They control entire nations, can start world wars with the push of a button, and can ruin an economy with just a few poorly made decisions, yet, like the rest of us, our U.S. presidents enjoy going to the cinema for a soda, a popcorn and a film.

And, like the rest of us, their tastes in movies range from the atrocious to the surprising.

For the curious -- or for those planning a movie date with a president -- here are some insights into presidential likes and dislikes. They control entire nations, can start world wars with the push of a button and can ruin an economy with just a few poorly made decisions. Yet, like the rest of us, our U.S. presidents enjoy going to the cinema for a soda, a popcorn and a film. And, like the rest of us, their tastes in movies range from the atrocious to the surprising. For the curious -- or for those planning a movie date with a president -- here are some insights into presidential likes and dislikes.

Barack Obama

Asked before the 2008 election about his favorite movie -- because we all know that's what really matters when it comes to presidential candidates -- Barack Obama talked about the classics. His favorite movies are 'The Godfather' and 'The Godfather: Part II'; he felt the third one didn't make the cut. Obama even re-enacted the first scene from the movie for Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News. Apparently, his Marlon Brando impersonation is pretty good; we hope he uses it whenever he has to meet with someone asking for a presidential favor. "You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to increase unemployment benefits!?!" Some other movies that the current U.S. President enjoys are 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'Casablanca.'

George W. Bush

George W. Bush seems like the kind of guy you wouldn't mind having over for a party. He's just one of the guys: During his college days, he was arrested twice for pulling pranks and, according to Whitehousemuseum.org, one of his favorite movie series is 'Austin Powers.' In fact, he is known to have, on occasion, mimicked Dr. Evil lifting his pinky to his lips. (We'd like to imagine he did this in the middle of a serious war meeting as someone suggested the army start building anti-rocket lasers.)

With his presidency beset by Sept. 11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the beginnings of a recession, it's no wonder Bush chose to watch serious movies, including such war films as 'Black Hawk Down' and 'We Were Soldiers.' In fact, toward the end of his presidency, Bush's favorite film was 'Saving Private Ryan.'

Bill Clinton
The 42nd president of the U.S., Bill Clinton, is one of the most popular faces in politics, managing to gather millions of dollars each year through tours and the sales of his books. It's true that many of the people who pay to see him speak are only interested in the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal or just want to grill him on NAFTA or the deregulation of the banking industry.

These may very well be the same people who supported his impeachment during his second term. Which makes it understandable that his favorite movie is 'High Noon,' the story of a small-town Marshall who confronts a band of killers despite the great odds against him; in the end he stands tall and keeps his girl. It's a tale of duty, dedication and heroism in the face of disaster, something that every president would like to be remembered for. The tale is supposedly so close to Clinton's heart that he watched the movie at least 17 times on the White House big screen.

John F. Kennedy

We couldn't forgive ourselves if we didn't include JFK on this list. He palled around with movie stars, may have had an affair with Marilyn Monroe and his short time in office has often been looked upon as the stuff of Hollywood legend. Not only that, but he looked like a movie star. In fact, he even influenced the movies. After he declared that he was a fan of the James Bond novels, especially 'From Russia With Love,' the Bond movie producers changed their plans and turned that book into the second movie of the series.

Yet despite this, spy movies were not Kennedy's choice when he was relaxing. (Surprisingly enough, he didn't prefer Monroe movies, either.) Instead, the young president favored dramas such as 'Spartacus,' which came out only three years before his assassination. The story of a rebel who challenges the old political structure of Rome could easily be compared to the way Kennedy challenged many of the preconceived ideas in Washington. Some other movies JFK liked were Westerns and war movies, including 'The Longest Day' and 'Iwo Jima.'

Sadly, the last movie JFK ever saw was nowhere near as inspiring as 'Spartacus.' In a special screening just days before his assassination in Dallas, Kennedy watched Tom Jones,' a bawdy 18th-century Henry Fielding sex romp that starred Albert Finney.

Richard Nixon

Kennedy's opponent in the 1960 election was Richard M. Nixon, who became an incredibly controversial and enigmatic politician by the end of his term as the 37th president of the U.S. On the one hand, he was the only U.S. president to resign after a major political scandal; on the other, he was an expert on foreign relations, particularly the Soviet Union and China. As an elder statesman, the Clinton administration often asked for his advice when dealing with Russia. His "enemies list" and "hit list" showed his paranoid side, and he viciously attacked those who opposed him.

The "tough man" image he tried to portray shows in the movies he chose to watch. His favorite film was 'Patton,' the movie about the World War II general who was brilliant but so mistrusting and complex that he eventually earned the distrust of his own troops. (Interestingly enough, that sounds like the description historians would attach to Nixon.)
CATEGORIES Features