Great Speeches by Fictional Presidents

Ransom Riggs

President Obama is renowned as one of our great orators. But can he -- or any real president for that matter -- possibly stack up to presidential speeches performed by Hollywood actors, or fictional speeches penned by Hollywood writers? You be the judge!

For example, it's hard to be as inspirational as Bill Pullman's President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day, seen here rallying the troops before they go off to save the planet from marauding aliens.

Chris Rock played President Mays Gilliam in Head of State. Here he is on the campaign trail, turning off his teleprompter and shooting from the hip:

Paul Giamatti won an Emmy for his portrayal of John Adams in the HBO miniseries of the same name. Here he is expounding eloquently on the rightness of democracy and the inevitability of liberty:

Let's switch gears for a moment, to a president less talented in the speech-giving department. Here's a fascinating head-to-head comparison of a press Q&A session George W. Bush gave a few years ago, as performed by Josh Brolin in Oliver Stone's W -- and by W. himself.

Dubya wasn't the only president to feel maligned by the press. Nixon had his share of complaints about the press core, a few of which he shares with the corps itself in this scene from another Oliver Stone film, Nixon. Sir Anthony Hopkins portrays Nixon giving his concession speech after losing the 1962 California gubernatorial race. (I love Hopkins, but I'm not so sure about his accent here. Can't win 'em all.)

Yet another get-out-there-and-save-the-world speech by a fictional president, this time by Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact. It's important to be sufficiently inspirational when the world is in danger of imminent annihilation, and I think Freeman pulls it off with abomb. I mean aplomb. (Deep Impact puns. Gotta love 'em.)

1939's The Young Mr. Lincoln features Henry Fonda as the Great Emancipator himself. In this scene, Lincoln uses his oratory prowess to emancipate a couple of people from being murdered by a lynch mob.

Michael Douglas played the president in 1995's The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin and co-starring Martin Sheen. In this scene, Douglas gives an impassioned speech about civil liberties and what freedom in America means.

Aaron Sorkin, of course, went on to create The West Wing, and he brought Martin Sheen along with him to play President Josiah Bartlett for seven seasons. Sheen/Bartlett gave many an inspirational speech over the years, but this has always been one of my favorites; it's yet another "throw away the notes and talk from the gut" scene, delivered in the wake of the (fictional) Kennison State University bombing.

Just to end on a lighter note, here's a speech/awards ceremony gone horribly awry in Scary Movie 3, in which Leslie Neilsen plays a hapless and easily confused president named Harris.