Can You Guess If These Presidents Are Real or Made Up?



By: Torrance Grey

7 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons by Chris Savas / bortonia / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

About This Quiz

America is considered a young nation by the standards of world history ... but hey, we're on our 45th president, and frankly, that's a lot of names and bios to remember. You could work on your presidential recall by working your way through dry educational profiles ... but we've got a method that will probably be a lot more fun. We've created a quiz with a mix of real-life American presidents, presidents from television and movies, and a few that are simply a mashup of presidential first and last names. President Millard Cleveland, for example. 

To keep things fresh and fun, your choices won't simply be "Real!" or "Fictional!" Instead, we'll give you four answer options for each, so that when you know that a president is fictitious, you'll have to decide whether he or she is from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or from a recent TV show like "Madame Secretary." Sometimes, we find presidents from the movies or television to be a lot more colorful than their real-life counterparts, like the president whose plane is hijacked by terrorists in "Air Force One," and who busts out military skills from a stint in Vietnam to fight them off. He's like a mix of Gerald Ford and John McClane! (We can't tell you his name, as it'd be a spoiler). 

Are you ready? Let's do this!

What did Chester Z. Arthur preside over?

Chester Z. Arthur was a former president of the United States on the show "Futurama," meaning that he's a "future" president from our vantage in 2019. On the show, he's was just an animated head in a museum of past presidents. His name, of course, is a play on real president Chester A. Arthur.


Was Thurgood Marshall a U.S. president?

Thurgood Marshall was the first African American justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Prior to that, he tried several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education, the case which ended school segregation in the United States.


Which voters elected Josiah "Jed" Bartlet?

Josiah "Jed" Bartlet was played by actor Martin Sheen on the television drama "The West Wing," in which he and his staff debated the current issues of the day, foreign and domestic. The show ran from 1999 - 2006.


Which of these was John F. Kennedy?

JFK was of course, a real person and a real president, cut down in his prime by Lee Harvey Oswald. He was also a cultural icon who shows up in speculative fiction and alternate universes across various media. The TV show mentioned above is "Sliders," and the novel is Gregory Benford's "Timescape," but the list goes on ...


How could Grover Cleveland best be described?

Born Stephen Grover Cleveland in 1837, he actively chose to go by "Grover" as an adult. Difficult to fathom, until you realize that he won the election with the support of a faction known as the "Mugwumps". Then it makes a little more sense.


Which of these phrases describes President Charles Lindbergh?

Author Philip Roth makes the historical figure Charles Lindbergh the center of his alternate-history novel "The Plot Against America." In real life, Lindbergh was the first pilot to cross the Atlantic, the father of a kidnapped son, and a vocal opponent of America's entry into World War II. In the book, these factors converge as he runs against and defeats FDR, sending history on a very different path.


President Rutherford B. Hayes served as leader of which of these?

Rutherford Birchard Hayes was the 19th president of the United States, serving from 1877 to 1881. He pledged to serve only one term, and kept that promise. His wife, Lucy Ware Hayes was the first first lady with a college degree. Rutherford and Lucy hosted alcohol-free dinners at the White House, leading one cabinet member to joke that the "water flowed like wine."


Calvin McKinley rose to power in which of these Americas?

These are both presidential names, but there was no such president in fiction or real life. Calvin Coolidge and William McKinley were two different presidents of the United States.


Greg Stillson was president ...

Hey, it's Martin Sheen again! He plays candidate Greg Stillson in "The Dead Zone," based on the novel by Stephen King. Candidates have to shake a lot of hands, of course, but when he clasps palms with coma survivor and newly minted psychic Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) can see his future, and it's not good. For any of us.


President Dave Kovic made radical policy changes as which of these?

Dave Kovic is a fake fake president! His side hustle as an impersonator of President Bill Mitchell draws the attention of devious administration officials, who hire him to cover for one of Mitchell's romantic affairs. When said rendezvous leaves the Most Powerful Man in the World in a coma, Dave is off on a mad whirl of photo ops and policy. Top scene: when he convinces a cop that both he and the real first lady are both just impersonators.


John Tyler's claim to fame was which of these?

John Tyler became president after his predecessor, William Henry Harrison, died after only a month in office. Harrison and Tyler ran as members of the Whig party, but Tyler shortly changed his party to "unaffiliated." Possibly so people would take him more seriously.


President Matthew Ellis was likely to encounter which of these people?

President Ellis has his hands full governing a fictional America with heroes, villains, magic and tech the likes of which no real administration has to deal with. He's a character in the Marvel Universe; in "Iron Man 3," Tony Stark and James Rhodes race to thwart the Mandarin's plan to hijack Air Force One and kill President Ellis on live TV!


President Thomas J. Whitmore did which of the following?

In the 1996 movie "Independence Day," Bill Pullman plays President Thomas J. Whitmore, a former Gulf War pilot whose administration is taking the usual political hits until hostile spaceships begin methodically destroying Earth's major cities, including L.A., where his wife is killed in the attack. Soon, Whitmore finds himself in a fighter jet again, leading a ragtag group of pilots against the intergalactic threat.


How did President Gerald Ford end up in the Oval Office?

Gerald Ford was sworn in after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974. He was portrayed by Chevy Chase in the earliest days of "Saturday Night Live," making him the first in a long line of SNL "presidents."


