Hail to the Chief: Six Streaming Titles for Your Presidential Viewing

FIELD OF STREAMS returns with Frank’s annual Presidents’ Day streaming spectacular

Welcome to Field of Streams, Cinapse’s weekly guide of what’s playing on your favorite streaming services. What’s new on Netflix and Amazon Prime? What do we recommend on Kanopy, Hoopla, and Shudder? We’ve got it all. From topical roundups, to curated top 5 lists, to reviews of our favorites available now… it’s here. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.

Happy Presidents’ Day, kids! It’s that time of the year when we reflect on the various leaders who have guided our country through the good times, the dark times, and the even darker times. It’s a holiday we mark by trying to remember if we have the day off of work, if the kids are staying home from school, and what recycled New Years and Valentine’s Day shopping promotions certain businesses are pushing.

For the members of the streaming crowd who aren’t taking advantage of whatever sales are going on, Field of Streams has a collection of titles to help ring in the holiday. Everyone has heard of the famed White House movie theater where Presidents, First Ladies, and honored guests get to watch virtually any movie they want, even if it hasn’t hit theaters yet. To many of us, it represents the ultimate perk that comes from holding the highest office in the land, and all of our living presidents wasted no time in taking advantage of it.

For each of them, the films they chose to watch represented either some facet of the kind of leader they were or where the country was during their time in office. Please enjoy this collection of titles and see which presidents surprise you the most with their choice of movie—and which were perfectly on brand.

Jimmy Carter: ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (Hulu, HBO Max)

Reportedly the biggest movie junkie of all the living former presidents, Carter’s penchant for movie watching even rivals that of his successor, Ronald Reagan. The Carters watched a mix of old and new films during his term in office, but it was no surprise that the first title chosen was the movie on everyone’s mind in early 1977, All the President’s Men. The movie was a box-office hit, an Oscar champ and one of the most influential films of the decade. Director Alan J. Pakula’s cinematic chronicle of the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon and the relentless reporting by Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) was an instant classic. The movie paints a stark and harrowing view of Washington and especially of the White House. Steeped in paranoia, what might sound like a dry time is actually one of the most riveting thanks to the way the film tears apart much of the belief in one of America’s most trusted institutions. It was no doubt a Watergate-weary public that helped Carter win the White House, but it was All the President’s Men that ensured that the very same public would always question their leaders.


Bill Clinton: THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (The Roku Channel, Prime)

Before his first year in office was up, Clinton watched Martin Scorsese’s moving and romantic adaptation of Edith Wharton’s classic novel. The director meticulously recreated early 19th century New York City for this story of a young up-and-coming lawyer (Daniel Day-Lewis) whose engagement to the daughter (Winona Ryder) of a prominent family is threatened when he falls for her rebellious cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer). A flop when it was released, The Age of Innocence has only grown in acclaim and stature over the years, thanks to its rich design and Scorsese’s perfect interpretation of the text. Rather than judge any of the main characters, the film treats them as humans who are bound by their own flaws and instincts in a harsh and unforgiving society. As the Countess Olenska, Pfeiffer boldly and exquisitely embodies a woman who inspires gossip everywhere she goes as she breaks from tradition and societal norms. It’s a telling film for 1993, as America started saying goodbye to the leftover conservatism of Bush 41 and started moving towards a new era.


George W. Bush: SEABISCUIT (Peacock, Fubo TV)

President Bush entered his second year in office under the shadow of 9/11, while the start of the Iraq war dominated his third. It’s no wonder, then, that he should invite executive producer Steven Spielberg to watch the latter’s 2003 release, Seabiscuit. The true story of a horse too small for anyone to take a chance on and the partially blind jockey (Tobey Maguire) who understood him is as heart-tugging as they come. Writer/director Gary Ross gifts Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, and Elizabeth Banks with some terrific supporting roles and the period design of the movie is never less than impressive. The level of sentiment is as strong as any movie featuring an athlete and an animal, and the racing scenes remain spectacular to this day. If the film’s Best Picture Oscar nomination that year felt like a surprise given how much of a throwback Seabiscuit seemed in the year of Lost in Translation and Mystic River, it’s because it was. But the tumultuous events that came with W’s first administration left Americans anxious and exhausted, turning a movie like Seabiscuit into a deeply therapeutic experience.


Barack Obama: LA LA LAND (Hulu)

Always one to keep up with the latest movies (including the yearly crop of awards screeners), one of the last movies Obama watched during his time in office was one of the most acclaimed musicals in recent years. Set in L.A., La La Land follows an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a determined musician (Ryan Gosling) as they struggle to launch their careers and hold onto the newfound love they’ve found. The parts everyone loved about La La Land remain intact, including the music, the cinematography, and especially writer/director Damien Chazelle’s incredible dialogue. Stone and Gosling give their roles everything they’ve got, making sure the film remains an earnest look at a relationship driven by love and ambition and also a colorful musical ride. It’s no wonder that the “hope and change” president asked to watch La La Land since in its own subtle way, the movie perfectly echoes the feeling of possibility that came with his eight years in office.


Donald Trump: WHY HIM? (FXNow)

Donald Trump asked to see Why Him? Whatever.


Joe Biden: LAND (HBO Max, Hulu)

Even though we’ve only started year two of the Biden era, the current commander-in-chief has found time to make a couple of trips to the White House screening room. One of the president’s first movie choices was Robin Wright’s pensive and emotional drama Land. Wright makes her directorial debut while starring as Edee, a woman who moves to a remote cabin in the Wyoming wilderness in a bid to escape a past marked by severe tragedy. Stripped away from all modern conveniences, Edee learns to exist on her own, thanks to a friendship with Miguel (Demian Bichir), a local hunter outrunning a similar past of his own. Loaded with gorgeous outdoor shots and quiet character moments, Wright’s first filmmaking effort is as sensitive and lovely a film as anyone familiar with her career would have expect. Land’s many themes, including isolation, loss, grief, perseverance, and resilience, are those which have touched so many, not least of all Biden himself. The events of the last two years can’t help but give the film a different perspective, and inadvertently help to make it one of the most cathartic film experiences of recent times.


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 week, stream on, stream away.

Previous post SHAWSCOPE VOL. 1: THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG Cinapse Roundtable Reviews
Next post Rian Johnson’s LOOPER [4K UHD Review]