From warzones to end zones, casinos to high school gyms, these fictitious leaders rallied and inspired their troops to beat the odds. (Note: these are fictional leaders only. Characters based on real people -- think Norma Rae and William Wallace -- were disqualified.)
In the face of sinking approval ratings and partisan attacks, President Andrew Shepherd manages to rise above the political fray and stick to his guns on environmental protection, crime, and even his budding relationship with lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade.
“Lewis Rothschild: In the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.
President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”
Humble, battle-ready and cool under pressure, Aragorn is not only the rightful king of Gondor, but also delivered one of the best movie speeches of all time when he rallied his army at the Black Gate.
“Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
The steadfast piglet mustered the courage to break ranks from traditional, aggressive shepherding and led livestock with respect and poise.
“This is a tale about an unprejudiced heart, and how it changed our valley forever.”
The USS Enterprise captain is a classic American leader: brash and with a talent for one-liners, Kirk boldly went where… well, you know the rest.
Key leadership scene:
“Mr. Scott, an alien object of unbelievable destructive power is less than two days away from this planet. The only starship in interception range is the Enterprise. Ready or not, she launches in twelve hours.”
A school teacher-turned-Captain, Miller overcomes his own fears and traumas to lead his men on their quest to find Private James Ryan.
“I don’t know anything about Ryan. I don’t care. The man means nothing to me. It’s just a name. But if… You know if going to Rumelle and finding him so that he can go home. If that earns me the right to get back to my wife, then that’s my mission. You want to leave? You want to go off and fight the war? All right. All right. I won’t stop you. I’ll even put in the paperwork. I just know that every man I kill the farther away from home I feel.”
The adventurous young fairy fluttered her way into trouble, discovering the villainous deforestation that threatened to destroy her blissful FernGully community. Her bravery outshines and defeats the slimiest of monsters, inspiring her new human friend to actively protest the destruction of nature.
“Look for the hero inside yourself, Crysta. Look to the good and loving heart in you and all others.”
Ocean assembles a hodgepodge crew of talented but eccentric criminals to pull off the ultimate heist — simultaneously robbing the Bellagio, the Mirage, and the MGM grand.
“Before we start, nobody’s on the line here yet. What I’m about to propose to you is both highly lucrative and highly dangerous. If that doesn’t sound like your particular brand of vodka, help yourself to as much food as you like and safe journey, no hard feelings. Otherwise, come with me.”
The Hogwarts headmaster is as pure a distillation of moral leadership as fantasy has to offer, not to mention highly adept at crisis management.
“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”
The blonde beauty’s perfectly curled coif and (last season) Prada shoes initially confused her stiff Harvard Law classmates. But Woods’ bubbly naiveté thinly veils her genuine intelligence, which helps her gain their — and her client’s — trust and respect.
“On our very first day at Harvard, a very wise Professor quoted Aristotle: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my three years at Harvard I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law — and of life. It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”
Originally written as a man, Ripley straightforwardly deals with issues and never waits for a man to save the day. Her focus on saving her crewmates, herself, and humans at large drives her bravery.
Key leadership scene:
“This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”
Elsa of Arendelle
The Princess of Arendelle is a model in self-sacrifice: Fearful that her special powers would inflict harm on her citizens, she fled her land for a life of solitude, only to return and save her sister’s life. Her influence spans beyond her realm, as evidenced by her “Let It Go” anthem’s place in millions of children’s hearts.
“It’s time to see what I can do. To test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free. Let it go, let it go.”
Belligerent defense lawyer Bombay is sentenced to community service after a drinking-and-driving arrest. He helps the PeeWee hockey team he’s assigned to coach gain confidence and skills — and they push Bombay to face the demons of his youth and question his career choices.
“Gordon Bombay: I’ll have you know, Peter, that the Duck is one of the most noble, agile and intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom. Have you guys ever seen a flock of ducks flying in perfect formation? It’s beautiful. Pretty awesome the way they all stick together. Ducks never say die. Ever seen a duck fight? No way. Why? Because the other animals are afraid. They know that if they mess with one duck, they gotta deal with the whole flock. I’m proud to be a Duck, and I’d be proud to fly with any one of you. So how about it? Who’s a Duck?”
Mr. Miyagi redeems this otherwise formulaic 1980s underdog film by mentoring Daniel LaRusso in karate through a series of chores (“Wax on! Wax off!) that ultimately teaches the young man to become a karate champion. In the process, Mr. Miyagi also helps Daniel foil his tormentors and make friends.
Key leadership scene:
“Daniel-san, never put passion before principle. Even if win, you lose.”
Film: James Bond series
The first female head of the Secret Intelligence Service fearlessly pursues the world’s most complex, nightmarish criminals — all while maintaining a good rapport (most of the time) with her network of agents. When bureaucracy threatens to push her out, she fights back with a biting intensity only death can stop.
“M: I know I can’t do this job forever, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to leave the department in worse shape than I found it. Gareth Mallory: M, you’ve had a great run. You should leave with dignity. M: Oh, to hell with dignity. I’ll leave when the job’s done.”
President James Marshall
When hijackers take over the president’s plane, Marshall, a Medal of Honor winner, uses the skills and leadership he gleaned from the military to defeat them, dispatching one with a simple one liner that has become a pop-culture classic.
“Get off my plane.”
This Vince Lombardi-inspired head coach of the fictional Miami Sharks leads his team with a combination of old-school values and tough love. He also stands up to his owner, who has been undermining D’Amato and interfering in his coaching decisions.
“You’ve got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think ya going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. Your gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team, because he knows when it comes down to it your gonna do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen, and either, we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys, that’s all it is. Now, what are you gonna do?”
She’s strong and she’s loud, she’s gonna make you proud—until her cheerocracy falls apart. The shady dealings of Shipman’s predecessor leave the cheer captain scrambling to come up with an original routine before Nationals, all while she recruits new talent and manages her power-hungry teammates.
“Courtney, I’m the captain. I’m pulling rank, and you can fall in line or not. If we’re gonna be the best, we have to have the best.”
Sure, the widowed secretary drugs and kidnaps her boss. But she takes an office situation laden with sexism and harassment, stages a corporate coup, and creates a more productive, democratic workplace. We’d want her as our boss (but we’d never want to be her boss).
“I’ll tell you what I’m talking about; I’m no girl, I’m a woman. Do you hear me? I’m not your wife or your mother…or even your mistress. I am your employee and as such I expect to be treated equally with a little dignity and a little respect!”
The Sheriff led a ragtag group of toys through various adventures while learning to keep his ego in check when a potential rival (Buzz Lightyear) came on the scene.
“It’s okay. Everything’s under control.”
Powerful as he is wise as he is green, the Grand Jedi Master with creative sentence syntax a paragon of leadership is.
“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”