Fictional Presidents Who Mishandled Their Biggest Crisis

Voting Rules
Vote up the worst fictional presidents who bungled their most important crisis. Vote down the fictional presidents who handled things slightly better.

American presidents in movies and TV tend to be idealized versions of world leaders: kind, wise, intensely moral, and strong. Think Jed Bartlet from The West Wing or Thomas Whitmore in Independence Day. They're who we wished could run the country during a global crisis or emergency. But the world isn't perfect, and neither are most presidents. Sometimes, though, audiences are exposed to fictional presidents who are just as flawed as the real thing, or worse. These are some of the worst fictional presidents, as ranked by how they handled their biggest crisis.


  • 1
    98 VOTES

    President Elizabeth Lanford

    Appears In: Independence Day: Resurgence

    Crisis: On the occasion of the anniversary of the alien invasion of 1996, an unknown spacecraft appears near Mars. 

    Solution: President Lanford (Sela Ward) orders a strike on the unidentified craft, assuming it's hostile.

    Outcome: The aliens from 1996, now known as Harvesters, return and wipe out the Eastern Seaboard. Lanford and other crucial government officials regroup at the Cheyenne Mountain bunker. She then orders a retaliatory strike against the Harvester mother ship. It fails, and Earth's defenses collapse. The Harvesters storm the Cheyenne bunker and Lanford perishes. The unidentified craft she brought down was a friendly call for help from a coalition of alien races hoping to stop the Harvesters.

    98 votes
  • Appears In: Absolute Power

    Crisis: President Richmond (Gene Hackman) has an extramarital affair with a wealthy businessman's wife. He assaults her, she defends herself, and then the Secret Service "takes care" of her.

    Solution: The Secret Service covers it up and stages the crime scene to look like the work of a burglar (Clint Eastwood).

    Outcome: The cover-up only becomes more elaborate and dangerous. Eventually, the burglar they attempt to frame reveals the truth to the husband of the deceased woman. Richmond takes his own life when it becomes clear he's been found out.

    46 votes
  • Appears In: Mars Attacks!

    Crisis: A hostile Martian force has overtaken the entire globe.

    Solution: President Dale (Jack Nicholson) authorizes a nuclear retaliation against the Martians.

    Outcome: The strike has no effect against the Martians' highly advanced military technology. They eventually storm Dale's bunker and end him once and for all.

    86 votes
  • President Selina Meyer
    Photo: HBO

    Appears In: Veep

    Crisis: An American journalist, Leon West (Brian Huskey), is being detained in Iran. 

    Solution: President Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) heads to Iran to personally negotiate the release of West.

    Outcome: The Iranian government will release West a day later than expected. Meyer delays her flight to ensure a photo op with the detained journalist. When West boards the plane, he deduces that Meyer allowed him to be detained longer to ensure she could take credit. Meyer demands Air Force One leave Tehran ahead of schedule to prevent West from talking to the press, leaving key staffers behind.

    39 votes
  • 5
    73 VOTES

    President Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Appears In: The Simpsons Movie

    Crisis: Homer Simpson has dumped tons of pig poop into Lake Springfield, severely polluting the town.

    Solution: On the advice of EPA Chief Russ Cargill, President Schwarzenegger encloses Springfield inside a giant dome, cutting it (and its pollution) off from the rest of the country.

    Outcome: When news of the extreme measures taken to isolate Springfield threatens to get out, Cargill decides to wipe out the town to erase the evidence. Homer returns to rescue his family and stop Cargill.

    73 votes
  • Appears In: Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

    Crisis: Rogue Air Force General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has issued an order to execute "Wing Attack Plan R," which will send all patrolling B-52 bombers in the area around the Soviet Union to drop their nuclear payloads on the country, setting off a global atomic conflict that could end all human life on the planet. Only Ripper has the codes to recall the bombers.

    Solution: President Muffley (Peter Sellers) has simple orders: Storm the base. Demand Ripper give them the recall codes. 

    Outcome: Well, so, here's the thing... Ripper decides to take his own life to ensure the success of his plan. US codebreakers are able to guess Ripper's code and recall all but one bomber. That lone bomber, with its radio out of commission thanks to a Soviet maneuver, carries out its mission. That leads Muffley to devise a plan to repopulate the human race with a selected group of survivors, with a female-to-male ratio of 10-to-1.

    50 votes