In times of great national and global catastrophes, we often look to our leaders, especially presidents, to get us through with swift action and inspirational speeches to rally us all together for the greater good. We've seen this in countless disaster movies, where fictional presidents like Bill Pullman's Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day not only help orchestrate a plan to to take on the alien threat, he also suited up for combat and gave one of the most badass speeches in summer blockbuster history.
But Bill Pullman isn't the only Hollywood star to bring a level of gravitas to Oval Office, and while he might be one of the best examples of a cool, calm, and collected leader of the free world, there are several others who proved to be neck-and-neck with President Whitmore in Roland Emmerich's 1996 absurdly fun disaster film.
The Day After Tomorrow - President Blake (Perry King)/Raymond Becker (Kenneth Welsh)
The Movie: Rolland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow shows a hypothetical situation in which Earth's climate goes into disarray causing extreme weather events to threaten the existence of all life.
The Crisis: President Blake (Perry King) perishes after he orders the southern states to evacuate to Mexico and tells the northern states that they'll need to hunker down and stay warm. His successor, Raymond Becker (Kenneth Welsh) is initially dismissive of the severity of climate change, but changes his tune after most of humanity is wiped out. Before that, he's the closest thing to a villain you'll see here.
The Ultimate Line: "Our economy is every bit as fragile as the environment. Perhaps you should keep that in mind before making sensationalist claims."
Armageddon - The President (Stanley Anderson)
The Movie: Michael Bay's scientifically inaccurate masterpiece Armageddon shows a scenario in which scientists discover an asteroid the size of Texas that's on a collision course with Earth, resulting in NASA enlisting the services of a ragtag group of offshore oilmen to drill deep into the rock's surface to plant nuclear warheads to the split it into two smaller pieces that would hypothetically miss the planet.
The Crisis: Outside of a meeting with NASA and other high-ranking government officials in which he learns of the severity of the crisis, the President's (that's the character's actual name) only major appearance involves him giving one of the most presidential speeches in cinematic history.
The Ultimate Line: "May we all, citizens the world over, see these events through. Godspeed, and good luck to you."
Mars Attacks - James Dale (Jack Nicholson)
The Movie: Probably not the most grounded movie on this list, Mars Attacks is a dark comedy science fiction film from Tim Burton in which little green martians armed with an assortment of gadgets and a drive to wipe out humanity invade Earth.
The Crisis: United States President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) is presented in a way that make him look more like an absurdly serious caricature of a leader than anything else. While pretty much everyone in the government seeks to destroy the Martian threat, Dale continues to be tragically optimistic about the possibility of a truce before he his killed and his body is used to hold the Martian flag.
The Ultimate Line: "Why can't we all just get along?"
2012 - Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover)/Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt)
The Movie: The whole "the world is going to end in 2012" craze led to Rolland Emmerich's bid-budget 2009 global disaster thriller 2012, which presented a scenario in which the world is brought to its knees after large earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters pop up across the globe.
The Crisis: The first president, Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), tries to keep the nation and world calm as the end times draw near, and gives a powerful speech as he prepares for the giant world ending events to take his life. His successor, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) isn't so altruistic and only feels that the wealthy and elite should be allowed to enter the fleet of Arks that were built to withstand the super-storms and earthquakes.
The Ultimate Line: "Today, none of us are strangers. Today, we are one family, stepping into the darkness together."
Deep Impact - Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman)
The Movie: Released a few months before Armageddon, the other 1998 disaster film Deep Impact has a more depressing tone as the world has given up on the idea of destroying a comet headed towards Earth and instead tries to find ways to survive its impact.
The Crisis: Although he's quite secretive in the beginning, President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman) actively works to find a solution to the problem, and when the solution has the potential to be just as severe, he imposes martial law and reveals a lottery to select 800,000 Americans to enter a system of underground bunkers.
The Ultimate Line: "But I can promise you this. Life will go on. We will prevail."
Air Force One - James Marshall (Harrison Ford)
The Movie: Okay, I'll be the first to admit that Air Force One isn't a disaster movie, but I'll be damned if I didn't include Harrison Ford's portrayal of United States President James Marshall on this list. When a group of terrorists hijacks Air Force Once, it's up to the president himself to take back the plane and save his family and the other passengers.
The Crisis: The Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient becomes a one-man army as he takes on the Kazakh terrorists one by one until he can regain control of the plane. And when that fails (thanks to a mole in his own government), Marshall does what any president in that situation would do, he gets revenge.
The Ultimate Line: "Get off my plane!"
Independence Day - Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman)
The Movie: For those who have never watched Independence Day (you should be ashamed), the 1996 disaster blockbuster follows the invasion of Earth by an alien force hellbent on wiping humanity from the face of the planet. After some spectacular action sequences and explosive shots (at last for 1996), a group of Americans led by Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), and United States President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) lead an attack on the alien mothership.
The Crisis: On the morning of the attack, Whitmore rallies his troops with his iconic "Independence Day" speech. But instead of going back into the command center with the rest of the government and military officials, Whitmore suits up and pilots a fighter jet along with thousands of other pilots.
The Ultimate Line: "Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!"
So, how about it? Do you agree with my list and ranking of disaster movie presidents? Make sure the complete the poll found below to let everyone know your favorite. And make sure to check back for all things Independence Day here on CinemaBlend.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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