With the recent announcement of Vivica A. Fox playing the first black female president in film history in the upcoming film Crossbreed, we’ve been thinking about how black presidents have been portrayed in film and TV. Below are some of the most prominent actors to have played fictional presidents over the years.
Sammy Davis Jr. (Rufus Jones for President)
In this short 1933 musical-comedy short, Davis made his screen debut at the age of 7 as a child who imagines being elected president of the United States. While its tone is largely considered racist by modern standards, it does mark the first appearance of a black president on film. Watch the short film below.
James Earl Jones (The Man)
Based on the novel of the same name by Irving Wallace, this 1972 political drama sees Jones play Douglass Dilman, the President pro tempore of the Senate, who becomes president upon the deaths of the president, vice president, and Speaker of the House. The film chronicles Dilman’s struggles in the White House. When asked about the film days before President Barack Obama took office, Jones stated, "I have misgivings about that one. It was done as a TV special. Had we known it was to be released as a motion picture, we would have asked for more time and more production money. I regret that."
Morgan Freeman (Deep Impact)
Often considered one of the best fictional presidents, Freeman portrayed President Tom Beck, who guides the world through an extinction level event. His final speech is considered to be one the best speeches in film (see below).
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Haysbert gained critical acclaim for his role as President David Palmer, who dedicates himself to the War on Terrorism. Haysbert credits the popularity of the character for opening the eyes and hearts of people to the eventual election of President Obama.
Danny Glover (2012)
Following in the footsteps of Freeman’s President Beck, Glover, as President Thomas Wilson, deals with a number of extinction threats and seeks to protect his daughter from the tragic events. Glover, along with castmate Chiwetel Ejiofor, was nominated for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.
Jamie Foxx (White House Down)
In this 2013 thriller, Foxx portrays President James William Sawyer, who is kidnapped in the White House as part of a plot by government officials. Foxx received praise for his role.
Samuel L. Jackson (Big Game)
In this Finnish adventure film, Jackson stars as President William Alan Moore, who is stranded in the wilderness after an attack on Air Force One and is aided by a 13-year-old boy. Jackson received praise for his role in this 80s throwback.