The United States is good at a lot of things — road trips, pulling off cowboy boots, idyllic suburban childhoods with dark undertones, stuffing little pizzas into bigger pizzas — but perhaps the thing we’re best at is movies. This is, after all, the birthplace of Hollywood and Star Wars and Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Paul Newman’s perfect face and countless other cinematic achievements. So what better way to spend your Fourth of July than kicking back with a bucket of popcorn and a Coca-Cola with a patriotic movie to get you in the spirit?
Here are 10 movies that will make you proud of the red, white and blue! Or just make you really scared of beaches.
- Independence Day
Aliens invade, computer nerd Jeff Goldblum notices, U.S. Marines pilot Will Smith fights aliens, and it all culminates on July 4 in a triumphant emancipation of the human race, spearheaded by the United States, from extraterrestrial terror. Nobody ever called this a particularly smart movie, but it sure is a lot of fun! And what’s summer for if not overeating and watching movies with lots of explosions and satisfying resolutions.
- The Right Stuff
Two words: space cowboys. This movie is about the tough, weathered, hyper-masculine test pilots who became America’s first astronauts, about their incredible triumph and also their sacrifices.
Incidentally, this film also features Jeff Goldblum, this time as a NASA recruiter.
- Born on the Fourth of July
If blind, happy patriotism is not your thing, how about a long, complex movie about disillusionment? Born on the Fourth of July follows the story of Ron Kovic, a young and passionately patriotic suburban army recruit turned Vietnam veteran wheelchair-bound antiwar activist. And in case you were wondering, he really was born on the 4th of July.
- National Treasure
Totally ridiculous? Yes. A great time? Also yes. An intense, husky-voiced, treasure-hunting Nicolas Cage, along with his goofy tech best friend and a beautiful archivist, unfurls a mystery surrounding a map on the back of the Declaration and the secrets of our Founding Fathers.
- Yankee Doodle Dandy
James Cagney, better known for his hard-bitten gangster roles, plays Broadway legend George M. Cohan in a lively, patriotic song-and-dance picture. It is literally a piece of WWII propaganda, but that doesn’t make it any less charming or hugely entertaining.
- An American Tail
It’s the classic American story: A young immigrant mouse makes a perilous journey from oppressive Russia to the promise of America, full of hope, gumption and dreams of a land without cats. Classic.
The animated adventures of Fievel Mousekewitz is pure childhood nostalgia but also totally excellent patriotic cinema.
It’s nice, after the fireworks, to take a moment to remember the history of Fourth of July and how the United States as we know it got to be here in the first place. It’s even nicer if that means watching a movie musical featuring all the Founding Fathers singing and dancing about how they got the Declaration of Independence signed.
If you were planning a beach bonfire for your Fourth of July weekend, you might not want to revisit this 1974 classic about a holiday shark attack at Amity Island. But you should anyway. The post-viewing fear of every and any pool of water is worth the thrill of that infamous music and the white-knuckled seat-edge gripping that goes along with it. Keep an eye out for Richard Dreyfuss’ surprisingly 2015-hip bucket hat/denim jacket combo.
- All the President’s Men
A Daily Cal specialty: journalists! Nixon wasn’t exactly America’s finest hour, but his whistleblowers, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, risked their lives to ensure free press and make the truth public, a fine hour of heroic patriotism. And it makes for damn good entertainment.
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Nobody does America like Capra. Jimmy Stewart plays an idealistic young senator who takes on the powerful forces of the corrupt state political machine. It’s a movie about how one man can make a difference and about the ultimate triumph of good. Capra’s heartfelt optimism in the face of an often-harsh world is pure and completely contagious, as is Stewart’s charming stammer.
Image source: Jeffrey via Creative Commons