Top 15 Movies to Watch on the 4th of July
The 4th of July is a perhaps the single most popular National Holiday in the United States, and often for the simple reason that people get to see some great fireworks while maybe listening to some stirring patriotic music. However, while this is a great period of time to spend with the family why not extend the celebration just a little more by watching a few movies that can make you think a little more about what this holiday means both to yourself, your family, the nation, and the world in general?
While there are many fantastic movies that could have made this list, there frankly isn’t enough room to discuss all of them. Before you read, you need to understand that these movies were chosen with the same criteria in mind. The criteria used in determining which movies make this list is that the story needs to focus on the fight for truth, liberty, and justice often while done to the potential detriment or loss of life of the individual. So, without further ado, here is a list of the top 15 movies to watch on the 4th of July.
15: Flight of the Navigator
If you are looking for a rather light hearted movie to watch with your family, and help bring back the nostalgia of your childhood, then you can’t really go wrong with this movie. This classic family movie may seem, at first glance, to be a rather strange addition to this list since it is often seen as a kid’s science fiction fantasy that deals with time travel. However, when you look a little deeper, this Disney movie deals with some rather heavy topics such as family vs. national interests, truth vs. security, and what people are willing to sacrifice to join their loved ones. This movie that stars Joey Cramer as the lost David Freeman, and the interesting Paul Reubens as the starship Max is definitely a treat for the whole family.
14: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
This classic movie from Frank Capra which stars the fantastic James Stewart in the titular role, first came out in 1939 and is still considered one of the best political dramadies ever made. It wouldn’t be a stretch at all to say that this one movie is what set the bar for all others that came after, and is definitely a must see for anyone who has even the slightest bit of interest in how politics in America works. This is particularly true for those who think that the modern day partisanship fighting that goes on in Congress is anything new. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a great look at not only the corruption that often takes place in Washington D.C., but also how the ideals of the individual can help shape the course of a nation.
13: Good Night, and Good Luck
This fantastic drama takes place in the year 1954, when Senator Joseph McCarthy was at the height of his political power, and conducting the hearings for the House Committee on Un-American Activities. For those who don’t know, the stated purpose of this Committee was to search out, and expose, the purported “Communist Threat” that was targeting America from within. In many ways, this was a modern day witch hunt that targeted actors, producers, writers, and many others who did not agree with Senator McCarthy’s view of America. The hearings were eventually called into question and stopped, in large part due to the actions (and questions) that were raised by Edward R. Murrow (portrayed by David Strathairn). Simply a fantastic look at what responsible journalism is supposed to be like…provoking discourse, and dialogue between the different political parties in the United States.
Rocky is one of those movies that help illustrate the American Dream, where the underdog has just as much of a chance (provided he prepares properly) as the odds on favorite. Sylvester Stallone made his name in this movie portraying the rather small-time boxer Rocky who, through a combination of hard work and luck, manages to get a chance to fight for the heavy-weight champion of the world Apollo Creed, who was portrayed by Carl Weathers. This movie is not only stirring, but went on to inspire another six movies in the franchise, and get Sylvester Stallone two Oscar nominations (one for acting, and one for writing). If you haven’t seen it already, you have to remedy that right away and put it on your playlist as soon as possible.
11: Red Dawn
If there is one movie that shows just how much American’s are willing to fight for what they believe in, then you really can’t ignore the classic Red Dawn. This is the original 1984 version of the movie (not the remake that came out in 2012) which had such fantastic actors as Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen. Primarily the story of two high school aged brothers who are leading an insurgent fight against a combined army of Communist Cubans and Soviet Era Russians. While the movie does have plenty of spectacular battle and fight scenes, the interpersonal drama that is going on between the various characters is what helps make this particular version of the movie so fantastic.
10: Last of the Mohicans
While this movie is set even before the founding of the United States of America, it still addresses some topics that helped define what the United States is today. These topics include racism, personal liberty, family, and the willingness to set aside personal needs and safety for those of others in society. Granted, this is also a fantastic romantic movie where the music definitely helps set the tone you can’t go wrong with this one if you are wanting to have a bit more of a romantic themed Fourth of July celebration.
Is it really possible to discuss Fourth of July movies, and not mention at least one Western? Silverado is arguably one of the greatest western movies to have been made in the last 40 years, and still stands the test of time today. This movie has all the elements that make it not only a great western, but a fantastic Fourth of July candidate as well. Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner play a couple of brothers who are only trying to stop and see their sister before moving on to the gold fields of California, when they and their riding companions (played by Kevin Kline and Danny Glover) end up in a fight against an evil cattle baron and a crooked sheriff played by Dennehy. Celebrate this 4th of July by visiting the Wild West.
