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U.S. Presidents' Favorite Criterion Film

by DeanofDVD

Created 02/28/13

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Each of the U.S. presidents' history, environment, and upbringing helped shape them into the president they became. Ultimately, it would also help determine which Criterion film they would have liked best. In some cases we actually know what film it is, but in many others on this list it's their history, demeanor, and presidency which led me to which movie would be their favorite...

  • John F. Kennedy. This really was JFK's favorite film, and it's easy to see how President Kennedy was a fan of this one. Spartacus was willing to stand for what he believed and was charismatic enough to have others follow him as he leads people out of Roman servitude and ultimately sacrifices himself so future generations might have freedom from tyranny. Kennedy loved this early Kubrick film, but there's no doubt his favorite would become another Criterion selection...

  • George Washington. Not only was Washington the father of the United States and one of its' founding fathers, but he was a soldier and a general. In fact, his rise to become the first president was largely based on his military prowess and helping free the U.S. from british rule. He would have enjoyed the fight for freedom the algerians had with the ruling french who occupied Algeria in the 1950's.

  • Abraham Lincoln. Certainly no U.S. president faced as much opposition to a cause than Lincoln did with his desire to abolish slavery and still keep the union of the country intact. His desire wasn't enough to stop the ensuing civil war, but his determination and charisma were enough to bring the country back together after the war ended. Lincoln certainly would have loved Lumet's 12 Angry Men and particularly the Henry Fonda character who single handedly brings a jury to do the right thing despite initial heated opposition.

  • Jimmy Carter. President Carter watched over 400 movies in his four years in office and is by all accounts a film aficionado. He would love The Complete Mr. Arkadin by Orson Welles because it would allow him to analyze the various versions of this film, see the brilliance of many parts, and be able to appreciate the genius that is Orson Welles buried in studio interference.

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was an idealist and a pragmatist in one person. He felt that his job was to inspire, motivate, and lift the country out of its Depression - not just be a political administrator. He would be moved by De Sica's masterful look at post war Italy and the dreadful economy which left many impoverished. He may have wanted to rewrite the ending, but he would have had the sensitivity to appreciate this movie of dashed hopes and renewed fears...though he would have likely imagined what the country would be like ten years after the ending...

  • John F. Kennedy (again!) JFK dreamed of beating the Russians to the moon and got the entire country behind what became known as the "Space Race". Kennedy would have loved to see this documentary on the various men who helped pave the way for the steps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and others who walked upon Earth's only satellite.

  • Barack Obama. A known basketball player and sports enthusiast, Barack Obama would certainly enjoy watching the struggles of two young men who aspire to greatness in a sport where only a minute percent of would be stars ever reach the professional level. He's enjoy the struggle, the talent they each possess, the uphill battle against impossible odds, and the determination of two young men.

  • Andrew Jackson. Jackson was the first common man to ascend to the U.S. presidency. He saw himself as a warrior and a soldier and not as a president. He would love Kurosawa's masterpiece because he would relate to the samurai's efforts to defend the village from bandits. This tale of heroism and courage would appeal to the feisty Jackson.

  • Bill Clinton. The idealistic Clinton would likely enjoy this Bergman classic tale of the knight facing death in a match of chess. The stunning allegory would hold Clinton's attention and engage his creative side as well. President Clinton would have the intellectual curiosity to enjoy the nuances of this beautiful movie.

  • Ronald Reagan. President Reagan loved westerns. There was a kind of Lone Ranger quality to Reagan, and he would have enjoyed Ford's masterful direction of the young John Wayne. Reagan would see himself in the title role, leading a stagecoach full of people through danger and toward the shining city on the hill...

39 comments

  • By Matthew Adams
    June 07, 2013
    02:37 PM

    Creative list, awesome.
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:26 PM

      Thanks for the comment. I was thinking about each president and he list came to me. Glad you liked it!
  • By Mondrolik75
    June 07, 2013
    03:39 PM

    Maybe "Z" and "Dazed and Confused" for LBJ.
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:27 PM

      Yes, I can see Z for LBJ. Dazed and Confused might better fit George W. Bush.
  • By Wesley Ball
    June 07, 2013
    06:32 PM

    Great list!
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:28 PM

      Thanks!
  • By David Hollingsworth
    June 07, 2013
    09:31 PM

    What an amazing idea for a list!
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:28 PM

      Thanks Sidney...sorry it took months to respond!
  • By Emma
    June 08, 2013
    03:55 AM

    Awesome list! Very original.
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:28 PM

      Thank you!
  • By ZONE
    June 08, 2013
    09:56 PM

    George W. likes Armageddon.
    Reply
    • By Kurt
      June 13, 2013
      03:45 PM

      Haha!
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:29 PM

      Heheh...so might Truman
  • By moosensquirrel
    June 09, 2013
    07:10 PM

    I dunno. I think Clinton's favorite Criterion would be The 400 Blows.
    Reply
    • By zach
      September 16, 2013
      02:41 PM

      +1
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:29 PM

      I steered clear of Clinton sexual stuff but Salo 120 Days of Sodom did enter my mind...
  • By Miggity
    June 10, 2013
    01:24 AM

    I think Obama's favorite might be Antichrist
    Reply
    • By D.j. West
      June 10, 2013
      03:50 AM

      no it's Putney Swope
  • By Miggity
    June 10, 2013
    01:25 AM

    Definitely a nice list though
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:30 PM

      Thanks!
  • By Drew Phillips
    June 17, 2013
    08:44 PM

    Al Gore loves Tanner 88
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:30 PM

      Lol..yep
  • By TheBluHQ
    June 20, 2013
    02:18 AM

    What about William Howard Taft?
    Reply
  • By Filmswithdave
    June 20, 2013
    03:58 PM

    Nixon would have liked Blow Out or Fear and Loathing
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:31 PM

      I can see that!
  • By Filiusd99993
    June 20, 2013
    11:01 PM

    Turns out, Nixon's favorite film was Patton. http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/239683.html
    Reply
  • By Acephale
    June 23, 2013
    10:35 PM

    this is embarrassing.
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:31 PM

      What is embarrassing?
  • By Gash
    July 04, 2013
    06:30 PM

    I wonder how would have been president Nixon's reaction towards Altman's Secret Honor.
    Reply
  • By FoucaultsBrain
    July 14, 2013
    06:52 PM

    Thomas Jefferson would have loved Black Orpheus
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:31 PM

      I would agree.
  • By CFolan
    July 15, 2013
    06:31 PM

    Too bad Secret Honor doesn't include a commentary by Nixon himself.
    Reply
  • By Paul-2489
    July 29, 2013
    06:44 PM

    What about John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln?
    Reply
    • By DeanofDVD
      October 01, 2013
      09:32 PM

      Great movie...
  • By WillemDafoe
    May 26, 2014
    08:16 PM

    I'd give anything to know what Richard Nixon thought of Secret Honor (1984) and Philip Baker Hall's Performance, if he ever saw it.
    Reply
  • By Cole Duffy
    March 30, 2017
    10:25 PM

    Hm, I wonder what Trump's favorite would be. Armageddon? Salo?
    Reply