If you do an Internet Movie Database character search for “John F. Kennedy,” you’ll turn up such oddities as an episode from a 1986 Twilight Zone reboot and a short, presumably satirical movie called The Zapruder Film — Now on Blu-Ray!
But there have been many more earnest looks at the president, his family and his assassination. Most recently, Stephen King’s 11-22-63 was a Hulu series. The list below omits such worthy slices of life as PT 109 and Thirteen Days, focusing on biopics and movies associated with the assassination.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (1981): In her first big post-Charlie’s Angels role, Jaclyn Smith took on the title role in this TV movie, which told the story from the first lady’s point of view. James Franciscus played JFK. A 2000 TV movie, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, covered similar ground; British actress Joanne Whalley played Jackie and Tim Matheson played JFK in that one.
Kennedy (1983): More than a decade before he played a fictional president in The West Wing, Martin Sheen starred as President Kennedy in this three-part miniseries. There was something Kennedy-esque about Sheen: He played Robert Kennedy in the 1974 TV movie The Missiles of October, and he narrated Oliver Stone’s JFK.
JFK (1991): It’s questionable as history, but Oliver Stone’s epic conspiracy-theory piece is a dazzling piece of filmmaking and editing, incorporating multiple film stocks as well as 35mm and 16mm cameras. Cinematographer Robert Richardson and editors Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia deservedly won Oscars.
The Kennedys (2011): The nearly six-hour (not counting commercials) miniseries gets epic with Greg Kinnear taking on the JFK role, British actor Tom Wilkinson as Joseph Kennedy Sr. and Katie Holmes as Jackie — on the surface, at least, one of the best-cast actresses in the role.
Killing Kennedy (2013): Director Nelson McCormick described this National Geographic Channel adaptation of Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s book as the story of two trains on a collision course, and it does move at locomotive speed, covering four years in two hours (including commercials) as it follows the tracks that brought President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald’s fates together. As Kennedy, Rob Lowe gets the voice and mannerisms down, but looks too thin and disconcertingly like Kennedy and Rob Lowe.