10 Best Movies About U.S. Presidents

Saturday, March 12 by Karen Murdock

Whether or not these 10 best movies about U.S. presidents stick to biographical facts, they all explore the human side of the presidency. Although Hollywood movies about U.S. presidents cannot replace good history textbooks or newspapers, these movies about U.S. presidents will make you think before you sling political mud or sing presidential praises.

  1. “Jefferson in Paris” (1995) – Among movies about U.S. presidents, this one stands out for daring to explore Thomas Jefferson’s affair with slave Sally Hemings in the years before he ascended to the presidency. Nominated for a Golden Palm award at Cannes, it may just change the way you think about Thomas Jefferson.
  2. “Frost/Nixon” (2008) – Movies about U.S. presidents often portray the battle to maintain image and legacy, but rarely with so much intricacy, depth and honesty. “Frost/Nixon” reenacts the legendary 1977 Richard Nixon interview with British journalist David Frost, in which every question and answer becomes a pawn in an intellectual chess game. The film earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.
  3. “W.” (2008) – Oliver Stone is known for his controversial movies U.S. presidents, and “W.” is no exception. This movie about U.S. President George W. Bush portrays everything from his youthful party days to his re-election campaign. Josh Brolin earned three award nominations for his uncanny portrayal of President George W. Bush. 
  4. “Nixon” (1995) – Director Oliver Stone makes the list of best movies about U.S. Presidents once again with this biography of President Nixon. Stone takes you deeper into Nixon’s complex psychology than a history book ever will, portraying everything from his Quaker childhood to his brilliant political instincts and ultimate shame following the Watergate scandal. Anthony Hopkins and Joan Allen deliver Academy Award-nominated performances.
  5. “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939) – Most Americans know President Lincoln for the Emancipation Proclamation, but before Lincoln became one of the greatest U.S. presidents, he was just a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. With an Oscar nomination for Best Writing and Henry Fonda starring as President Lincoln, this is a must-see movie.
  6. “Sunrise at Campobello” (1960) – This movie about U.S. President Franklin Delanno Roosevelt gives a rare glimpse into his struggle with polio—and an even rarer glimpse into how Eleanor Roosevelt coped. The movie earned four Academy Award nominations.
  7. “John Adams” (2008) – For a sweeping historical movie that goes far beyond depicting a U.S. president, watch this HBO miniseries movie about U.S. President John Adams. It won 13 Emmy awards and four Golden Globes, including Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.
  8. “Truman” (1995) – In this TV movie about U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Gary Sinise delivers an Emmy-nominated and CableACE-winning performance. Take a rare look at Truman’s life leading up to his presidency and his fateful decision to drop atomic bombs to defeat Japan in World War II.
  9. “The Buccaneer” (1958) – You probably associate Charlton Heston with Moses from his starring role in “The Ten Commandments,” but did you know he also starred in a movie about a U.S. president? In “The Buccaneer,” Heston plays General Andrew Jackson defending New Orleans in the War of 1812. Although Jackson was not president yet, the Battle of New Orleans certainly helped him land office later on.
  10. “The American President” (1995) – This is the only movie about U.S. presidents to make the list with a fictional story. If you think U.S. presidents endure mudslinging now, just imagine the talk-radio assault if one of them got caught dating a lobbyist. This fictional Rob Reiner comedy-drama about a widowed U.S. president who falls in love with an environmental lobbyist will touch a nerve and make you laugh. The movie scored five Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture and Best Director.
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