John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s life – by turns glamorous, heroic, triumphant and tragic – has made him one of the most fascinating figures in modern history.
In the half century since his shocking assassination in Dallas historians, writers and filmmakers have tried to capture his persona and make sense of his untimely death.
Here are some films and TV movies worth watching as the anniversary approaches.
Oliver Stone’s conspiracy thriller is about the plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy makes a compelling, if at times implausible, case for a sinister collaboration. Kevin Costner, as New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison, gives the performance of his career, backed by an all-star cast. Only someone with a heart of stone won’t tear up when Costner thunders: “Don’t forget your dying king.” Available for online rental at Amazon Instant Video
Thirteen Days (2000)
A dramatization of President Kennedy's administration's struggle to contain the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. Kevin Costner is back in Kennedy land, this time playing presidential aide Kenny O’Donnell opposite Bruce Greenwood’s square-jawed JFK. Available for purchase via iTunes.
The Missiles of October (1974)
William Devane looked more like RFK than his older brother, but he still gave the definitive portrayal of President Kennedy in this knuckle-biting, 2-part TV special from the early 1970s. The DVD version is available for rent via Netflix, but the two parts are also currently streaming on Youtube at the link above.
This new film stars Marcia Gay Harden and a surprisingly mature Zac Efron as the ER team who treated the mortally-wounded JFK at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.
PT 109 (1963)
JFK handpicked the ruggedly handsome Cliff Robertson to play him in this biographical film portraying Kennedy’s experiences as a PT boat commander in World War II. (Reportedly, Mrs. Kennedy’s choice was Warren Beatty.) Available for online rental at vudu.com
Killing Kennedy (TV, 2013)
Based on the bestseller by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, this book traces a “collision course” between JFK and his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Check the National Geographic Channel for broadcast times.