From Born Yesterday to Advise and Consent to Born Yesterday (again), Hollywood has loved Washington politics as a theme. And it’s not unrequited: Every modern President has had a movie he loves—often one with eerie parallels to his career.
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT Favorite Films: Mickey Mouse shorts. Three-fingered cartoon character lifts nation’s spirits in groundbreaking animated films; becomes star of America’s longest-running cartoon series. Administration: Disabled former New York governor spurs recovery from the Great Depression with expansive New Deal policies; becomes the country’s longest-serving President.
HARRY TRUMAN Favorite Film: My Darling Clementine. Gritty Western depicts the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which brought an end to the feud between the Clantons and the Earps. Administration: ”Give ’em Hell” Missourian drops the atomic bomb during WWII, which brought an end to the war between the Axis powers and the Allies.
DWIGHT EISENHOWER Favorite Film: The Big Country. Sea captain returns from the Pacific only to face another battle at home with his troubled family life. Administration: Heroic general returns from WWII and becomes President only to face another conflict in Korea.
JOHN F. KENNEDY Favorite Film: Casablanca. Suave hero and elegant leading lady star in subsequently mythologized epic; couple separated by tragic circumstances. Administration: Suave President and elegant First Lady lead now-mythologized era; couple separated by tragic circumstances.
LYNDON JOHNSON Favorite Film: The Searchers. Seasoned cowpoke John Wayne is mired in a seemingly unwinnable battle against Indians. Administration: Veteran Texan pol, given to wearing cowboy hats, is mired in an unwinnable war against guerrilla fighters in Vietnam.
RICHARD NIXON Favorite Film: Patton. Megalomaniacal WWII general scoffs at the rules to win battles. Administration: Megalomaniacal one-and-a-half-term chief executive scoffs at the law to win reelection.
GERALD FORD Favorite Film: Home Alone. Precocious boy left alone in a large house stormed by burglars. Administration: Boyishly gawky VP moves into a large house formerly inhabited by burglars.
JIMMY CARTER Favorite Film: Gone With the Wind. Epic Southern Civil War saga climaxes with Sherman’s fiery march across the Georgia plains; still keeps popping up on TV. Administration: Rustic Southern President marches to Washington from Plains, Ga.; still keeps popping up on TV.
RONALD REAGAN Favorite Film: It’s a Wonderful Life. Genial father’s life is crushed with the failure of his savings and loan, though he survives with the help of a heaven-sent angel. Administration: Genial old President’s tenure is marred by savings and loan scandal, though he survives with the help of his astrology-consulting wife.
GEORGE BUSH Favorite Film: The Longest Day. All-star cast featured in a big-budget, big-spectacle, WWII movie about the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Administration: Multinational force assembled for a costly, spectacular invasion in Kuwait.
BILL CLINTON Favorite Film: High Noon. Western lawman Gary Cooper defies skeptics and long odds to fulfill his destiny. Administration: Southern governor defies skeptics and long odds to fulfill his life’s ambition.