Before Barack Obama became the first Black president (sorry, Bill Clinton does NOT count) the only time we saw a Commander-in-Chief of color was in the movies. Sometimes the portrayals were dignified (Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact), while other times they were not (Terry Crews in Idiocracy). And nine times out of ten the world was ending or in a state of disarray. Ain’t that a b*tch?
It was nice to have a real-life Black president to both praise and criticize. For President’s Day, here’s a rundown of Black Presidents in the movies.
Tom Beck, Deep Impact (1998)
In this late 90s disaster flick, President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman) must prepare the world for the E.L.E (extinction level event)—we see you, Busta!) A seven-mile-wide comet is on a collision course with the Earth, and only a select few will be granted asylum. President Beck has the daunting task of telling everyone, “Hey, we found about this a year ago and have been preparing to stop it, but we’re only telling you now.”
President Limberg, The 5th Element (1997)
In 2263, a Great Evil appears and destroys a Federated Army battleship as it heads to Earth. Tommy “Tiny” Lister is President Limberg, who is not just the HNIC for America, but the entire planet. Once again, we get control only when the world is threatened with annihilation.
Mays Gilliam, Head Of State (2003)
In another vote of confidence, alderman Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) is chosen to run for President after the Democratic Party’s original candidate dies. Rock is a man of the people but his own party doesn’t think he’ll win. Thanks to some encouragement from his brother (Bernie Mac) Mays turns things around. The best part of the movie is watching Rock send Robin Givens packing when he screams “Security!”
Duane Elizondo Camacho, Idiocracy
500 years into the future we’ve all had our brains scrambled by too much Waka Flocka and reality television so an idiot like Duane Elizondo Camacho, played by Terry Crews, gets to be President. Camacho is a former porn star and professional wrestler. With Jess Ventura making it to Governor this doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
Douglass Dilman, The Man (1972)
In this 1972 political drama, James Earl Jones plays Senate President Douglass Dilman, who is handed the keys to the Oval Office when the President and Speaker of the House are killed in a building collapse. The VP declines the office citing age and health. James is the next in line, making him “The Man” and the first African-American President of the United States. In an interview with Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times that ran four days before Barack Obama was inaugurated, Jones was asked about having portrayed the fictional first Black U.S. president on film. He replied: “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.”
Thomas Wilson, 2012 (2009)
In what is essentially Noah’s Ark for the modern age, Danny Glover plays President Thomas Wilson in yet another disaster movie with a Black Commander-in-Chief. Solar flares are causing the Earth’s temperature to spike triggering natural disasters across the globe. The only humans who will survive are those with a billion dollars of spare change to reserve a seat on one of the three massive ships being built.