The United States presidential line of succession, while not the most exciting thing we learned in civics class in high school, is a fundamental part of the federal government that ensures that someone is always in charge. This has been used as a plot device time and time again in various movies and TV shows and is usually treated as a serious matter. There are times, however, like in XXX: State of the Union where Ice Cube’s character must thwart a plan by a nefarious and power-hungry government official to take out the president and everyone else in front of him to become the leader of the free world.

Oddly enough, this wacky plot from the second XXX movie (the one with no trace of Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage and his equally mind-boggling feats) isn’t even the craziest one out there. If you look deep enough, you’ll find movies in which computer programs try to dismantle the line of succession, cheesy sci-fi flicks where the first daughter somehow becomes president, and then some involving characters who take advantage of natural disasters to simply appoint themselves the Commander in Chief. Buckle up, we’re about to take a look at some of the most insane plots centering on the line of succession.

Spoiler warning: We're about to get into plot specifics for the movies mentioned in this list.

Ice Cube in XXX: State of the Union

XXX: State Of The Union (2005)

If you were in the camp that thought nothing could touch the shear ridiculousness of xXx, I hate to be the bearer of bad news because its 2005 followup XXX: State of the Union is absolutely bananas in the plot department. Basically, Secretary of Defense George Deckert (Willem Dafoe) hatches a plan to take out the President of the United States, the Vice President, and, and other government officials so that he can become Commander in Chief and prevent American tax dollars from going to foreign aid and instead being diverted to various military branches on the chopping block, an idea that is just as absurd.

Luckily for everyone not named General George Deckert, the plan in thwarted by Darius Stone (Ice Cube), Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) and company. As for Deckert — he dies in fantastic fashion but holds onto his honor in death after the hold scheme is covered up by the end of Lee Tamahori’s wild spy thriller.

Richard Jenkins in White House Down

White House Down (2013)

The first of two Roland Emmerich movies to make their way onto this list, White House Down tackles a similar plot by a high-ranking politician to take out the top of the pecking order so that he can help the military-industrial complex rake in a ton of cash and have some power of his own for a change. This time around it’s Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins) who helps a band of mercenaries (led by James Woods’ Martin Walker) attempt to take out President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) and successfully kill Vice President Alvin Hammond (Michael Murphy) in an attempt to take over the country.

Of course there’s United States Capitol police officer John Cale (Channing Tatum), who despite not having what it takes to serve on the President’s detail, takes out mercs like he’s in some training program. The movie is wild but doesn’t hold a candle to what comes next.

Oliver Platt and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 2012

2012 (2009)

The king of disaster movies gave the world one of the most asinine entries to the genre with the end-of-the-world family drama 2012 that is filled with so many unexplainable and extremely unrealistic feats of strength and luck from its main cast that you may have forgotten about the subplot centering on the presidential line of succession. When John Cusack isn’t defying physics and reality, we get to see glimpses of White House Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser, who is quite possibly the most detestable character in any disaster flick, as he grasps for power and appoints himself president after Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover) dies after staying in DC with the rest of the people facing certain doom.

Over the course of 2012, Carl Anheuser not only takes the presidency for himself, he attempts to hide the truth of the disaster from the public, and then when there’s a way to weather the storm in a fleet of arks, he acts as if only the uber-wealthy and other celebrities deserve a seat, leaving everyone stuck outside to die in the rising waters and destruction on land.

Natalie Portman in Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Tim Burton’s Marts Attacks!, the over-the-top and star-studded adaptation of the Topps trading cards of the same name, isn’t your average alien invasion movie, which is probably why it failed to reach a large audience upon its 1996 release. Throughout most of the movie, President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) is running the show, or at least trying like hell to get the martians to agree to peace between the two planets, but once he’s assassinated and his body is used to hold up the martian flag, he’s out of the picture. With the rest of United States government dead or held captive on flying saucers (which ultimately crash and burn), the first daughter, Taffy Dale (Natalie Portman) becomes the commander in chief because who else is going to do it.

Kevin Dune, Kevin Kline, and Frank Langella in Dave

Dave (1993)

Ivan Reitman’s 1993 political comedy Dave follows presidential impersonator Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) as he finds himself actually filling in for the president (also played by Kline) after the commander in chief suffers a stroke while cheating on his wife. What follows is Dave becoming wrapped up in a plot by White House Chief of Staff Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) to give the current vice president (Ben Kingsley) the boot and put himself in the number-two spot so that he do away with Dave and become the leader of the free world.

Admittedly, this sounds like a Tom Clancy novel than a late spring laugh fest that has since become one of, if not the best political comedies of all time. The plot is wild, Frank Langella is straight up evil, and Kevin Kline absolutely kills it (the plan and the movie).

Morgan Freeman in Olympus Has Fallen

The Fallen Franchise (2013 - 2019)

The Fallen franchise has seen two out of the three movies center on the presidential line of succession. In 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) finds himself becoming acting president after President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is presumed dead along with the vice president (who actually gets killed) during the attack on the White House by North Korean mercenaries.

Allan Trumbull eventually becomes the vice president though neither he nor the line of succession play much into London Has Fallen. In the third film Angel Has Fallen, both are back with a bang when Trumbull is the target of an assassination attempt that leaves him in a coma and his vice president (Tim Blake Nelson), who orchestrated the attack to start the second Cold War, in charge.

Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan in Eagle Eye

Eagle Eye (2008)

Much like in XXX: State of the Union, there is a plot in D.J. Caruso’s Eagle Eye to wipe out the executive branch of the government and place the secretary of defense in control, but instead of being thought of by a power-hungry general, this plan is planned by a computer program. Yes, Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan have to work together and find a way to take out a rogue computer program (voiced by Julianne Moore) before it is able to blow up the United States Capitol during the State of the Union address. Yes, this is a real movie.

The cabinet discussing plans in Air Force One

Air Force One (1997)

When Wolfgang Petersen’s Air Force One is showing Harrison Ford giving his best John McClane impression as President James Marshall, it focuses in on the rest of executive branch as they try to figure out how to run things while the commander in chief is taking on terrorists 30,000 feet in the air. In Marshall’s absence, Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close) is forced deal with the issue at hand while also dealing with the secretary of defense who thinks he’s in charge and members of the president’s cabinet who think they should invoke the 25th Amendment and strip the president of his power since they are under the impression he’s being held captive.

Luckily, James Marshall beats the terrorists and is rescued, allowing Kathryn Bennett to avoid a messier situation with the whole business of stripping a president of his power.

These are the just eight of the countless movies that find a way to sneak in a plot or subplot about the presidential line of succession. In addition to these, there are shows like Battlestar Galactica, Designated Survivor, 24, and The West Wing that have touched on the subject. And while most of those plotlines make sense are grounded in reality, some of the movies, especially something like Eagle Eye with its AI hellbent on carrying out the will of the people, are anything but.

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