Yeeessssssssssssss. July Fourth is tomorrow! Hell yeah! Beer, barbecue, fireworks, talk of the Olympics, and, of course, setting aside the differences between red and blue, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, and celebrating our great country. And don’t worry, I’m not going to make this political, because it’s not. Being able to disagree with people and still be friends is what makes this country so awesome. We can dislike individual qualities or policies or people or whatever, but at the end of the day we can agree that, on balance, the USA is a pretty great place.
And we’re also celebrating not being governed by Great Britain. Look, I like the British. I really do. I like many British musicians and other celebrities, I literally have a Harry Potter themed tattoo, and I’m enough of an Anglophile to appreciate a good sausage roll. But I’m glad we’re not British. I’m glad beans on toast isn’t a celebrated meal here, and that we don’t have pictures of royalty on our money.
While I’m in patriotic moods anyway, I like to feed that by watching some of my favorite patriotic movies. It helps keep my spirit healthy shades of red, white, and blue. Plus, most of these are sports or action themed, so it’s generally pretty mindless and can be watched while enjoying some adult drinks. If you’re looking for a movie chocked full of American awesomeness, why don’t you try one of these:
Independence Day (1996)
Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Harvey Fierstein, and Robert Loggia all in one movie? Count me in. It’s aliens, it’s Randy Quaid talking some major league smack to those aliens, it’s Bill Pullman giving one of the best movie speeches of all time, and it’s Jeff Goldblum doing Jeff Goldblum things. Independence Day was, briefly, the second-highest grossing movie of all time, behind Jurassic Park (another great Jeff Goldblum movie), and even won an Oscar for best visual effects. The American military, the desert shots, and the sitting president of the United States personally getting into a fighter jet and blasting away some aliens make this a must-watch come Fourth of July.
The Patriot (2000)
This movie is, of course, quite fitting because it takes place during the American Revolution. Mel Gibson goes ham on some redcoats and Lucius Malfoy, in a pre-Harry-Potter role, was already proving that he plays a really convincing asshole. This movie has everything you want in a patriotic flick: chastity belts, melting silverware to make bullets, and Mel Gibson literally using the Flag as a weapon. Come on, man! You can’t beat that. If this doesn’t make you want to throw some tea into a harbor, you don’t have a heart.
Top Gun (1986)
I’m going to tell you right now that this is the movie on this list that I’ve seen the most times. And I don’t mean that I’ve seen Top Gun like ten or twelve times. I’ve probably watched Top Gun all the way through at least 35 or 40 times. I love Top Gun. And here’s the secret: it’s really not a very good movie. It’s cheesy, predictable, and stereotypical. Plus it has that weird homoerotic volleyball scene that contributed literally nothing to the story. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a good homoerotic volleyball scene, but it should at least move the plot forward a little bit. But regardless, this cheesy classic about the typical American modern-day cowboy using a a twin-engined steed to take down some petulant Ruskies is my kinda Cold War awesomeness.
Red Dawn (1984)
Speaking of cheesy Cold War movies, Red Dawn is great for getting the patriotic juices flowing. I still say “Wolverines!” when I accomplish a task, even when (nay, especially when) I’m alone. Pre-insane Charlie Sheen, pre-Road House Patrick Swayze, and pre-rhinoplasty Jennifer Grey make this coming-of-age/Communists-aren’t-people summer blockbuster a great vehicle for really getting in a good patriotic headspace. Seriously, when Jennifer Grey [spoiler alert] gets killed, it just wrecks me, every time. And anything anti-Communist is good in my book.
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
I could have put any Jack Ryan movie on here. Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, and even Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which is not a very good movie, are good for feeding a patriotic hunger. But The Hunt for Red October is the best one. It’s the first Jack Ryan movie, and Alec Baldwin does an incredible job playing the mild-mannered analyst who can also kick a little ass when needed. Plus, the plot is about a group of Soviet naval officers trying to defect to the United States, and nothing is more American than escaping communism. Bonus: Alec Baldwin does impressions of Sean Connery and Fred Thompson in the movie and does them both hilariously well. But my favorite thing to quote is “one ping only.”