8: Apollo 13
The Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and 1970s not only helped change what American’s thought as possible, but also the world as a whole. Unfortunately, by the time that the Apollo 13 moon mission came around many started to question the relevance of the project, and were viewing them as a matter of routine. It is against this backdrop that Tom Hanks leads an all-star cast in showing us just what the astronauts of this era (and today) are willing to sacrifice to not only accomplish their mission, but also to return home safe and sound. Definitely a wonderful movie that will get your blood pumping.
It should go without saying that segregation is one of the worst eras for the United States, and definitely one of the most embarrassing. However, without looking back on those times and reflecting on where we came from as a country it is impossible to move forward and ensure that it never happens again. 42 is one of the best possible movies to help illustrate this for today’s audience. This no holds barred look at the initial desegregation of Major League Baseball, and the man, Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman from Captain America: Civil War) who pioneered this effort cannot be overrated in the least. This movie should be a must see for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of where we as American’s have come from, and where we still need to go.
6: Star Wars: A New Hope
A story about a small band of intergalactic rebels, who band together to try and restore peace and harmony to a galaxy being oppressed by an evil empire is definitely in league with celebrations of the Fourth of July. After all, from the modern American point of view, this exactly what the 4th of July is all about. Now, setting aside the whole politics issue, is there really a bad time to watch this ground breaking movie which has impacted every aspect of American culture for the past 39 years? With new Star Wars movies being planned for at least the next 10 years, the answer is a resounding no.
5: Saving Private Ryan
World War 2 is still as fascinating to people, and to Hollywood, today as it was back when the war was going on. Saving Private Ryan is a movie that helps illustrate a fascinating aspect of American Military culture that many people do not really know about. Ever since the American Civil War, there has been a policy in place that there will always be one male left in a family to help carry on the name. When a family loses three, out of four, sons to the War, the War Department issues orders that the last surviving member of the family be removed from combat and sent back home. This story tracks that band of soldiers who is conducting the search, and many of the moral questions that they face, and whether the mission is worth it. The final question, “Am I a good man, who was worth the sacrifice,” is a haunting one that ultimately only the watchers can answer for themselves.
4: Independence Day
Can you really have a list about movies to watch on the Fourth of July without mentioning the one that actually takes place on that day? Independence Day is perhaps one of the most well-known alien invasion movies of the last twenty years, and is simply a fun and fantastic film that has become something of a classic to many people. An example of this can be seen in how there are quite a few people who have made it a tradition to play this movie on, or near, the Fourth as a way of celebrating. With the recent release of a sequel, and a possible third entry into the growing franchise, this is one movie that is going to be sticking around for a long time.
3: The Patriot
The Patriot, while controversial to quite a few people, is nevertheless a fun and dramatic look at one side of the American Revolution. Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) directed Mel Gibson (Benjamin Martin), Heath Ledger (Gabriel Martin), and Jason Isaacs (Col. William Tavington) in arguably some of their best roles to date. You simply cannot watch this movie without feeling the pain that Benjamin Martin goes through as he loses members of his family, the hope that Gabriel has for the future, and the elegantly, and casual, evil that Col. Tavington possesses. If you are able to remember that this particular movie is exactly that, a movie, and not a true to life representation of what happened during the American Revolution, then you will undoubtedly enjoy the show.
2: Captain America: The First Avenger
In any list discussing the Fourth of July, the celebration of the United States of America’s birthday, you have to mention Captain America: The First Avenger. The screen adaptation of Marvel’s iconic Captain America is not only a fantastic war movie, but helps those who are (for whatever reason) not familiar with this character learn a bit more about him. Captain America is supposed to symbolize what is best about this country, and what we hope to become. How we, in the words of Steve Rogers “…just don’t like bullies,” and are willing to do what is right no matter the cost to ourselves, is an ideal that many in the United States at least say that they strive for. Simply a marvelous (pun intended) movie that most everyone will enjoy.
1: Yankee Doodle Dandy
Chances are, if you haven’t heard the name of George M. Cohan, you have definitely heard his work. This particular man did not go off to fight in any war, or make a particularly famous stand for civil rights, or anything along those lines. Rather, George M. Cohan instead gave the gift of music to generations of Americans for over 100 years. James Cagney portrays the famous entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, and producer, in this biographical musical that depicts the life and times of this amazing man. Among the over 300 songs that he published, Cohan wrote “Over There” (which became an anthem for American soldiers during World War 1), “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “Give my Regards to Broadway.” Due to what he did for morale in World War 1, George M. Cohan also received a Congressional Gold Medal, one of the two highest awards that a civilian can achieve in the United States. All of this, based on his love for the United States which comes through in every aspect of this fantastic musical.
Well, these are the top 15 movies to watch on the 4th of July. How close did we come to your list? Did we miss something that should have been listed? Do you disagree with something that we have on this list? Tell us your point of view in the comments below, and who knows it may just be added into next year’s list.