These 10 must-have timepieces will let you celebrate America in style.
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The 4th of July weekend is the perfect time to catch up on some movies—in between hot dog grilling and swimming pool trips, of course—as the sun sets on the celebrations. How do you pick a movie when you have so little time to spare on a national holiday? On July 4th, what is the best movie to watch? 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. From lighthearted fare to patriotic fare to a more somber look into our country’s past, you’re bound to find something to your liking here.
Jaws is the ideal movie to watch in the heat of the summer. 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 crucial commercial period for Amity. It’s hard to go wrong with Jaws, if you’re looking for pure fun with a summery flavor.
2. The Sandlot
In addition to celebrating our country’s independence, the Fourth of July acts as a halfway point for summer vacation. Even though it’s nearly time for kids to return to school again, the 1993 film The Sandlot captures the feeling of being a kid on summer vacation, when whatever was happening right then and there was the most important thing in the world, and you were sure that you were with those people who would become your best friends for life. 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!
1776, Peter H. Hunt’s 1972 musical, is a great choice if you’re looking for something patriotic but also a lot of fun. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson sing their hearts out in musical interludes throughout the film, which is based on a Broadway show about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s a great comedy with several memorable songs that has held up nicely over time. Think of it as a white version of Hamilton with Mr. Feeny as John Adams from Boy Meets World.
5. Born on the Fourth of July
Even while American history is not without its dark moments, the epic character study Born on the Fourth of July by Oliver Stone is the perfect way to both commemorate the country’s glorious past while also addressing some of its grave failings. While portraying Ron Kovic’s journey from young patriot ready to serve his country to unhappy veteran abused by the very nation for which he risked his ability to walk, Tom Cruise puts in one of his best performances yet. Born on the Fourth of July, despite Stone’s reputation as a controversial filmmaker, is surprisingly straightforward and, as a Vietnam veteran himself, Stone adds a level of understanding 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. For Mel Gibson, The Patriot is a 2000 Revolutionary War epic that depicts a soldier who returns home to find that his family has been massacred by the British army and decides to exact a bloody retribution on them. Heath Ledger gives an excellent supporting role, and the world-building and acting are both top-notch throughout The Patriot, despite the fact that it is widely believed to be a gross misrepresentation of the American Revolutionary War. To celebrate the Fourth of July, The Patriot is the film for you if you prefer historical epics that aren’t overly accurate but have a ton of firepower.
Abraham Lincoln’s story is also about the American political system, although with a little more nuanced. Even though Lincoln received largely positive reviews, it feels like a picture that Spielberg will be revisited as one of his greatest works in the future. For all of Lincoln’s many paradoxes and difficulties (and care) dealing with slavery, this book does not shy away from it. On the other hand, it’s an intensely gripping procedural about the American political system as it actually operates, rather than how we’d like to think it does. 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
It’s the Fourth of July, and if you’re looking for something to do indoors, why not watch the HBO miniseries John Adams? 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. As our nation’s second president, Paul Giamatti is perfectly qualified to portray George Washington’s shadow. 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
For those who are looking for an unconventional 4th of July movie recommendation, Top Gun is a great choice. “Fighter” is a story about US Navy fighter pilots but it doesn’t focus on the politics of aerial warfare or 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. Val Kilmer as Iceman, of course, and the intensity with which Scott depicts all these interactions is stunning. Even if you don’t feel triumphant after watching Top Gun, you may be lacking in the human spirit because this is the most fist-pumping movie ever made. Make a ruckus and get the fires going!
One of the most significant works of art in history is now available on Disney+ in a video form. 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.