Movies Inspired by JFK’s Life and Death


The sheer number of movies about JFK attest to Hollywood's fascination with his life and death -- a fascination that began even before he became president in 1961.

Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy was a model for the handsome young Irish-American war hero/politician who defeats veteran mayor Spencer Tracy in John Ford's "The Last Hurrah," released in 1958.

Once elected president, the image-savvy Kennedy helped forge his own myth -- his administration worked with Hollywood in approving and developing "PT- 109" (1963), based on his Navy exploits in the Pacific. Cliff Robertson stars, although Kennedy reportedly wanted a young Warren Beatty. Beatty would go on to play a reporter who investigates the assassination of a Kennedy-like figure in "The Parallax View," in 1974.

Although JFK's assassination would spawn a mini-industry of films and books through the years, one of the first and weirdest was Andy Warhol's "Since" (1966), an hour-long experimental color film with a banana for a gun and a couch for a limousine.

Cinematic inquiries into conspiracy theories began in earnest in 1973 with "Executive Action," starring Burt Lancaster and loosely based on Mark Lane's book Rush to Judgment. The movie posits that right-wing groups and industrialists with military interests were behind the assassination.

In "Winter Kills" (1979), Jeff Bridges plays the brother of an assassinated president who learns of a second gunman. The movie doesn't use the Kennedy name, but was obviously inspired by the events of 1963, and was filmed partly in Philadelphia -- City Hall and its architecture figure prominently.

In "Flashpoint" (1984), Kris Kristofferson and Treat Williams play a pair of border-patrol officers who stumble onto evidence showing that a second gunman was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Seven years later, Oliver Stone arrived with his conspiracy spectacular "JFK," loosely drawing from New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's failed attempt to prosecute Clay Shaw for involvement in a plot to kill JFK. The 1991 movie ultimately implies that JFK was killed on orders of Lyndon Johnson, but Stone later said the movie is a work of conjecture. He merely wanted to create a "myth" to counter the Warren Commission's own. Garrison was played by Kevin Costner, who'd go on to play an aide to Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis drama "Thirteen Days" (2000).

Just a year after "JFK" came the release of "Ruby" (Danny Aiello in the title role). This movie spun another conspiracy, implying that mob interests were instrumental in plotting to kill the president.

The assassination is a tangent in "Love Field," also released in 1992. Michelle Pfeiffer (Oscar nominated) plays a Jackie Kennedy worshipper for whom the events in Dallas are the start of a tumultuous road trip.

In 1993's "In the Line of Fire," Clint Eastwood plays the last still-active member of JFK's Dallas Secret Service detail, trying to stop another presidential assassin.

Just last month, "Parkland" viewed the assassination through events at Dallas' Parkland Hospital, where the staff treats the fatally wounded president, then Lee Harvey Oswald, shot two days later by Jack Ruby.

There have been many TV movies and miniseries about JFK, the best probably being 1974's "The Missiles of October," featuring William Devane as President Kennedy and Martin Sheen as Robert F. Kennedy. Sheen would go on to play JFK in the 1983 miniseries "The Kennedys."

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