In what section of the library will you find a book on President John Adams?

John Adams was truly one of the Founding Fathers. He was vice president to George Washington, was frequently advised by his wife Abigail, lived to see his son John Quincy Adams become president, and died on the 4th of July, 1826, within hours of his friend and rival, Thomas Jefferson.


Dwight D. Eisenhower could put what on his resume?

Dwight Eisenhower became president in 1953 after a very successful military career. He established NASA in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik and was a staunch opponent of Communism, but warned about the dangers of excessive military spending, particularly through private military contractors.


President Andrew Shepherd ran into which of these difficulties?

Martin Sheen, you again? OK, in this one he just plays the chief of staff to Michael Douglas' President Shepherd, which set him up nicely for his future West Wing role. Annette Bening plays Sydney Wade, the lobbyist who steals the president's heart, while Michael J. Fox steals scenes as a high energy staffer.


President Frank Underwood's encyclopedia entry would describe him how?

Kevin Spacey played the ruthless and manipulative Frank Underwood for 5 seasons on "House of Cards." He was fired in 2017 after sexual allegations, and rather than recast the role, the show wrote the final season around him.


President David Palmer's approval numbers could be found where?

President David Palmer is played by Dennis Haysbert in the TV thriller "24". Kiefer Sutherland, who plays agent Jack Bauer, later got his own turn in the Oval Office in "Designated Survivor."


Which of these describes President Hubert Humphrey?

Hubert Humphrey was vice president of the United States from 1965 -1969, and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1968 after LBJ decided not to run for another term. Humphrey was defeated by Richard Nixon. At least there's a terminal named for him at the Minneapolis airport!


Why did President Herbert Hoover have "Hoovervilles" named after him?

Herbert Hoover was the president of the U.S. before Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected. FDR then unveiled his sweeping New Deal reforms, which aimed to help those who were out of work and displaced by the Depression.


How come you don't hear much about President William Henry Harrison?

William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia only a month into his term. The country had never had a president die before, and was unsure if John Tyler should take on the full office or just the duties thereof. Tyler chose to be sworn in as president, setting the precedent for other VPs after him.


President Thomas Kirkman was shocked to find himself being sworn in for what reason?

Thomas Kirkman is played by Kiefer Sutherland in the TV show "Designated Survivor." The title is a reference to the practice of leaving one member of the cabinet behind while the rest of the White House, Congress and Supreme Court are attending the State of the Union.


How did President Matthew Santos make history?

Matthew "Matt" Santos was played by Jimmy Smits on the TV show "The West Wing." He is a congressman from Texas running on the Democratic ticket. His opponent, California Republican Arnold Vinick, is played by Alan Alda, and the two actors filmed their television "debate" live and in real time.


What made Martin Van Buren stand out from presidents before him?

Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States. While he wasn't from an official colony of the Netherlands, Dutch was what his family spoke at home, making him the only president to speak English as a second language.


In which years did President Michelle Obama hold office?

Michelle Obama was "FLOTUS," or the first lady of the United States, from 2009 to 2016, while Barack Obama held the highest office in the land. Michelle Obama has been mentioned as a future candidate for president, but as she hasn't jumped into the 2020 field, that is looking less and less likely.


How did President James A. Garfield die?

Garfield was shot in a public train station. Despite Lincoln's assassination after the Civil War, presidents still moved freely in public, and were not generally guarded. Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was Garfield's Secretary of War and was traveling with him when he was shot.


Who voted President Andrew Jefferson into office?

We're mixing up the names of Thomas Jefferson, the third president, and Andrew Jackson, the seventh. Jackson is sometimes portrayed as a folk hero, a defender of the common man--but his very active participation in the wars of Indian extermination cast a shadow on his history.


When people say President James Marshall had to fight for his life, what do they mean?

President James Marshall is none other than Harrison Ford in "Air Force One." He hides in the depths of the plane, emerging to take on the terrorists with military skills he gained in the Vietnam War.


Whom did James Monroe have to thank for his presidency?

James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States. Like three of the four men before him, he was from the state of Virginia.


Who exposed President Allen Richmond's violent secret?

In "Absolute Power," Gene Hackman plays Richmond, who is meeting with his mistress in the house Clint Eastwood's burglar plans to rob. The tryst goes awry, and Eastwood's character has to find a way to get the truth out and protect those he loves without revealing why he was there.


Which phrase best identifies Millard Fillmore?

Millard Fillmore was lucky number 13! He was an opponent of slavery, though not as vigorously opposed as some other would-be presidents of the time. A conservative comic strip, "Mallard Fillmore," is named for him.


Over which country did Richard Clinton preside?

Here, we've combined the names of two 20th-century presidents, Richard Nixon and William J. "Bill" Clinton. If you were confused, it might have been because President Clinton's had brother named "Roger" -- a scapegrace from their native Arkansas.


What challenge did VP Mackenzie Allen face upon taking office as president?

"Commander in Chief" was a 2005 - 2006 show on ABC which followed President Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis) as she navigated her role as the first female president of the United States.


In what years was Donald Trump Jr. president?

Did we get you with this trick question? Donald J. Trump is the 45th president of the United States, facing a Democratic field large enough to double as the cast of "Les Miserables." Donald Trump Jr is his son, and it's not impossible that he might seek office some day.


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