6 Greatest Fictional Politicians in Movies and Novels
Politicians are a singularly hated bunch. According to the Pew Research Center, only 19% of Americans believe they can trust the government to any degree. And that’s not new either. Beginning in about 2007, government trust began to take a nose-dive, and things don’t look like they’ll be improving any time soon.
Much of the same is true in fiction as well. Politicians often aren’t very well liked, and they’re mostly portrayed as schemers always looking out for themselves. But that doesn’t mean we can’t like them. Here are the five greatest fiction politicians on the page and screen.
Josiah Bartlet is the fictional President of the United States on the hit television series The West Wing. At the beginning of the show, the fictional former Governor of New Hampshire wins the Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the White House. While he does run an ideal liberal administration, he also features virtues important to political conservatives.
Admit it, you thought I was going to say Tyrion Lannister. Wrong. The greatest politician in the Song of Ice and Fire series is none other than Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. The son of a minor noble, Petyr was fostered by Lord Hoster Tully at Riverrun as a child. Eventually his subtlety, intelligence, and ambition helped him advance to a role on the Baratheon small council as the Master of Coin. Later, he would become a power broker and potential king maker throughout the series.
Mr. Jefferson Smith
A congressman from an unnamed western state, Jefferson Smith is the ultimate embodiment of the pure, crusading politician. In the iconic movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the bumbling yet pure Jefferson Smith, played by James Stewart, fights corruption through the unique vehicle of the U.S. Senate. The role, and movie as a whole, is considered a quintessential whistleblower film and emblematic of the idea that one individual can make a difference in the world.
Governor Wilhuff Tarkin is one of the great antagonists of the Star Wars series. He was the governor of the Outer Rim systems and a close confident of Emperor Palpatine. Originally by fans as the Imperial general in command of the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, he developed a cult following throughout the years. His inclusion in Star Wars Legends, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the new Rogue One movie cement his role as a leading Star Wars baddie.
I did say they were going to be people you didn’t like. President Snow is the genocidal leader of Panem, and he’s definitely not a democratically elected official. In fact, his government is a totalitarian police state where the 12 districts are subservient to The Capitol, modeled on the ancient Roman Empire. Snow leads the hedonistic society of The Capitol, dominating the 12 districts and forcing the children of the districts to in the Hunger Games.
Francis Urquhart is the penultimate politician. The main character of the original House of Cards novels and series, he is described as the epitome of elegant evil. Urquhart is the chief whip of the Conservative Party when Margaret Thatcher resigns. After he is passed over for a ministerial position, he plots his way into the Prime Minister role through murder, blackmail, and misdeeds. Throughout the series, Urquhart continues his unabated rise through politics as a world leader, and the novels focus on both his brilliant plans and shortsighted mistakes.