“The best perk of the White House is not Air Force One or Camp David or anything else, it’s the wonderful movie theater I get here,” President Bill Clinton told Roger Ebert in 1999.

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According to newly released documents obtained by Gizmodo through a Freedom of Information Act request, President Clinton did indeed love watching movies at the White House. He blew through 171 films while he was in office, not including duplicates (Clinton watched The Patriot, Braveheart, and Music of the Heart twice).

But there are some curious gaps in the record.

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Based on the heavily-redacted documents provided by the Clinton Presidential Library and the National Archives, I’ve compiled a list of all the movies Clinton watched from 1993 until 2001. The most curious part may be that, according to the documents, the president watched just three movies in 1996, and only seven in 1997. This seems... unlikely.

One of the first questions people have about Clinton’s movie-viewing habits is whether he ever watched a movie with Monica Lewinsky. The short answer is that we don’t know. Most attendee names are redacted, but given that Lewinsky’s nine sexual encounters with President Clinton spanned from November of 1995 to March of 1997 (a period of time for which there are very few movies listed) there will no doubt be further speculation.

A few days after the Lewinsky scandal broke in the mainstream press on January 21, 1998, the Clintons hosted a screening of the Robert Duvall movie The Apostle. Attendees were said to be keeping a close eye on Bill and Hillary’s interactions.

According to the list, Clinton watched new movies almost exclusively. As someone who has become obsessed with the viewing habits of US presidents, I can say that this is a big departure from the Nixon, Carter, and Reagan administrations—presidents who watched new releases, but also plenty of classics.

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And despite Clinton’s claims to have seen the movie High Noon roughly 20 to 30 times, the classic Western doesn’t appear once in the list provided by the Clinton Library. Clinton has also repeatedly claimed that another of his favorite movies is Casablanca. Again, that movie doesn’t show up in the documents provided to Gizmodo.

What does show up? Mostly mainstream movies of the 1990s, like Forrest Gump, Enemy of the State, Jerry Maguire, Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot, Apollo 13, You’ve Got Mail, Philadelphia, and Mrs. Doubtfire. There are a few interesting films that might be considered cult classics, such as The Big Lebowski and Fight Club. For what it’s worth, Clinton told Roger Ebert that Fight Club was good but a bit too nihilistic for his tastes. Clinton also watched Star Wars: Episode I, though I have yet to confirm what he thought of Jar-Jar.

There are a few possible explanations to account for the absence of classic films. Clinton may have exaggerated his taste for older movies in interviews. But it might also have to do with the evolving role of the White House theater. Since 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson screened the first film at the White House, movies have been a way to connect with foreign leaders, filmmakers, and members of the press. But schmoozing over a movie seems to have intensified in the 1990s.

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Journalist Maureen Dowd, for example, watched Field of Dreams at the White House with the first President Bush. And Jimmy Carter watched the first Star Wars movie in a secret meeting with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in the lead up to the Camp David Peace Accords. Reagan even hosted director Stephen Spielberg, who brought a print of E.T. for a special screening at the White House that included Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Neil Armstrong. But Clinton’s choice of new movies probably speaks to his use of the theater for entertaining outside visitors more than a reflection of his personal taste.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Clinton often showed up as himself in the movies he watched. Films like The Siege and Crimson Tide, both on the list, utilize clips of the real Clinton. The president was reportedly angry about one scene in the 1997 alien drama Contact, but that movie isn’t on the list—yet more evidence that the documents we were given may be incomplete. Another movie missing from 1997 that Clinton told Ebert he adored? L.A. Confidential.

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Sure, part of the fun of examining Presidential movie-watching habits is simple voyeurism. But if we accept that media influences the way we see the world, then there are also very real public and foreign policy implications to these lists.

The 1998 movie The Siege is fascinating to watch with the benefit of hindsight. The movie depicts cells of Middle Eastern terrorists setting off bombs in New York. The CIA is implicated in training some of the terrorists and the FBI is frustrated with the lack of communication between the agencies. There’s also fierce debate when martial law is declared and all New Yorkers of Middle Eastern descent are rounded up in camps. The film shows real clips of Clinton talking about a real terrorist attack that predates 1998, but he may as well have been talking about the attacks that would occur just three years later on September 11, 2001.

