This year on July 4th we yet again line up for patriotic parades, watch spectacular fireworks displays, and contemplate what makes America, well, America. While almost fireworks displays in Colorado were canceled this year due to high fire danger, we still have found a way to keep with the spirit of Independence Day right from our couch. Here are five movies to help you reflect on the land of the free and the brave.
1. Independence Day (1996)
The story is familiar: The United States of America is under threat. Outside forces have arrived, ready for war. A select few brave individuals must work together to fight for our country and the whole world. The only catch? The offending outsiders are aliens from outer space. Simultaneously known for its cliché patriotism and its visual-effects of the White House getting obliterated, Independence Day lingers in the public's memory as a true display of what the 4th of July is all about--national pride and things getting blown up. Its extreme patriotism even made the British angry. A long-forgotten BBC review called the president's speech, "the most jaw-droppingly pompous soliloquy ever delivered in a mainstream Hollywood movie." If I am honest, I think she was right. But there is something so fitting about making the British mad on Independence Day.
2. Nashville (1975)
If you want something more thought-provoking than a Hollywood blockbuster, Nashville portrays America in a tragic and surprisingly relevant way. Released in 1975 just before the United State's bicentennial, the film revolves around the Nashville, Tennessee music scene utilizing a soundtrack written for the film. It begins with the song "200 Years":
Let's think of what our children face
In two - ought - seven - six.
It's up to us, to pave the way
With our blood and sweat and tears.
For we must be doin' somethin' right
To last 200 years.
Over the course of the film you struggle to listen in on a two dozen intersecting lives, each person striving to grasp at the American Dream. The film culminates with the stomach-panging song "It Don't Worry Me":
You may say that I ain't free,
But it don't worry me.
3. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Yankee Doodle Dandy tells the story of George M. Cohan, the prolific American songwriter. He was known for several of the patriotic songs he wrote during World War I to increase morale on the home front, including "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "Over There." The film was released in the midst of World War II with the same objective in mind. Probably the most feel-good film on this list, if not the most idealistic, it is still a joy to watch, ranking 98th on the American Film Institute's top 100 American movies.
4. Hidden Figures (2016)
If you are looking for something more recent to watch, Hidden Figures depicts a different kind of American hero than the others on this list. It tells the biographical story of Katherine Goble, a mathematician (known in the movie as a human "computer") for NASA in 1961. She and her colleagues struggle against barriers of racism and sexism to help launch astronaut John Glenn into space.
5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
In the middle of World War II, Captain John Miller works to extract a Private Ryan, whose three brothers have already died, from the battle field. Both sentimentalizing war and depicting its brutal gruesomeness, Saving Private Ryan remains fiercely patriotic without letting you forget the complexities of war.