News & Politics

What Do Presidents’ Movie Picks Say About Them?

The Clintons watched a film about a sinking ship.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan watch a movie in the White House theatre.

A new book by former Ronald Reagan aide Mark Weinberg, Movie Nights With the Reagans, looks at how films shaped the Gipper’s policies. He’s not the only presidential movie fan. A quick guide:

The Reagans: A pot-smoking scene in 9 to 5 so outraged Nancy that it led to her “Just Say No” campaign, while the President found Cold War motivation in action flicks like Top Gun, Rocky IV, WarGames, and Return of the Jedi.

The Clintons: They screened no fewer than 171 films during his two terms. What did they watch right after the Lewinsky scandal broke? The sinking-ship drama Titanic.

The Bushes: George W. sometimes used films to bond with rivals, as when he watched the pro-JFK Cuban-missile-crisis saga Thirteen Days with Ted Kennedy.

The Obamas: Voracious movie watchers, they favored connoisseur fare such as Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild. But by the end, they seemed ready for escapism. Their final picks: La La Land and Monster Trucks.

The Trumps: He prefers Fox & Friends to movies, maybe because a White House screening of Finding Dory drew barbs from Ellen DeGeneres. Recently, Trump proclaimed the P.T. Barnum biopic The Greatest Showman “fantastic.”

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Washingtonian.