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The Best Portrayals of Real U.S. Presidents

Updated June 14, 2019 5.9k votes 914 voters 21.4k views20 items

List RulesUpvote the best actor portrayals of US Presidents, from films, miniseries, or television shows. No fictional presidents allowed.

There have been countless movies about presidents, including many about the men who have served as President of the United States, and many of the best actors in film (or TV) have portrayed them. This list compiles the best actors who played presidents, not including fake presidents, (though we wish Jed Bartlet from The West Wing had actually held office). Instead, this list ranks the depictions of real-life Presidents of the United States by these top Hollywood actors.

These A-list actors (unfortunately there are no actresses here, as America has yet to elect a female president) turned in good performances from both movies anf television. So whether it is a mini-series about the Kennedy family, a TV show about George W. Bush, or a movie about one of the Roosevelts, it will be ranked here.

Make sure to vote for your favorite onscreen portrayal of real U.S. presidents. Both Randy Quaid and Dennis Quaid make the list, as popular actors like Bill Murray and Daniel Day-Lewis. Plus, fathers and sons not only just become presidents like the Bushes - but they actually play presidents in movies and on TV. For instance, James Brolin's Ronald Reagan makes the cut while his son Josh Brolin's George W. Bush is also featured on this list.

Upvote your favorite American presidential portrayals below, then be sure to cast your votes for the fictional politicians you wish would run for office, and let the world know which Presidents of the United States of America you think are the greatest in US history.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis played President Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 film Lincoln. He received an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, becoming the first male performer to win three Oscars in that category. He also won for There Will Be Blood in 2007 and My Left Foot in 1990.
    Great portrayal?
  • Paul Giamatti - John Adams is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Portrayals of Real U.S. Presidents
    Photo: John Adams / HBO
    Paul Giamatti portrayed President John Adams in the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adams. The miniseries was broken down into seven parts and won 13 Emmy Awards, more than any other miniseries in history. One of those Emmys (and a Golden Globe) went to Giamatti.
    Great portrayal?

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  • Robin Williams played President Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum franchise. Williams originated the role in Night at the Museum (2006) followed by Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which was one of the last films Williams ever acted in before his death.
    Great portrayal?
  • Gary Sinise - Harry S. Truman is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Portrayals of Real U.S. Presidents
    Photo: Gary Sinise / HBO
    Gary Sinise played President Harry S. Truman in the 1995 HBO film Truman. The made-for-TV biopic saw Gary Sinise take home the Golden Globe for Best Actor as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a CableACE Award, all for his performance as President Truman.
    Great portrayal?

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