Inaugurate This! Five Streaming Films Highlighting American Leaders

This week on FIELD OF STREAMS, we share a curated list of some of Amercia’s most revered and most controversial leaders

Welcome to Field of Streams, Cinapse’s guide of what’s playing on your favorite streaming services. What are the best unknown gems on Hi-YAH? What does MUBI have going on this month? What are the most exciting things streaming on HBOMax and Kanopy? We’re here to help guide you towards the best and brightest streaming today. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.

After the longest four years most of us have every experienced, the time has come to welcome a new President and new administration that will do what they can to help us out of the unbelievable mess we find ourselves in. Covid-19, social unrest, climate change, the problems seem unsurmountable. Yet it’s vital to both the soul and the psyche to believe in the possibility that great change is indeed on the horizon and that the next four years will lead to an America where every kind of person feels more free than before.

As President, Joe Biden’s various views and plans for the different obstacles plaguing the country right now might seem far-reaching to some. To others however, they represent the kind of courage, strength and belief that can indeed help the country heal. As with any President, only time can tell if the goals and hopes each man brings with him into the office were enough to move America forward. But for this week, in spite of (and because of) the last four years, it’s important to believe that they can.

In honor of our new President, here are five titles from your favorite streaming platforms which spotlight some of the most revered and controversial leaders the country has ever had.


Steven Spielberg may be credited with bringing the ultimate chronicle of the country’s 16th President to the screen, but it’s John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln which really gets to the essence of the man himself. The film stars Henry Fonda as Lincoln who, as the titles points out, is an up and coming lawyer trying a murder case against two brothers (Richard Crowell and Eddie Quinlan). Ford’s film is expertly made with it’s story and main character presented in a way which doesn’t put the future President on an even higher pedestal so much as it lovingly explores the qualities which made Lincoln who he was. Young Mr. Lincoln doesn’t spend time touching on slavery or any of the hallmarks Lincoln made as President. Instead, Ford and Fonda are content to show the essence of the man himself and the building of character which led him to serve his fellow man.


Director Roger Michell has had a rather unorthodox film career with both hits, misses and a couple of titles which fell in between. Hyde Park on Hudson is definitely one for that last category. The film tells the story of the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) who are invited to spend a weekend in the country with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) in a bid for cultural goodwill. As a dramedy, Hyde Park on Hudson is far from flawless. There’s an awkward subplot about a secret romance between FDR and his spinster 5th cousin (Laura Linney) and an odd farcical nature during certain scenes which Michell refuses to let go of. The beauty of Hyde Park on Hudson can be found purely in Murray’s seemingly effortless performance. His FDR is charming and rather whimsical at times, while also earnest and deeply poignant at others. There’s no question that FDR is a tall order for any actor to take on. However Murray is clearly not intimidated and manages to bring out so much of what made FDR the kind of earnest leader he was.


The third title on this list is the only one to spotlight possibly the worst aspect of its presidential subject. Ron Howard’s film version of the play Frost/Nixon is more than capably brought to the screen thanks to a pair of well-cast leads. Michael Sheen plays British talk show host David Frost and Frank Langella plays Richard Nixon in this re-telling of the infamous interview the 37th President gave after resigning in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. Based on a play of the same name, Frost/Nixon contains the right amount of theatrics and powerhouse dialogue courtesy of The Queen-scribe Peter Morgan. Howard, clearly well-aware of the source material’s strengths, wisely changes very little yet still manages to make a dynamic and compelling film which captures the spirit of a post-Watergate society. It’s the Oscar-nominated Langella who steals the show however as he brings the fire and fury of Nixon to life without ever making him feel anything less than the flawed human he was and the reviled leader he became.


Now largely considered the best president during the worst time, Jimmy Carter’s second act following his term in office has been nothing short of remarkable thanks to the establishment of The Carter Center and his longtime association with Habitat for Humanity. The center’s work to eradicate diseases and conduct election monitoring in third world countries earned Carter the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. It’s not much of a surprise then that Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme would choose the 39th President as the subject of a documentary. 2007’s Jimmy Carter Man from Plains trails the President as he promotes his latest book Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid and the controversy it caused due to the claims Carter made as to why there is still no peace in the Middle East. Demme chronicles Carter’s repeated defense of his book throughout his promotional tour, but also captures moments such as small town BBQs, church services and the President’s habit of shaking hands with every passenger in the middle of a commercial flight, giving a poetic and insightful look at one of the most beloved leaders the country has ever known.


It’s hard to imagine a first couple as influential as Barack and Michelle Obama. Besides being the first black President and First Lady to live in the White House, the two re-wrote the book on what such a union be with drives and goals to rival the Carter’s and chemistry to match the Reagan’s. 2016’s Southside with You goes back to how it all started as young Chicago lawyers Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) and Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) go on their first date in 1989. There’s a real intimacy to Southside with You that could almost make it a play with the two leads being mostly the only actors of mention on screen as they talk about their pasts and what brought them to the present. Beyond the structure however, there’s such instant fire and passion between Barack and Michelle as they playfully challenge and entice one another, that the film makes them feel like the only people in the city. Cultural issues (their reaction to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is especially provocative), self-image in regards to race and their inherent passion for one another are all explored poetically in this tale about the beginnings of one of the world’s most adored couples.

There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.

Till next time, stream on, stream away.

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