed to be used, but the fact that they were ready to go showed that President Beck was a leader who was smart and well-prepared. Plus, he notified his citizens of what was actually happening—even if the truth was hard to hear.
“Today we celebrate our Independence Day!” With that rousing speech, President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) established himself as one of the greatest presidents in the history of science fiction. He was a veteran who found himself facing an unprecedented foe during an alien invasion. Everything happened so fast that it was hard for President Whitmore to get a handle on the situation, leading to millions of deaths and the destruction of several major U.S. cities.
But finally, on July 4, President Whitmore and MIT scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) hatched a plan to stop the aliens once and for all with a computer virus. But they needed a large-scale attack to distract the aliens long enough to make the plan work. In comes President Whitmore, hopping into an Air Force jet to lead one of the retaliation forces. The hero the world needed.
Battlestar Galactica’s President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) had an unconventional rise to power within the Twelve Colonies. She started as the Secretary of Education under President Adar, but the Cylon attack on Caprica ended with her as the highest-surviving member of the presidential line of succession. She had many trials during her tenure—and not just from the Cylons that threatened their fleet of surviving ships. President Roslin was a breast cancer survivor who faced opposition at every turn, from allies, enemies, and undercover Cylons. She didn’t always make the right choices (like when she banned abortion because it was impacting repopulation efforts) but she did her best to give her people a better life, even if it eventually cost her everything.
During “Bart to the Future,” the second episode of The Simpsons to be set in the future, we saw what could’ve happened to Bart if he hadn’t changed his ways...but it wasn’t all bad. After the disastrous and debt-riddled presidency of Donald Trump, in stepped President Lisa Simpson to figure out a way to balance the budget and restore the country to greatness. Unfortunately, she was joined by her dysfunctional First Family—including Bart, now a slacker rock musician who couldn’t hold a job to save his life. President Simpson had to make hard choices to fix Trump’s mistakes, including trying to raise taxes, but in the end, she figured out the best way forward: by making Bart the president of “keeping it real.” And legalizing weed.
President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews) was not a smart person. He was also an incompetent leader. That was the point of Idiocracy. Much like President Will Cooper (Kevin James) in Pixels, we reaped what we sowed, literally, by allowing our society to become so complacent that a person like this could be elected. In that sense, President Camacho was the greatest president. Because he was the one that idiots like us deserved.
Imagine if John Conner had been a famous musician who also became one of the greatest presidents in American history. Porter Brunreich, from John Barnes’ The Timeline Wars series, was destined to become a major player in the war against a vicious society that was determined to enslave people from all timelines in existence. That meant she spent most of her life (from 10 years old on) being the target of assassination attempts from the “Masters,” who were trying to stop her from rising to power. After being adopted by an agent of the Timeliners, Porter became a seasoned timeline traveler as well as a world-class musician—all while knowing, and sometimes dreading, her destiny. She eventually took up her mantle, becoming president and uniting the world (and all its alternate timelines) against the Masters.
Currently, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Military Industrial Complex pretty much go hand-in-hand, but back in the day, Captain America might as well have been Captain Planet. In the 1990 Captain America film, we were introduced to President Tom Kimball (Ronny Box), a Vietnam War veteran whose pro-environmentalist legislation made him the target of Red Skull and other baddies who wanted to ensure the status quo.
Red Skull kidnapped President Kimball so he could perform a brain transplant on him to become the new president, but he underestimated Kimball’s badassery. He managed to escape his captors, twice—first by melting the lock of his cell with acid, and the second by leaping into a parapet, only to be saved by Captain America. Refusing to abandon his hero, Kimball grabbed a machine gun and joined Captain America in the fight, saving the day and getting the chance to introduce his own Green New Deal to the world. This was a president who was both a fighter and a lover of the environment. Exactly what we need.
Gravity Falls was a town full of secrets, one of the biggest being its long-forgotten founder...who also happened to be the 8 1/2 President of the United States. President Sir Lord Quentin Trembley III, Esq. was an unconventional leader in more ways than one. He was only elected in 1837 because all the other candidates died in a landslide and then used his brief time in office to wage war on pancakes and appoint babies to the Supreme Court. His most famous legislation was the “Depantsipation Proclamation,” which declared pants unconstitutional because they restricted freedom.
President Trembley III, Esq. got chased out of Washington for trying to eat the White House and was erased from the history books. He later founded the town of Gravity Falls and was the reason for all of its strange and sometimes otherworldly rules (even though no one knew because his legacy was erased there as well). President Trembley III, Esq. is a reminder that we should all live our truth, no matter how bizarre or strange. Who knows: It might one day make you President of the United States.
While technically a member of the United Nations and not a president, now-former Secretary-General Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is the epitome of a strong (and fashionable!) political leader. She rose to power during a tumultuous time, with Earth, Mars, and the Belt constantly at war with one another. She always strived for the best solution for Earth, while doing her best to keep the needs of other planets and their people in mind. It’s thanks to Secretary-General Avasarala that Earth even exists at all, after she helped stop the protomolecule from colliding with the planet and killing everyone. She may have lost her position in the latest election but Avasarala is still a force to be reckoned with. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of her.
Why did David Kovic (Kevin Klein) look exactly like President Bill Mitchell? Was it cloning, a coincidence...or maybe cloning? The baffling truth of Dave’s doppelgänger existence may forever remain a mystery, but what isn’t a mystery is how much better a president he was. Side-by-side with First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver), who didn’t even know he was an imposter at first, fake-President David Kovic saved a homeless shelter and even enacted a huge jobs initiative...after he’d ended the charade with a fake heart attack at the State of the Union. The film ended with Dave running for city council, hinting at a future path to the White House—which may have been plan all along from the evil scientist who cloned him.
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