Practically all modern presidents watched dramatizations of war, government conspiracies, and the political process more generally. President Nixon watched The Chairman, On the Beach, and Executive Action, a 1973 movie about a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. The first movie President Carter watched in office was All the President’s Men, and he watched films like The President’s Lady about Andrew Jackson. And when President Reagan wasn’t watching his own movies (yes, he watched Bedtime for Bonzo while in office) he found time for feel-good Cold War comedies like Robin Williams’ Moscow on the Hudson.

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But Clinton seemed to watch more movies featuring presidents (both fictional and real) than your average US leader—with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson, whose favorite movie was a propaganda film of himself that he would watch on repeat. From Dave, a movie about an imposter president, to Independence Day, a movie about an alien species defeated single-handedly by an inspiring presidential speech, Clinton watched them all. He even watched Deep Impact, a movie about an Earth-cleansing asteroid that makes President Morgan Freeman sad.

Clinton’s movie tally pales in comparison to Jimmy Carter’s total of well over 400 movies. And Carter only served for four years, as opposed to Clinton’s eight. But I can’t stress enough that this list is probably incomplete, even if it’s the most comprehensive account we have to date.

This list will be updated as new information becomes available.

1993

Lorenzo’s Oil - January 27, 1993

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Leap of Faith - February 5, 1993

Falling Down - February 12, 1993

The Bodyguard - February 14, 1993

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Howard’s End - February 20, 1993

Groundhog Day - February 27, 1993

Benny and Joon - March 4, 1993

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Mad Dog and Glory - March 13, 1993

Married To It - March 20, 1993

Made in America - April 15, 1993

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Born Yesterday (1993) - April 16, 1993

Dave - April 23, 1993

Point of No Return - May 1, 1993

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Lost in Yonkers - May 14, 1993

Undercover Blues - May 21, 1993

Sleepless in Seattle - June 11, 1993

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The Man Without a Face - September 3, 1993

Age of Innocence - September 11, 1993

Searching For Bobby Fischer - September 17, 1993

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The Joy Luck Club - October 1, 1993

A Bronx Tale - October 10, 1993

Rudy - October 15, 1993

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Striking Distance - October 22, 1993

Demolition Man - October 29, 1993

Philadelphia - November 13, 1993

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The Three Musketeers (1993) - November 24, 1993

Cool Runnings - November 25, 1993

The Piano - November 26, 1993

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The Pelican Brief - December 10, 1993

A Perfect World - December 26, 1993

1994

Tombstone - January 18, 1994

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Shadowlands - January 20, 1994

Mrs. Doubtfire - January 21, 1994

The Air Up There - January 27, 1994

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Grumpy Old Men - January 28, 1994

Six Degrees of Separation - February 11, 1994

Romeo is Bleeding - February 21, 1994

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Guarding Tess - March 5, 1994

Abraham - March 11, 1994

Naked Gun 33 ⅓ - March 12, 1994

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The Hudsucker Proxy - March 18, 1994

Four Weddings and a Funeral - April 15, 1994

Clifford - April 29, 1994

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Little Women - December 25, 1994

Forrest Gump - December 26, 1994

1995

Nobody’s Fool - January 5, 1995

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Legends of the Fall - January 13, 1995

Higher Learning - February 4, 1995

Boys on the Side - February 17, 1995

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Miami Rhapsody - February 18, 1995

A Man of No Importance - February 19, 1995

The Quick and the Dead - February 20, 1995

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Rob Roy - April 15, 1995

The Madness of King George - April 21, 1995

Jefferson in Paris - April 22, 1995

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French Kiss - May 13, 1995

Braveheart - May 26, 1995

Kiss of Death - May 27, 1995

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Braveheart - May 28, 1995

The Bridges of Madison County - May 28, 1995

Crimson Tide - June 2, 1995

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Apollo 13 - June 8, 1995

1996

The Birdcage - April 3, 1996

Chicano! - May 2, 1996

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Independence Day - June 22, 1996

1997

Jerry Maguire - January 10, 1997

One Fine Day - January 15, 1997

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Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown - August 2, 1997

Shall We Dance - August 3, 1997

Cop Land - August 15, 1997

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G.I. Jane - September 12, 1997

The Peacemaker - October 3, 1997

1998

Kundun - January 10, 1998

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Good Will Hunting - January 11, 1998

The Apostle - January 24, 1998

Titanic - January 23, 1998

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Fallen - January 30, 1998

Hard Rain - January 31, 1998

Temptress Moon - February 7, 1998 (mislabeled as Tempest Moon?)

