10 movie politicians who would be even worse than the real-life candidates

Odd List Mark Harrison 12 Apr 2010 - 17:08

Mark highlights lots of screen politicians - and one banker - you wouldn't want running your country...

Here in Britain, Parliament has been dissolved and there's just under a month until the UK goes to the polling booths to decide who has to put up with taxes, education and all that joy for the next five or so years. This isn't the time for Den Of Geek to get political, but we would like to say don't worry - politicians could be a lot worse than they are.

So often in films, politicians are all that is villainous, slimy or incompetent about the cast of characters, so imagine if one of these movie politicians got into office next month.

You'd be yearning for the days when a ministerial cock-up entailed the receipt for a Battlefield Earth DVD turning up on the register of ministers' interests, rather than the destruction of the galaxy as we know it, or something.

Take a look at the ballot paper you really, really don't want on May 6th.

Zaphod Beeblebrox - The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

"He hasn't even got the proper two heads!" the fans would scream. "How could I trust him?"

While I personally hold that the 2005 film version of Douglas Adams' masterpiece is actually rather underrated, I don't think this President of the Universe would make that great an executive, even if he is played by Sam Rockwell. He doesn't have much of a plan beyond stealing our spaceship. And Britain doesn't have a spaceship to speak of, unless Mr. Beeblebrox hitches a ride on Beagle II, somehow.

Then again, his presumably brief-standing Cabinet would include Zooey Deschanel, who's a lot sexier than Harriet Harman, and a depressed robot who seems much more cheerful than Ed Balls. Definitely add those to the'pro' column then...

Donald Curtis - Porco Rosso

Although they never come to fruition in the film, Curtis has big plans when he returns to America from the Adriatic, and tries to impress Madame Gina by telling her all about them.

Not only does he plan to dominate Hollywood, but he also has designs on the White House. It could be a reference to Ronald Reagan, but in the 1930s context, he's more of an Errol Flynn, and Gina laughs in his face at the very idea.

So he has a big imagination, yeah, but he's also a complete and utter bumbox. Quite aside from being egotistical, he falls in love with every woman he meets, from Gina to plucky engineer Fio. What if he came up against Ann Widdecombe? Curtis would never get anything done if he got into office.

Hell, you can't even root for him in the film. He's the bad guy, and his nemesis is a pig who smokes cigars and can fly a plane!

Simon Foster - In The Loop

Or Nicola Murray. Or Hugh Abbot. Or Ben Swales. Essentially, if you see a politician in The Thick Of It, or its film spin-off, you would not want them to be your MP. In particular, though, Foster escalates that most prickly of modern political issues - the conflict in the Middle East - by sounding like a Nazi Julie Andrews and giving both sides of the war debate sound byte after sound byte with lackadaisical aplomb.

Ultimately, a collapsing wall and Malcolm Tucker bring him down, but then he's not really evil enough to warrant a stronger response. He's just a tit.

At the same time, he's not the most likeable politician, even for a politician, and having him represent your country would be difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

The Mayor - The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

These are troubled times, with the threat of international terrorism and an ongoing conflict abroad. Where do you want your prime minister during a crisis? Certainly not tucked up in bed, like Lee Wallace's cowardly and insalubrious mayor of New York. When a subway car is hijacked and its passengers held for ransom, the mayor stays put in his sickbed until someone reminds him that the hostages are also voters.

Wallace would later be a marginally more competent mayor in Tim Burton's Batman, but not as overly competent as his counterpart in the Pelham 123 remake.

In casting James Gandolfini, there's nothing of the haplessness that characterised Wallace, and he's just one of the many things wrong with that remake.

Still, this character is the most likely candidate on the list, as he's closest to real life. He doesn't do anything useful and you'll boo every time you see him in the street.

Emperor Palpatine - Star Wars

Have you been bored out of your skull for the last thirteen years by how much the taxation of galactic trade routes is in the news? Tired of those pesky Clone Wars, and the conspicuous absence of any ethical protests about that army? Well, here's a man with a bold new plan. Under the Galactic Empire, there'll be a terrific dictatorship and you won't have to do a thing.

Hell, you won't even have to go and vote because, whether he gets in or not, he'll manipulate his way into power over the course of about a decade, but by not voting for him, you're only delaying the inevitable.

His only real election promise is a fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station before 2011, but analysts are also forecasting a whole lot of evil.

