Happy birthday, Mr. President
On what would have been the former president’s 101st birthday, see the actors who played him on the big and small screens.
Cliff Robertson PT 109 (1963)
The Oscar-winning actor took on the leading role in this biographical film which depicted JFK as a Navy officer in command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during the Pacific War of World War II. Not only was this the first time a major studio was making a film about a sitting President, the White House was also given casting approval. Warren Beatty and Peter Fonda were apparently under consideration for the part, but POTUS himself chose Robertson after watching his audition.
The film was released a few months before Kennedy’s assassination.
William Devane The Missiles of October (1974)
The Knots Landing actor took on the starring role in the 1974 docudrama made-for-television play about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
James Franciscus Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1981)
Before playing JFK in the 1981 TV movie, the actor portrayed a Kennedy type in The Greek Tycoon, a 1978 drama based on the life of wealthy Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, whom the former First Lady married five years after Kennedy’s assassination.
Martin Sheen Kennedy (1983)
He may always be President Bartlett to fans, but once upon a time Sheen portrayed the real-life Commander-in-Chief in this five-hour TV miniseries that was nominated for three Golden Globes and won two Baftas, one for Best Drama Series and the other for Best Make Up.
Stephen Collins A Woman Named Jackie (1991)
Pre-7th Heaven days, Collins had his turn at playing POTUS in this three-part mini-series based on C. David Heymann’s 1989 book of the same title. The mini-series went on to snag an Emmy.
Patrick Dempsey JFK: Reckless Youth (1993)
Before he became best known for playing McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy, Dempsey took on the role of a young John F. Kennedy in the TV movie that chronicled the politician’s school days to his nomination to Congress in 1947.
William Petersen The Rat Pack (1998)
After playing JFK’s father in a TV miniseries six years prior, the CSI alum portrayed the president in this HBO movie that told the story of the Rat Pack’s courtship of Kennedy.
Tim Matheson Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (2000)
Matheson takes a backseat to costar Joanne Whalley’s portrayal of the First Lady in this CBS mini-series based on the bestselling biography by Donald Spoto.
Bruce Greenwood Thirteen Days (2000)
Greenwood plays the president in this film in which the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis unfold through the eyes of Kennedy’s long-term friend and political advisor Kenny O’Donnell, played by Kevin Costner.
Brett Stimely Watchmen (2009)
For Zach Snyder’s 2009 adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel, the actor wore a number of prosthetics on his face that took up to four hours to assemble. Since Watchmen, Stimely has gone on to play POTUS three more times on-screen.
Jon Hamm Saturday Night Live (2010)
When JFK (Jon Hamm) and Judy Garland (Kristen Wiig) stop by Vincent Price’s (Hader) home for a Halloween soiree, all hell breaks loose.
Greg Kinnear The Kennedys (2011)
After the History Channel dropped plans to air the eight-hour miniseries, the ReelzChannel came to the rescue, thus allowing viewers to watch Kinnear take on the 35th president.
James Marsden The Butler (2013)
With less than two weeks to prepare for the role, Marsden immersed himself in anything he could to be familiarized with the historical character he was about to portray in the Lee Daniels film. With two silicone cheek plumpers glued to his face and and a Cuban Missile Crisis speech memorized, the actor left many impressed.
Rob Lowe Killing Kennedy (2013)
It was only a matter of time before Lowe played JFK. The actor took on the role for the National Geographic Channel’s TV movie based on former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s book by the same name, which chronicles the events that lead up to assassination.
Caspar Phillipson Jackie (2016)
Though he appears on screen no more than 10 minutes, the man who portrayed the American president in the Oscar-nominated film was actually a Danish stage and voice-over actor.
Jeffrey Donovan LBJ (2017)
The drama of LBJ revolves around Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s (Woody Harrelson) assumption of the presidency following the assassination of President Kennedy. Jeffrey Donovan took on the small but crucial role that kicks off Rob Reiner’s film.
Michael C. Hall The Crown (2017)
The American President and his glamorous wife made an appearance on the second season of The Crown, when they stopped by Buckingham Palace to dine with Elizabeth and Philip during their European tour. “You can’t ignore the ubiquity of his image and his voice,” Hall told EW. “You have to in some way honor that without mimicking him.”
Grant Jordan Timeless (2018)
In a different twist on the 35th president, Grant Jordan played him in the Timeless episode “The Kennedy Curse” as a teenager. After preventing a Rittenhouse sleeper agent from murdering the 17-year-old future president in 1934, the Time Team brings him to the present day, where he learns about his tragic destiny.