Presidents as the “bad guy” are a trope that shows up in movies and TV shows all the time. While there are plenty of president TV shows and president movies, only a select few explore the plot mechanism that exists in an evil president. Presidents make the perfect villain—instead of being outside the law, they control it. He has the power of a whole country on his side, including the police. The “good guy” is left outside the law, fighting against everyone and their bad reputation to try to save the day. What makes presidents the perfect villain is that the hero of the story can rarely truly beat them, they can only thwart them for the day. Below is a list of the most evil TV and movie presidents that we love to hate.
President William Haney: My Fellow Americans
My Fellow Americans is a comedy movie primarily, but there is no doubt that President Haney has some shockingly evil moments in the plot. In it, Haney gets involved with a money-laundering scheme while serving in the White House. To cover up his tracks, he frames his vice president, who ends up on a nationwide car chase, trying to escape with his life.
My Fellow Americans is lighthearted, but really does show us some of the worst things that presidents have gotten up to in the White House, and gives a few nods to real, evil presidential actions.
President Jack Neal: Murder at 1600
Watching President Neal in action in Murder at 1600 makes you really ponder the background to this story. Neal, a self-proclaimed pacifist, refuses to deal with a looming war that threatens the whole population. His neglect of duty allows his chief of staff to put forward a plot, and even frame the president’s son for murder. Yet, for most of the movie, Neal is unwilling or unable to act.
Murder at 1600 is based on the novel Murder in the White House by Margaret Truman (daughter of former president Harry S. Truman), so fans of his particular brand of bumbling presidential evil can track down the novel to find out even more.
President Allan Richmond: Absolute Power
President Richmond is hands down one of the most realistically evil presidents on this list. Absolute Power centers around the affair that the president is having with his best friend’s wife. On one occasion, Richmond gets rough in the bedroom, and when his mistress fights back, she is shot and killed by the secret service. President Richmond, believing himself to be above the law, sets about covering up the affair and the murder.
Chancellor Adam Sutler: V for Vendetta
Adam Sutler leads the Norsefire party in V for Vendetta (he was named Adam Susan in the original graphic novel, but renamed Sutler in the film adaptation). He holds Britain in an iron grip, and is an adherent to pure fascism. Civil liberties are seen as unneeded luxuries, and a threat to security. He despises any non-white, Christian, male, heterosexuals. He also disdains sexual contact as brutish. He has little human contact, and is intent on being feared and respected since he cannot be loved. His rule begins to crumble under V's attacks, and eventually his is killed.
Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica
Any fan of Battlestar Galactica knows how scary it was to watch Gaius win the election against Roslin. Baltar is a tricky character because while he does cause problems for many citizens, his actions are driven more by fear and self-centeredness than a real thirst for evil.
Over time, the tension around Gaius moves outside of the presidential realm as he becomes more of a figurehead. But he is still a difficult character to trust and is linked to many of the major problems humans face in the series.
If you couldn’t get enough of Gaius in the most recent Battlestar Galactica series, you should know he is based on a similar character (Count Baltar) in the 1978 Battlestar.
President Fitz Grant: Scandal
Fitz Grant is not someone we would call a nice man. During his presidential campaign he began to fall in love with Olivia Pope (so he tried to have her fired), cheated on his wife (and mother of his children), and somehow manipulates everyone around him into giving him a leg-up on his campaign. Later, he even smothers a woman with cancer, because she may reveal some information that might impact him badly. Many believe that Grant is secretly based on President George W. Bush.
President Snow: The Hunger Games
Coriolanus Snow from The Hunger Games trilogy was the type of president so evil and so powerful that he doesn’t even feel the need to try to justify or cover up his tendencies. We never find out if electing President Snow was a terrible mistake for the the people of Panem, or whether Snow was able to take power by force. The existence of The Hunger Games alone shows how crazy this guy is—having children fight to the death for entertainment? But beyond that, Snow will stop at nothing to maintain his control over the different districts in The Hunger Games, manipulating people around him, and even committing murder.
Frank Underwood: House of Cards
Is there a TV president we love to hate more than Frank Underwood? Kevin Spacey made us love this evil politician with eyes on the White House. One of the most calculating characters on this list, we have seen Underwood manipulate, destroy lives, and evil have people killed in pursuit of his political goals. Frank Underwood is an interesting evil president. While many people admire his calculating and ruthless ability to weigh decisions and get what he wants, many others would also call him a sociopath.
Really, what more did we expect from this man after the dog scene in episode one?
President Lex Luthor: Superman
We are all familiar with Lex Luthor’s battle against Superman, but did you know that Lex Luthor (as a character) has actually been president of the United States? Lex Luthor is the perfect example of evil president, but he hasn’t actually been captured on film or TV in this role. He has only appeared as president in comic books so far, so we have included him as a bonus.
The President of the United States: Love Actually
Interestingly, the President in Love Actually is never really addressed by name, but we all remember him well. In the movie, we didn’t see this leader express any hopes for global domination, but the way he treated England and tried to steal Hugh Grant’s love interest will have us remember him in the evil category forever.