Sir Bernard Pellegrin - The Constant Gardener

I know, I know. I would vote for Bill Nighy too, if he were actually running for office this year.

Pellegrin's not just Bill Nighy though, of course. He's the thoroughly unscrupulous bastard at the head of the Foreign Office, and his collusions with a drugs corporation in Africa screws up shy diplomat Justin Quayle's life, starting with the assassination of his wife.

The reason Danny Huston's slimy High Commissioner Sandy Woodrow doesn't make the list is because I really shouldn't have to tell you not to vote for him. As soon as he appears in a film, he's the baddy. Especially if he's wearing a suit.

In all of his more villainous incarnations, Bill Nighy is slightly more affably evil, and must be stopped!

Henry F. Potter - It's A Wonderful Life

He's an evil entrepreneur for much of the film rather than a politician, but they're seemingly increasingly inseparable. What's more, it goes to make Potter an even worse prospect than most on the list. Imagine electing Rupert Murdoch to government.

As one of the most effective screen villains of all time, George Bailey's angel-induced imaginings give us a fair idea of what would happen if Potter got any kind of power. Nightclubs and pawn shops everywhere and, crucially, he'd rename the place to Pottersville. Everyone you liked would be in jail or bedlam, lots of soldiers would die and all women would have jobs (shock horror).

All of this if George had never been born, and he wasn't, because he's fictional. We'd be doomed.

The scariest thing about Mr. Potter in the film is that he doesn't particularly get his comeuppance at the end. Sure, George wins out, but that doesn't necessarily mean Potter is defeated. He's very much still around, and that's what everyone forgets about during the feel-good ending of the Capra classic.

Greg Stillson - The Dead Zone

Christopher Walken going against any politician would be damning enough for them to lose my vote, even if they were played by Martin Sheen. But at least there's a good reason to take against him in this film. He can see the future, and presidential candidate Senator Stillson is going to bring the world to an end through nuclear war.

Of course, Sheen would go on to play a more capable president in The West Wing, but here he's not that great.

For instance, when on the wrong end of Walken's gun barrel, this upstanding political powerhouse grabs someone's baby to use as a human shield. Alright, so his political career doesn't last long after that gaffe, but as with Mr. Potter, we don't have someone who can see the future in real life. Really, don't vote for this guy. He's a dick.

Adam Sutler - V For Vendetta

One of the few on the list who has specifically had a run at leading the United Kingdom and anyone who's seen this film knows it didn't pan out too well.

Even if you're not a huge fan of civil liberties and freedom of speech, I doubt many will vote for a regime if they know it's going to lead to various acts of justifiable terrorism, like the destruction of the Old Bailey or Big Ben.

More than that, like so many of the jobbing politicos on the list, he's responsible for a near-apocalyptic turn of events. In this case, manufacturing a virus. Hooray!

I really don't think I need to explain why he's so bad, because anyone of a sound mind is more likely to elect Nick Griffin, standing for the Balrog Party on a platform of legalising seal clubbing, than to vote for the Norsefire party.

Mayor Larry Vaughn - Jaws

Some could argue that Vaughn has just the kind of sunny optimism this country needs right now. He's quite dedicated to bringing in revenue from the tourists flocking to Amity Island, the kind of revenue that could only reduce the deficit.

On the other hand, Vaughn is pretty fucking clueless. If he can call a shark a barracuda, he's well versed in political double-speak, but come on. He deals with being mayor of shark city with quite startling incompetence.

If he can't even run an island as small as Amity, he'd really screw up Britain.

Honourable mentions

Although neither of them made the list in a single one of their various performances, Mel Brooks and Gene Hackman both frequently played bad politicians. Brooks has played kings, senators and presidents alike as lecherous and largely incompetent; while Hackman's US President does a fine line in having Secret Service men kill his mistress in Absolute Power. But then later, his last film was Welcome To Mooseport. Yeuch.

There's a fair bit to be said for TV politicians too, of course. Mayors Joe Quimby and Adam West could be crooked and insane, respectively, and then there's Stephen Collins in State Of Play and every single politician in the Doctor Who universe. Every one, all the way from would-be tribe usurper Kal in An Unearthly Child through to Harold "I am the Master" Saxon.

Oh, and another terrible movie politician no-one would vote for in real life, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ba-dum tsh!

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