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Zero Effect - February 15, 1998

HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon (parts 1-2 of 12) - March 5, 1998

The Boxer - March 14, 1998

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Twilight (1998)- April 4, 1998

The Big Lebowski - April 10, 1998

Dangerous Beauty - April 24, 1998

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Bulworth - May 30, 1998

Deep Impact - June 1, 1998

The Truman Show - June 6, 1998

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About Sarah - June 20, 1998

Out of Sight - July 4, 1998

Smoke Screen - July 8, 1998

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Armageddon - July 10, 1998

A Perfect Murder - July 13, 1998

Saving Private Ryan - July 14, 1998

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The Mask of Zorro - July 22, 1998

Snake Eyes - August 8, 1998

The Avengers (1998) - September 6, 1998

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Wrongfully Accused - October 4, 1998

Rush Hour - October 23, 1998

Holy Man - October 30, 1998

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Beloved - November 3, 1998

A Bug’s Life - November 8, 1998

Soldier - November 16, 1998

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The Siege - November 17, 1998

Enemy of the State - December 12, 1998

Waking Ned Devine and A Civil Action- December 25, 1998

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Life is Beautiful and The Prince of Egypt - December 26, 1998

1999

You’ve Got Mail - January 2, 1999

Affliction - January 23, 1999

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Forever Fever (aka That’s the Way I Like It) - February 13, 1999

Little Voice - February 16, 1999

Message in a Bottle - February 20, 1999a

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HBO’s Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports - March 4, 1999

October Sky - March 5, 1999

Analyze This - March 6, 1999

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The Other Sister - March 14, 1999

8MM - March 26, 1999

True Crime - April 3, 1999

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The Winslow Boy - May 2, 1999

Entrapment - May 12, 1999

The Castle - May 17, 1999

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Cookie’s Fortune - May 21, 1999

The Harmonists - May 23, 1999

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace - June 6, 1999

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Shadrach - June 10, 1999

The Mummy - June 26, 1999

The 13th Floor - June 27, 1999

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An Ideal Husband - July 2, 1999

Limbo - July 3, 1999

The General’s Daughter - July 12, 1999

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Wild Wild West - July 17, 1999

Lake Placid - August 5, 1999

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) - August 13, 1999

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Fifty Violins (aka Music of the Heart) - August 15, 1999

Mystery Men - September 4, 1999

Runaway Bride - September 5, 1999

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American Beauty - October 10, 1999

My Life So Far - October 11, 1999

Three Kings - October 14, 1999

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Double Jeopardy - October 16, 1999

Music of the Heart - October 23, 1999

Fight Club - November 6, 1999

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The Bachelor - November 7, 1999

Crazy in Alabama - November 12, 1999 (mislisted as “Crazy in Arizona”?)

Liberty Heights - November 24, 1999

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The World is Not Enough - November 25, 1999

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc - November 26, 1999

End of Days - November 27, 1999

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The Hurricane - December 3, 1999

Galaxy Quest - December 25, 1999

The Talented Mr. Ripley - December 30, 1999

2000

Any Given Sunday - January 14, 2000

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Eye of the Beholder - February 12, 2000

The Height of the Sky - February 17, 2000

Gun Shy - February 21, 2000

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Hanging Up - February 25, 2000

PBS’ The American President (president unspecified)- April 7, 2000

Erin Brockovich - April 21, 2000

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Frequency - May 13, 2000

I Dreamed of Africa - May 27, 2000

Small Time Crooks - June 9, 2000

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Shanghai Noon - June 17, 2000

The Patriot - June 18, 2000

The Patriot - July 7, 2000

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Shaft (2000) - July 8, 2000

High Fidelity - August 21, 2000

Space Cowboys - September 3, 2000

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Coyote Ugly - September 10, 2000

Men of Honor - September 22, 2000

Almost Famous - October 10, 2000

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Pay it Forward - October 27, 2000

2001

Chocolat - January 6, 2001

Top image by Jim Cooke, photo via AP.

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Correction: This post originally missed the fact that Clinton watched Braveheart twice. Gizmodo regrets the error and apologizes profusely to the star of the 2011 classic, The Beaver.


Contact the author at novak@gizmodo.com.