John F. Kennedy
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John F. Kennedy portrayed on screen

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy’s transformative term as president of the United States and tragic death have inspired dozens of film and television dramatizations. With the 50th anniversary of his assassination around the corner, we take a look back at some of his portrayals on the big and small screens. (Bettmann / Corbis / PBS)
‘PT 109' | 1963
Cliff Robertson stars as a young John F. Kennedy in this dramatization of his tenure with the U.S. Navy. The movie, named after the motor torpedo boat that Kennedy commanded during World War II, follows Kennedy’s wartime exploits before he stepped behind the Oval Office. “PT 109" was released in theaters five months before Kennedy’s assassination. (Associated Press)
‘Kennedy’ | 1983
Martin Sheen portrayed John F. Kennedy in NBC’s biographical miniseries “Kennedy.” During its five-hour span, the television show depicts the 1961-63 presidency of JFK. “Kennedy” received three Golden Globe nominations and four BAFTA award nominations, winning BAFTAs for drama series and makeup. Sheen went on to play fictional President Josiah Bartlett in the critically acclaimed drama “The West Wing.” (NBC)
‘JFK’ | 1991
Though Oliver Stone’s political thriller was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, it initially sparked controversy, with many critics complaining that Stone took too many liberties with historical facts. The film explored the events leading to Kennedy’s assassination and the alleged cover-up through the eyes of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner).

“Disturbing, infuriating yet undeniably effective, less a motion picture than an impassioned, insistent 3-hour-and-7-minute information barrage, Stone’s ‘JFK’ is a relentless indictment of the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President John F. Kennedy,” Times critic Kenneth Turan wrote in his review of the film.

Gary Oldman (above) portrayed Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Lemmon played Jack Martin, a private investigator who aids Garrison. (Warner Bros.)
‘Ruby’ | 1992
This drama, adapted by Stephen Davis from his play “Love Field” and directed by John Mackenzie, centers on the conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination. The film explores the perspective of Jack Ruby (Danny Aiello), a small-time hood and Dallas strip-club operator with FBI and CIA connections, with mixed results. Times writer Peter Rainer wrote in his review of the film that it “attempts to place the J.F.K. conspiracy in an old-fashioned gangster-movie context, and the results are weirdly disorienting. Watching ‘Ruby’ is a bit like being in a time warp within a time warp.” The film was overshadowed at the box office by Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” released three months prior. (Handout)
‘Forrest Gump’ | 1994
In Robert Zemeckis’ sweeping tale about a simple man who inadvertently shapes the course of American history, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) crosses paths with three presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. The film cleverly superimposed Hanks into existing historical footage, but Jed Gillin offered his voice for JFK’s lines. (Gillin has since played the president twice more.) “Forrest Gump” won six Oscars. (Paramount Pictures)
‘Thirteen Days’ | 2000
Bruce Greenwood played JFK alongside Steven Culp’s Robert F. Kennedy in this dramatization of Kennedy’s struggle to contain the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. But the film’s star was Kevin Costner, who portrayed Kenny O’Donnell, special assistant to the president. O’Donnell’s elevated role in the film drew some criticism from historians, although some defended the creative decision. Though not a box office smash, the film was generally well received. (Ben Glass / New Line Cinema)
‘Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’ | 2000
Tim Matheson played JFK in this TV movie about his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, portrayed by Joanne Whalley. The CBS film earned two Emmy nods, and Matheson continued in TV politics as fictional U.S. Vice President John Hoynes in “The West Wing.” (Peter Stranks / CBS)
‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ | 2002
Although Ossie Davis’ performance as a convalescent home patient who believes he is JFK dyed to look like an African American might not be a strict portrayal of President Kennedy, the humorous ambiguity of his character earned “Bubba Ho-Tep” a place in film history. The movie opened to tepid reviews but has since become a cult darling. Fun fact: Davis’ co-star Bruce Campbell, who plays a man who believes he is Elvis Presley, portrayed Kennedy in the 2001 documentary “Roots of the Cuban Missile Crisis.”  (Silver Sphere Corporation)
‘The Kennedys’ | 2011
This eight-episode miniseries from creators Stephen Kronish and Joel Surnow about the Kennedy family’s rise to wealth and the White House was embroiled in controversy after it was dropped by the cable network History. Surnow, an outspoken conservative who was the creator of Fox’s “24,” blamed political cowardice on History’s part, but History said the show wasn’t up to snuff. “The Kennedys,” with a cast including Greg Kinnear (above, left) as John F. Kennedy, Katie Holmes (right) as Jacqueline Kennedy and Barry Pepper as Bobby Kennedy, eventually found a home on ReelzChannel and went on to win four Primetime Emmys and receive nominations for six more. Read the review here(ReelzChannel / Associated Press)
‘The Butler’ | 2013
Forest Whitaker’s Cecil Gaines character in Lee Daniels’ biopic “The Butler” was inspired by the real-life career of Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House from 1952 to 1986. Kennedy, portrayed by James Marsden, is one of those presidents. The film explored the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and many more major events that affected Gaines, his family and America at large. Read the review here(Anne Marie Fox / The Weinstein Company)
‘Parkland’ | 2013
This drama explores the initial impact of President Kennedy’s assassination, zeroing in on the events at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital after he was shot. Brett Stimely portrays Kennedy (Stimely has played JFK four times, including in “Watchmen” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”), but the film focused primarily on other figures, including Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong), his brother Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale, above), Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) and more. The film received mixed reviews, with Times critic Betsy Sharkey calling it “a movie of frustrating stumbles — blunders that diminish what might have been a brilliant film.”

“What you never doubt are the intentions, to illuminate the ordinary, to find a way to make a historical event newly indelible,” Sharkey wrote. “‘Parkland’ succeeds as it fails. For whatever its flaws, it is unforgettable.” (Claire Folger / Exclusive Media Entertainment / Associated Press)
‘Killing Kennedy’ | 2013
“Parks and Recreation” actor Rob Lowe portrays the 35th U.S. president in National Geographic’s TV movie “Killing Kennedy,” based on the book by Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly. The movie, directed by Nelson McCormick (“Touch”), premieres in November, in time for the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.

“A lot of people will play JFK in the future,” 49-year-old Lowe said during the Television Critics Assn. press tour this summer. “He is one of the great American icons. You just try to figure what you can individually bring. For me, it was very much about capturing him as a man ... what he was like as a father, a brother, a son, as a husband.” (Kent Eanes / National Geographic)
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