Skip to main content

Elvis & Nixon film review — a summit in the White House

Elvis and Nixon Michael Shannon Kevin Spacey
(Image credit: STEVE DIETL)

On December 21, 1970, two of America's greatest recording artists met for the first time... A summit meeting in the White House, for the President and the King of rock 'n' roll.

Elvis & Nixon Michael Shannon Kevin Spacey

Actors Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey as Elvis & Nixon

The stranger-than-fiction meeting in December 1970 of pop icon Elvis Presley (played by Michael Shannon) and US President Richard Nixon (played by Kevin Spacey) is the basis of the engagingly offbeat comedy-drama Elvis & Nixon.

Set over two days, the movie dawdles in its early stages as it establishes why gun-loving, pill-popping patriot Elvis is so keen to meet Nixon — he’s put together a cockamamie scheme of becoming an anti-subversive undercover rock ‘n’ roller and wants a badge that will designate him an FBI agent at large.

But when we get to the meeting itself, the result is comedy gold — with Michael Shannon’s Elvis busting karate moves in the Oval Office, gobbling the president’s M&Ms and upending protocol at every turn. For his part, Kevin Spacey’s Nixon finds unexpected affinity with his guest, bonding over their shared hardscrabble upbringings and their shared dislike of The Beatles.

Famously, according to Smithsonian Magazine, the photograph (opens in new tab) of the pair’s meeting is the most requested image from the US National Archives. It's not surprising that people want to check that this meeting actually happened, it does seem more like a far-fetched shaggy dog story...

starstrip3

Certificate 15. Runtime 82 mins. Director Liza Johnson

Elvis & Nixon is available to buy or rent from YouTube Movies, Google Play (opens in new tab) and Amazon Prime (opens in new tab) in the UK. In the US, the movie is available for free for Amazon Prime subscribers (opens in new tab).

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.