Which Presidents Have Been Portrayed on Film the Most?

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 8 2012 11:35 AM

Presidents in Movies: The All-Time Leader Board

Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson, Josh Brolin in W., and Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson,Josh Brolin in W., and Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

This fall brings us two high-profile biopics about American presidents: Spielberg’s epic Lincoln, out this Friday, and Hyde Park on Hudson, which stars Bill Murray as FDR. This got us wondering: Which presidents have been portrayed on the silver screen the most?

We went to IMDb and tallied every portrayal of an actual American president in the history of the movies—including direct-to-video releases, animated films, and shorts. The movie president didn’t have to appear as the president to be included: Ulysses S. Grant, for instance, has often been depicted in his pre-White House years, and William Henry Harrison has only ever been portrayed on screen as the governor of the Indiana Territory and as a U.S. Army General fighting American Indians. (Which is more than his grandson can boast: The part of Benjamin Harrison has been played just once, and it was uncredited.)

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We did not, by the way, include cameos by presidents playing themselves, or the cinematic use of archival footage. An actor or voice-actor had to be playing the man to get counted. And we did not count television portrayals.

The results? Lincoln blows away his presidential peers, with nearly twice as many depictions as the father of our country, who comes in second. On the other end of the spectrum, John Tyler, James Buchanan, and Warren G. Harding have, as far as we can tell, never been portrayed on film (not counting the recent online short, “John Tyler: Getaway Driver”). There’s still hope for them, though, as William Howard Taft could explain, if he wasn’t dead: Taft had to wait almost a century before someone played him in 2005’s The Greatest Game Ever Played.

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Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

Natalie Matthews-Ramo is a Slate Web and interactive designer.

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