July 4th is just the greatest, isn’t it? Summer’s in full swing, the smell of grilling hot dogs and burgers is in the air (plus all those wonderful illegal fireworks!), ice-cold beverages in red, white, and blue coolers. But greasy food and alcohol aren’t the only ways Americans celebrate the greatness of our country – we make movies about it too! Here are thirteen of the most patriotic movies of all time.
When united against an external force, Americans have shown themselves as strong-willed and resilient. Well, things don’t get much more “external” than an alien invasion. There’s a lot I could say about Independence Day, but it all really comes down to the speech. What speech, you ask? The speech. Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore stands in front of his fighter jet, facing a ragtag group of survivors as they prepare to make their final stand against the aliens and their enormous ships. The radio PA system crackles. “Good morning,” he says. And then I get goosebumps. I won’t quote the whole thing here, but if you’re a fan like I am, you don’t need me to. “We will not go gently into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today, we celebrate our independence day.” If you’re not shedding a tear into your American flag bandana right now, you’re not human.
Better known as How Mel Gibson Single-Handedly Won the American Revolution, The Patriot takes the war that helped make America a nation and injects it with the kind of fury that only Gibson can supply. Hundreds of redcoats get a little redder thanks to Mel and his trusty hatchet as they carve their way to American independence. I love when movies based on historical events take a main character and put him or her in all of the most important moments of that event, and Gibson is there for everything. Case in point, somehow or another at the end of the movie Gibson’s farmer-turned-soldier finds Jason Isaacs’ Evil British Dude on an expansive battlefield. He then proceeds to commit the most patriotic wartime murder ever by impaling him with the American flag. And then he drops the mike.
Saving Private Ryan
Not many images represent America’s history quite as well as that of American soldiers storming the beaches at Normandy towards the end of World War II. It was one of the final battles in a conflict that defined a generation, and there is arguably no better depiction of events during the Second World War than what Steven Spielberg accomplished in Saving Private Ryan. From the brutal realism of the opening scene where American troops storm the beaches to the end of the film, Saving Private Ryan shows the horrors and humanity of war as the core group of soldiers infiltrates enemy territory in an attempt to rescue the lone surviving son of the Ryan family. This is American heart at its finest.
There are very few things Americans loved more in the ‘80s than sticking it to the Russians, and no one did it better than Rocky Balboa in the fourth movie of the franchise. Dolph Lundgren’s heavy-browed Ivan Drago is the perfect antagonist to the all-American champ from Philly – with a name straight out of The Cold War for Dummies, there’s no way you’re gonna root for the guy. Toss in a healthy sprinkling of vengeance, some American flag boxing trunks, and one of the best training montages in film history – seriously, the juxtaposition of Rocky lifting Siberian logs while Drago punches machines in a lab is amazing – and you might as well be watching footage of a bald eagle chanting “USA! USA!”
Team America: World Police
I know what you’re thinking: Rarely are the guys behind “South Park” accused of being patriotic. But if you want to feel pumped about your country, all you need to do is listen to the theme song: “America! F— yeah!”
Far and Away
The classic 19th century story of European immigrants coming to America to make a life is fully at play in this Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman vehicle. Tom Cruise as a scruffy Irish boxer embraces “Manifest Destiny” to the fullest. He escapes the repressive life of a sharecropper in Ireland, gets the beautiful society girl (Kidman), and settles the American frontier in a fun claim-jumping finale. Far and Away is the American Dream. Period.