“All presidents are lonely guys,” humorist Bruce Jay Friedman once wrote, “since they have to go off regularly and make decisions that affect the hearts and minds of all Americans for generations to come. They usually do that after lunch.” As it happens, a film scripted by Friedman—the 1980 Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor prison comedy Stir Crazy—was among the dozens of motion pictures screened in the White House by Jimmy Carter during his one term in the Oval Office from 1977 to 1981. Paleofuture writer Matt Novak has documented that Carter was a positively voracious cinephile, even more so than ex-movie actor Ronald Reagan. So Novak has compiled an exhaustive and exhausting list of all the movies the 39th President of the United States screened during his time in the White House. He created the list by “painstakingly going through the President’s daily journal” and denoting every mention of film screenings. The resulting article, arranged chronologically, actually includes links to this journal, so readers can click through to see what else President Carter was doing on those particular days. His March 26, 1977, viewing of The Bad News Bears, for instance, seems to have been the culmination of a day of family fun, which included bowling and swimming.
Novak does not hypothesize that Carter’s movie-watching diet had any great influence on the man’s presidency, let alone the course of world events. “After he watched Alien in June of 1979,” Nolan observes, “I doubt it had any effect on public policy.” That’s probably a good thing. But a list like this does provide fascinating insight into the private life of a very public man. The article points out, for instance, that Carter screened Star Wars at Camp David in February 1978 while he was meeting with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. And Carter must have enjoyed it, since he screened the sequel, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, only five days after it hit theaters. The list also demonstrates the considerable perks of being the Leader Of The Free World, such as screening a pre-release version of Apocalypse Now in May 1979 with Francis Ford Coppola himself in attendance. If nothing else, the list shows that the ex-Georgia governor had diverse tastes, ranging from Smokey And The Bandit to Gunfight At The OK Corral to, yes, The Cat From Outer Space.