These 10 must-have timepieces will let you celebrate America in style.
You may be intending to watch a movie or two during the 4th of July weekend, in between hot dog grillings and swimming pool visits, of course, because fireworks can’t begin until the sun sets. How do you pick a movie when you have so little time to spare on a national holiday? What movie should you see on July 4th? We’ve got you covered here at Collider, so you don’t have to worry. We’ve come up with a very impressive (and eclectic) collection of Independence Day-themed films. Whatever your taste, you’ll be able to find something to enjoy here, whether you’re looking for something light, patriotic, or more serious.
The following are the top 4th of July movies to watch.
Jaws is a fantastic movie to see in the summertime. Steven Spielberg’s suspense classic is full of sunshine and fun activities—in between horrifying shark attacks—in the summer movie season opener. A strong connection to Independence Day is seen in Jaws, as Mayor Vaughn will not let Chief Brody forget that the Fourth of July is an extremely important business day for Amity, shark attacks or no. Jaws is an excellent choice if you’re looking for something light and fun with a summery feel.
2. The Sandlot
The Fourth of July is not only a celebration of our country’s independence, but it also represents the midpoint of summer vacation. The Sandlot, a 1993 coming-of-age film, does an excellent job of capturing the feeling of being a kid on summer vacation, when whatever was going on right then and there was the most important thing in the world and you were sure that you were with people who would be your best friends for life. However, kids are unlikely to ignore the fact that school is about to begin again. From playing chicken with the neighborhood dog to having sex with the lifeguard at the local pool (I’ll always adore you, Wendy Peffercorn), The Sandlot recalls that unfettered mood without becoming pedantic or cliché. And the Independence Day segment is what makes it a great 4th of July movie, with fireworks galore. Ah, the memories.
3. Independence Day
Obviously. When it comes to 4th of July weekend, Roland Emmerich’s 1996 disaster epic Independence Day is always a must-see, even if the sequel, which was released 20 years later, didn’t fare so well with the general public. For all of its sci-fi intrigue, The Day the Earth Stood Still doesn’t get bogged down in it, and Will Smith’s swagger works perfectly as a counterpoint to Jeff Goldblum’s brainy David Levinson. But Bill Pullman’s passionate speech is what makes this a fantastic 4th of July movie. President Whitmore, you can do it!
Look no further than Peter H. Hunt’s 1776 if you’re in the mood for a patriotic but also a lot of fun musical. For this film, which is based on Broadway’s version of the musical, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson sing their way through events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s a great film with a great soundtrack, and it still holds up well today. Imagine a white rendition of Hamilton with Mr. Feeny as John Adams from Boy Meets World.
5. Born on the Fourth of July
Birth of a Nation is an epic Vietnam War character piece by Oliver Stone, and it is a fitting way to honor America’s wonderful heritage while acknowledging some of its significant faults as a nation. In one of his finest performances, Tom Cruise portrays Ron Kovic, a young soldier who gave up his ability to walk in order to serve his country, as he transitions from patriot to disillusioned veteran. Born on the Fourth of July, despite Stone’s reputation as a controversial filmmaker, is surprisingly straightforward, and as a Vietnam veteran, Stone adds a level of competence to the table.. Though not always enjoyable to see, it’s in some ways a vital one. To avoid repeating our mistakes, it’s necessary to admit our failings in the United States of America.
6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is on the other extreme of the spectrum. Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of Jeff Smith, a junior senator in the United States Senate, embodies the “voice of the people” part of American politics, and he does so with vigor, passion, and hope. Although the film was criticized as anti-American when it was released in 1939 for depicting corruption in American politics (“well, I never!”), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is about the goodness that can result from good people attempting to do good things. For a reminder of the positive aspects of American politics on our nation’s birthday, it’s a worthwhile viewing.
7. The Patriot
Roland Emmerich isn’t really a 4th of July filmmaker, but he has two films on this list that are excellent Independence Day flicks. In his 2000 Revolutionary War epic The Patriot, Mel Gibson plays a French and Indian War soldier who encounters the British troops and decides to retaliate when his family is killed by the enemy. As far as the history of the American Revolutionary War is concerned, most critics agree that The Patriot is grossly wrong. However, it is hilarious and boasts an excellent supporting performance by Heath Ledger as well as some excellent world building. In other words, if you’re looking for a 4th of July historical epic that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, The Patriot is the film for you.
Abraham Lincoln’s story is also about the American political system, although with a little more nuanced. Lincoln, the director’s long-awaited biopic of one of America’s greatest presidents, received generally positive reviews upon its release, but it has the air of a film that will be remembered as one of Steven Spielberg’s finest works in the future. In order to avoid hagiography, it does not shy away from the many paradoxes in Lincoln’s life and the difficulties (and care) he took with slavery. In addition, it’s an engrossing depiction of the American political process as it really is, rather than how we would like it to be. Although there is some deal-making, it’s worth noting that Lincoln’s arduous efforts to abolish slavery and secure his legacy are awe-inspiring and sobering at the same time, thanks to Daniel Day-amazing Lewis’s performance. The 4th of July is a perfect time to revisit Lincoln’s speeches to remind yourself of the tremendous things that may happen in American politics if passion and compromise meet.
9. John Adams
John Adams, HBO’s miniseries about the life of American Founding Father John Adams, is a great way to spend the Fourth of July. Despite the fact that this isn’t a film, I believe it falls under the category. Film director Tom Hooper helms all seven episodes of the John Adams biopic that begins with the Boston Massacre in 1770 and ends with the president’s death in 1826, a span of more than two centuries. When it comes to portraying our nation’s second president, Paul Giamatti is exactly the right choice. The miniseries brilliantly focuses on Adams’s relationship with Abigail (Laura Linney), which was more of a collaboration when it came to his political career, and his problematic relationship with Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane), who portrays Jefferson in the role of Jefferson. Are you a Hamilton fanatic? In order to get HBO to continue with miniseries installments for the rest of the founding fathers, give John Adams another spin.
10. Top Gun
In spite of the fact that Top Gun isn’t a traditional 4th of July movie, it manages to embody the American spirit. Although the tale of U.S. Navy fighter pilots is the focus of Tony Scott’s excellent film, the director spares no attention to the politics of aerial warfare or even military service. Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards give us one of the best “bromances” in Hollywood history in Top Gun, which is about the passion and depth of male friendship. With Val Kilmer’s antagonizing (and flirty) Iceman, Scott covers all these relationships with remarkable emotion. Also, Top Gun is the most fist-pump-y movie ever made, and if you don’t feel triumphant after watching it, you may be lacking in the human spirit. Set the wheels in motion and let the pyres fly.
On Disney+, you can now see one of the most significant works of art of the twentieth century. In fact, the most anticipated new release of 2020 is a four-year-old performance of Hamilton from the Broadway production. The three-hour play traces Alexander Hamilton’s ascent from humble beginnings as an immigrant to a powerful statesman in early 19th-century America. The story of America’s history, present, and future, as told by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is rendered even more powerful by its diverse cast and music. Everyone can find something to like in Hamilton’s depiction of America’s strengths and challenges. In Hamilton, it’s clearer than ever that the United States is a work in progress.