Six great films about presidents

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The characters in this irritating 1964 thriller are fictional, but the situation – especially of late – all seems very real. Kirk Douglas plays the role of a Marine colonel, who is suspected to be holding a coup against an Air Force general (Burt Lancaster) pacifist president (Frederick March). Director John Frankheimer (who made a similar pulse-pounding “The Manchurian Candidate” two years ago) and screenwriter Rod Serling adapted a novel by Charles W. Bailey II and Fletcher Nebel in an offbeat war movie, where the soldier boardroom Fight in Attacking using secret meetings and phone calls, instead of on the battlefield.

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Richard Nixon is at the center of this newspaper drama, even though he remains mostly offscreen. Based on articles by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, he investigated the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post, the film reveals the day-to-day business of gossip, leaks and social networking in the nation’s capital. But it is also an interesting story of how citizens and journalists can act as a check on the executive branch whenever the president and his staff ignore or initiate bulldozers of federal laws.

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A major appeal of films about presidents is the chance to see how the leaders of the free world live. In the 1993 comedy film “Dave”, Kevin Cline plays an ordinary man who looks like a president. When the White House staff asks him to pose as POTUS, while the real one recovers from a stroke, Dave soon finds himself embroiled in a plot involving scandal, chikungunya and romance. What makes this picture so delightful is Kelline’s most spectacular performance because of the privileges of the presidency ranging from the perks of the White House to improving people’s lives.

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Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has a knack for creating charismatic and inspiring politicians, as seen in his hit TV series, “The West Wing”. In this romantic drama of 1995, Michael Douglas played the title character, with centrist Democrats like Bill Clinton pushing for popular law rather than adopting a controversial stance. Sorkin’s story (directed by Rob Rainer) is mostly about the widow’s presidential love affair with an environmental lobbyist played by Annette Benning. But the film also envisions an ideal Washington, where the right speech at the right time can change minds and perhaps save a nation.

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