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American Presidents and Oliver Stone

Kennedy, Nixon, and Bush between History and Cinema

Perhaps no current filmmaker has made more provocative films about American history than Oliver Stone. In this book, Carl Freedman gives a detailed and nuanced account of the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush as fictionalized in Stone’s biographical films JFK, Nixon, and W. Synthesizing film criticism with political and historical analysis, American Presidents and Oliver Stone transcends the limitations of formalism and empiricism, reflecting on both Stone’s achievements as a filmmaker and American politics of the past sixty years.

Offering detailed historical perspectives alongside careful aesthetic criticism, Freedman explores how Stone uses melodrama, tragedy, and farce to transform politics into national mythology. Wide-ranging, accessible, and highly original, American Presidents is sure to engage anyone interested in the intersection of American politics and cinema.

220 pages | 6 x 9

Film Studies

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"A novel methodological approach for film studies. The historical and political analysis in American Presidents and Oliver Stone provides significant depth to Freedman's close reading of Stone's films, particularly evident in the chapters on JFK and Nixon. This innovative methodology allows Freedman to expand the textual exploration beyond the multifaceted individual personas of Kennedy, Nixon, and Bush to reach his central argument illuminating the largescale devastation of the American military-industrial complex in reproducing the power and authority of the security state. . . . By probing the intersections of cinema, politics, and American studies, Freedman's American Presidents and Oliver Stone stresses the important role historical fiction as a genre contributes to the health of public culture."

Aidan Moir | Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

"Insightful. . . . This book is a worthwhile endeavor that should be of use to scholars of film and politics. It assesses both the strengths and weaknesses of Stone's films and also explains its assessment of U.S. history. Given that last part, it is useful to scholars interested in historiography and general views and interpretations of Kennedy, Nixon, and the younger Bush."

History: Reviews of New Books

"A thoughtful and compelling analysis. . . . Anyone writing about these three Oliver Stone films or presidential history on screen should engage with this book. . . . Recommended."


"It shines through in virtually every paragraph that Freedman knows his subject(s). . . . This book has the potential to become not only a great source on its subject, but a model of how to approach historical fiction in general."

Daniel Lindvall, Film International

"A powerful critical reflection on Stone's achievements as a filmmaker, and a deeply insightful reflection on American politics of the past sixty years. . . . Careful attention to detail, combined with its broad vision and explanatory scope, make it an impressive and indeed essential book."

Steven Shaviro, Wayne State University

Table of Contents



To Assassinate a Movie

JFK:  American Melbourne

Precursor-Texts:  Rashomon and Citizen Kane

JFK:  Conspiracy

JFK:  Father-Leader

JFK:  Son-Avenger


From Kennedy to Nixon

From Melodrama to Tragedy

From JFK to Nixon

Nixon:  Personal Tragedy

Nixon:  National Tragedy

Nixon:  American Tragedy



From Tragedy to Farce

W.:  The Man

W.:  The War


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