More commies going down at the hands of Americans. The Soviet hockey team came to Lake Placid, New York in 1980 as the heavy favorites to take gold in men’s hockey. The American team was young, not used to playing with each other, and generally expected to be present but not make much of an impact. But then the famous miracle on ice happened and the USA beat the Soviets (then beat Finland in the championship game) and won gold for themselves. This movie has been praised for it’s historical accuracy and is a great way to feel proudly American without guns and fighting.
The Sandlot (1993)
Why is this on the list? It’s not particularly patriotic, though it does have the Fourth of July night game and is about baseball, which is an exceedingly American sport. Well, because it’s a slice of Americana. It’s a depiction of a childhood summer that everyone would have wanted though few were fortunate enough to experience. Maybe that’s not a vibe everyone else gets, but it’s one I get. Seriously, though, this scene gives me patriotic chills every time I watch it. And, of course, there’s Wendy Peffercorn, who was definitely an early crush for me.
Apollo 13 (1995)
This Ron Howard movie with an absolutely star-studded cast about the disaster-averted Apollo 13 space mission is one of my favorites from my childhood. It gave us “Houston, we have a problem,” and attempted (unsuccessfully, I’m afraid) to bring back the flat-top-and-white-vest look that surely drove the ladies wild in 1970. This a movie about American ingenuity and perseverance in the face of life-or-death adversity. It’s wonderful because this is a movie where America wasn’t really fighting for anything other than the lives of three astronauts. The time crunch and limited resources create that family-friendly suspense that was truly wonderful to be a part of with our Blockbuster VHS and Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza in 1995.
There are, of course, other Steven Spielberg movies that could have made the list. Saving Private Ryan and Raiders of the Lost Ark both come to mind. But Raiders isn’t really that patriotic and even though Saving Private Ryan is probably the best war movie ever made, it’s not exactly family-friendly and I think there’s something to being able to watch the movies on this list with the whole family…or, at least, most of the family. Lincoln covers the parts of early 1865 that saw President Lincoln help push the Thirteen Amendment through the House of Representatives. While many people believe the Emancipation Proclamation is what freed slaves in the US, it was actually the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment is, therefore, beautiful because it was the weapon that killed the formal institution of slavery in a country where freedom is valued highly. Of course, race relations continue to be an important topic of discussion to this day, but perhaps watching Lincoln will help people overcome any perceived differences and strive to live in harmony with each other, regardless of outward appearance. Plus, holy crap, Daniel Day-Lewis is so talented.
Rocky IV (1985)
Oh, man. Anyone who knows me at all will not be surprised to see this movie on the list. I love Rocky IV. It’s the best Rocky movie for sure (though I’ll admit the original Rocky is also a masterpiece). It’s got everything: Cold War tensions, a James Brown song, Soviet technological advantages overcome by pure American work ethic, memorable lines, a tragic death, Dolph Lundgren looking like an action figure, and that great speech Sly gives after the final fight. Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets me more patriotically pumped up than watching Rocky IV. Absolutely nothing. I quote it all the time, often when I’m alone, and often when I’m in front of people who I very much doubt have seen it. “I must break you.” “If he dies, he dies.” “Throw the damn towel!” “Like your Popeye, he ate his spinach everyday.” “He’s not a machine; he’s a man!” And my personal favorite that I yell at the Roomba every time we run it: “Yo, can you turn your robot down, please?” When I see this punch I start humming the National Anthem. Truly, I do.
There are many, many more movies than could have made the list. Argo is great and involves our friendship with Canada. Air Force One is awesome if not a little ridiculous in hindsight. Predator is weirdly patriotic. The Right Stuff, Armageddon, The Natural, Gettysburg, Rambo, and even Beerfest are each pieces of beautiful patriotism in their own way. But whatever you decide to watch, be sure to don some red, white, and blue gear and maybe play some Creedence Clearwater Revival just a little too loud.