Ten Films For The Fourth Of July

Published on July 3rd, 2013 in: Holidays, Listicles, Movies, Top Ten Lists |

By Lisa Anderson

True Colors, 1991

On Thursday, the United States observes its Independence Day. Many Americans will celebrate with cookouts, fireworks, or parades, and many of them will also kick back with a favorite, seasonably appropriate movie. The movies one usually thinks of on the Fourth of July are generally war movies or historical films, like Saving Private Ryan or Patriot, and those are perfectly valid options. However, I thought I’d suggest a few more offbeat choices for films to watch while escaping the heat on the Fourth.

1. Independence Day. Okay sure: not only is this an obvious choice, but it hits all the “alien invasion movie” notes so perfectly that in hindsight, it’s kind of airless. But it’s familiar and fun and of course, there’s that speech that President Bill Pullman makes . . .

2. Argo. If you didn’t already know, this Oscar-winning film, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, tells the story of the rescue of six US embassy employees in the wake of Iran’s 1979 revolution. The tale is taut and harrowing even though you know how it ends.

3. Tropic Thunder. This hilarious skewering of modern war movies features Robert Downey, Jr. as you’ve never seen him before, and Tom Cruise as you never wanted to see him. It is the story of the attempt to make a movie of a partly falsified book about a fake real-life mission.

4. Men Who Stare at Goats. Based on the book by journalist Jon Ronson, this film tells the story of the military’s alleged attempts to create a force of psychic soldiers based on New Age principles. It’s absurd and funny and, as the title sequence promises, more of it than you would believe is true.

5. True Colors. James Spader and John Cusack headline this 1991 movie about two law school roommates who become friends. Their choices take them down very different paths as one of them goes to work at the Department of Justice and the other embarks on a political career.

6. Blue State. Set in 2004, this 2007 romantic comedy is about a man (Breckin Meyer) who moves to Canada in the wake of George W. Bush’s re-election, and acquires a co-traveler (Anna Paquin) with a secret. It’s admittedly uneven, but ultimately has a thought-provoking message about the nature of citizenship, sacrifice, and commitment.

7. Dave. It’s true that Bill Mitchell, the President played by Kevin Kline, doesn’t kick as much enemy butt as many movie presidents played by action stars. But few of those movie presidents loved the American Dream as sincerely or poignantly as Kline’s Dave Kovic, the impersonator brought in when Mitchell is incapacitated.

8. White Christmas. I haven’t tried this one, but hear me out! This holiday classic, in which Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye portray former soldiers who put on a show to save their former commander’s ski lodge, might offer a cooling taste of Christmas in July, along with its patriotic musical numbers.

9. In America. The character of ten-year-old Christy Sullivan narrates the story of her family, who move from Ireland to America in 1982 in the wake of her brother’s death. I haven’t seen it for a while, but I remember it having a magical, dream-like quality, and being incredibly moving without being cloying.

10. My Family (Mi Familia). This 1995 film, whose cast includes Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits, and Jennifer Lopez, spans three generations in the life of a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles. I haven’t seen it in a while either, but it made a strong positive impression, and it touches on many of the same themes as In America from a different point of view

So those are my recommendations of film for July Fourth viewing. I’ve tried to avoid politicized selections (or at least partisan ones), even if some do involve political issues or offices. All of these films respect the people and founding concepts of America, and they all address, on some level, what it means to be an American.

Enjoy the holiday if you’re reading from the US, and feel free to leave your own movie suggestions in comments!

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