The third Monday in February is upon us—that magical day when we get to hate federal employees for having a three-day weekend, otherwise known Presidents Day, when car lots hold their magically giant sales. It’s also a day designed to memorialize first U.S. President George Washington (Lincoln unofficially gets tossed in there, too). As such, we’d like to offer up a platter of film-viewing options for those lucky devils who get Presidents Day off—hey, if you don’t have to work today, the least you could do is watch one of these presidentially-themed flicks, right? Check out our list below.
10. Point Break (1991)
While ostensibly more about a bizarrely wooden FBI agent (Keanu Reeves) learning to surf with a Zen’d-out beach bum guru/bank robber (Patrick Swayze), the incredibly ridiculous Point Break is worth watching just for the zaniness of seeing a bunch of beach hippies dress up like former presidents and go on a bank robbing spree in Los Angeles while being chased by Gary Busey. Really… you can’t beat that.
9. Thirteen Days (2000)
Curious to see how close to atomic annihilation we came when John F. Kennedy was president, and how presidential assistant Kevin Costner swoops in to save us all thanks to his fish-man evolutionary leaps and ability to deliver mail (I think I have that right)? Check out Thirteen Days, and witness both a history lesson and yet another late-period Costner vanity project.
8. W. (2008)
Oliver Stone’s surprisingly balanced portrait of our 43rd president, W. presents a study of a complicated yet strangely simple man who struggles to escape the shadow of his father and alcoholism while living up to his Born-Again ideals… all while kinda sorta having the preside over America during 9/11, the second Iraq War, and two of the most contentious presidential races in American history. While not as nuanced or excellent as the other two entries in Stone’s president film portraits, W. is worth watching due to Josh Brolin’s masterful performance alone.
7. Nixon (1995)
A Shakespearean approach to presidential biography lifts Nixon above typical Oliver Stone melodrama, drawing a portrait of a potentially great man destroyed by the very of combination gifts and insecurities that gave him the strength to become president, and features a shockingly Nixon-esque Anthony Hopkins as Tricky Dick.
6. JFK (1991)
The first in Oliver Stone’s unofficial presidents trilogy, JFK tells a conspiracy-laden yet somehow Capra-esque version of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison’s true-story investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Kevin Costner once again appears to save the day, and Gary OIdman makes his first appearance in this list as a man who (maybe) attempts to take out a U.S. president.
5. Primarily Colors (1998)
Based on Joe Klein’s fictionalized version of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, Primary Colors offers up a by turns comic and tragic account of Clinton’s ascendancy to the White House in the face of a series of increasing moral compromises, both personal and political, and featuring an oddly great John Travolta as Bill Clinton.
4. Wag the Dog (1997)
Another film inspired by the Clinton presidency, Wag the Dog tells the tale of a U.S. president beset by accusations of infidelity whose administration contacts a Hollywood producer in an effort to manufacture a media-produced war to distract voters from the scandal. In an added layer of weirdness, at the time the film was released, Clinton had begun bombing African terrorist strongholds while under fire for the Lewinski scandal.
3. Frost/Nixon (2008)
A fictionalized retelling of talk show host David Frost’s series of increasingly confrontational interviews/showdowns with Richard Nixon in 1977, Frost/Nixon is both the most quietly epic movie on the list, and runs neck and neck with #2 as the finest film about the U.S. presidency you’ll be able to watch today.
2. All The President’s Men (1976)
A stellar, thrilling retelling of how two journalists for The Washington Post—Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein—fought to uncover and investigate the Watergate scandal, All The President’s Men demonstrated the power of the American media, and how two dogged journalists managed to topple a corrupt administration.
1. Air Force One (1997)
Essentially Die Hard in an airplane, Air Force One presents an over the hill U.S. president as a badass action hero in the Bruce Willis vein, as Harrison Ford kicks the collective ass of various Russian terrorists led by Gary Oldman. Perhaps the most ridiculous film on this list (even more than Point Break, which is saying something), the sheer, over-the-top madness of Air Force One makes it one of the most ludicrously watchable U.S. Pres films you’ll see all day.
What is your favorite film about the U.S. presidency?