AFI Movie Club: THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT – American Film Institute
The American President Film Still - Michael Douglas and Annette Bening



In THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTAFI Life Achievement Award honoree Michael Douglas plays the leader of the free world who is torn between the woman he loves – fierce environmental lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening) – and a tight reelection campaign. AFI recognized the political drama as one of the greatest love stories in cinematic history and honored Bening with a tribute at AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi.  


DID YOU KNOWOriginally, the part of President Andrew Shepherd was going to be played by Robert Redford. After he left the project, Michael Douglas stepped into the role and Wildwood Enterprises, Redford’s production company, helped produce the film. 

DID YOU KNOWBefore creating the White House set for THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, director Rob Reiner, production designer Lily Kilvert and art designer John Warnke were granted access to the West Wing by the Clinton administration. Since they were not permitted to photograph the Oval Office, Kilvert and Warnke decided to memorize one side of the room each. THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT set has since been used in other productions – including INDEPENDENCE DAY, NIXON and Aaron Sorkin’s own THE WEST WING. 

DID YOU KNOWScreenwriter Aaron Sorkin makes a cameo in THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT as “Aide in Bar.” 

DID YOU KNOWIn THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, Annette Bening’s Sydney Ellen Wade refers to iconic director and AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Frank Capra when she visits the White House for the first time. The film’s association with Capra did not stop there as the celebrated director’s own grandson worked on the film as the first assistant director.  

DID YOU KNOWIn the scene in which President Shepherd is giving the phone number of the White House switchboard to Sydney Ellen Wade, he is giving out the actual phone number of the White House switchboard. 

DID YOU KNOWThe musical score of THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT was written by Marc Shaiman, who received an Academy Award® nomination for his work. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

Click Here to Find Out How to Watch THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT Now



The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

  • Are all parts of a President’s life – including his or her personal life – the business of the American people?  
  • Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has brought up the topic of proportional response in both THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT and THE WEST WING. What is the virtue of a proportional response when it comes to the U.S. government? 
  • Why after 25 years does THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT still resonate with audience?  
  • What similarities are there between Aaron Sorkin’s work on THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT and THE WEST WING? What are some differences between the two? 
  • Do you consider President Shepherd a good president? How does he compare to real life presidents? How does he compare to fictional presidents? 
  • What differences do you see occurring in THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT compared to the political landscape of today?  
  • How would you rate THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT? 


AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. See all of the titles programmed for AFI Movie Club here. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience. Learn more in our FAQ section.

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