With the Fourth of July just around the corner, most of us stateside are contemplating holiday BBQs, fireworks, and national pride. Maybe it’s the 100+ degree weather we’ve been having here in Texas, but I’m contemplating some good movie home entertainment during the holiday, and naturally it has to be something patriotic. That brings us to the Top Ten list of the season; here are the best of the best in “patriotica” from over the years.
1. Independence Day
So this is the most obvious choice. Anyone who has seen Independence Day, the alien invasion action pic starring Will Smith and Bill Pullman, will remember the over-the-top patriotic speech given by President Whitmore (Pullman). If that moment alone doesn’t earn this film a place on this list, then maybe all the high-five slapping and American flag waving will. Plus, it’s an awesome movie.
2. The Patriot
Ok, this is another obvious choice. How much more patriotic can you get then a movie about the American Revolution? The Patriot is an action/drama set in 1776 and stars Mel Gibson as a peace-loving ex-soldier that gets pulled into the fighting after his son is killed by a Redcoat. The first movie on the list was us-against-aliens, this one is us-against-the-Brits. Interestingly, the top two Most Patriotic Movies are both directed by Roland Emmerich.
Patton is a straight-up patriotic World War II biopic about General George Patton, and after you watch it you’ll understand what patriotism is all about. Playing the role of Patton earned George C. Scott an Oscar, which he refused. Besides Scott’s great talent behind it, the 1970 biopic was written by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Franklin Schaffner (Planet of the Apes). It opens with one of the most patriotic scenes in American cinema, with General Patton standing in front of a giant American flag and giving a spirited “rallying pep talk” to his soldiers. Hoo-Yah.
4. Red Dawn
This flick is a Patrick Swayze ’80s action thriller that has American teens fighting off a Soviet invasion. World War III has arrived in small-town America, but the Soviets didn’t reckon on the American teenager. Red Dawn is full of spirited banding together, but the film itself is a little forgettable.
5. The Hunt for Red October
Keeping in the Cold War theme, The Hunt for Red October is a well-crafted political thriller about a reputed Soviet submarine captain who plays a cat-in-mouse game with the Americans. Piloting a submarine with a revolutionary new propulsion system, Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) plays a brilliant game of strategy with the CIA. Definitely a great pro-American feel to this one, and the best Tom Clancy novel-to-film adaptation.
6. Saving Private Ryan
I put this on the list because not only is it one of the best World War II movies out there, but it is does a great job showing that American “military brass” aren’t all cigar-smoking, eye-patch-wearing war hawks. This Steven Spielberg-directed pic is a touching story about an Army Chief of Staff who sends a group of American soldiers to the most dangerous war-torn territories to fetch Private Ryan, the last remaining son of a grieving mother.
7. Apollo 13
While not a war movie, Apollo 13 is incredibly patriotic. It’s full of great pro-American sensibilities, including our sense of patriotic zeal when it comes to being the first to do things. All kidding aside, this is a great drama based on the real-life Apollo13 space mission, and it typifies the spirit of honor, invention and bravery that made America great.
8. An American Tail
This is a Don Bluth-directed animated classic, complete with music and family-friendly content. It’s all about a little Russian mouse family, the Mousekewitz clan, who dream of immigrating to America. They believe America is a land without cats, and while the reality is not quite as wonderful as they expect, it still offers them freedom and the chance for a new life. Go America.
9. National Treasure
So I’m getting closer to the bottom of the list (and the barrel). While I think many Western films have a certain element of inherent patriotism (via Manifest Destiny and that ol’ American spirit of adventure), none made my list. The same goes for a lot of war movies. I chose National Treasure over other options because it’s a fun little riddle-solving action adventure that both entertains and delivers an American history lesson. I’m no fan of Nicolas Cage, but watching him and his capable band of treasure-hunters track down an ancient chest hidden by the Founding Fathers is a great way to brush up on your history.
10. Field of Dreams
This is a movie that has a subtle patriotic message; if you build it, they will come. Kevin Costner stars in this quirky drama about an Iowa farmer who receives a message to build a baseball diamond in his corn field. He’s told that if he builds it, a mysterious “they” will come. Of course, baseball and America are practically synonymous. But beyond that, a certain spirit of “if you build it, they will come” has been urging America on for decades; building up cities, technologies, and other advancements. I’m not a huge fan of Field of Dreams, but if you like baseball and quirky dramas you’ll probably appreciate it.
There’s the list. And if you’re as disappointed as I am with the dearth of cinematic distractions out in theaters right now (that’s right, sweet air-conditioned theaters), then maybe you’ll decide to old-school it and rent something from this list.
Any favorite patriotic movies I’ve missed?