July 4th, otherwise known as the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence…or the day of hot dog eating contests, beer, and lots of fireworks. Whether you celebrate this national holiday from a historical perspective or as an opportunity to gather together with friends or family, there is bound to be a film that appeals to everyone’s tastes from the very patriotic down to those who enjoy films that reek of adrenaline. Below is a list of July 4th films that are bound to entertain.
Steven Spielberg’s biopic of President Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery is a masterpiece in every way. The film’s attention to historical detail and conveying the difficulty of passing the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation is astounding. Also worth watching out for is the stellar acting from all involved, especially Daniel Day-Lewis, who channeled Lincoln so effectively in his performance that one has to remind themselves they are not watching the real man but an actor portraying him.
Also from Steven Spielberg’s resume is Jaws, whose plot inadvertently occurs around the July 4th holiday. The film is a classic and from a suspense standpoint, has hardly aged a day. It is suggested you NOT watch this film before you go swimming at the beach.
Independence Day (1996)
The film was groundbreaking when it was released in theaters 19 years ago and still has so much appeal that a sequel is on its way very soon. The plot is simple yet oddly perfect: Aliens attack the world; We fight back. The film is everything a adrenaline junkie could want, with special effects that have held up very well over time and, of course, Bill Pullman’s iconic “Independence Day speech” that always evokes not just patriotic pride for country, but for mankind.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
July 4th is the perfect opportunity to reacquaint yourself with Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, who is the very symbol of morality and honesty in the courtroom. To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic film about fighting prejudice, standing up for truth, and racial tolerance.
All the President’s Men (1976)
For those who are journalism junkies, All the President’s Men is the perfect film for you. The 1976 film captures the intrigue and historical implications behind Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein’s investigative work involving the Watergate break-in that exposed corruption in the Nixon administration and ultimately forced Richard Nixon to resign from the office of the President.
If you’re in the mood to movie marathon something on the 4th, All the President’s Men and Frost/Nixon go splendidly as companion films. Frank Langella offers a vulnerable performance as Richard Nixon by portraying him as a defeated man who is a shell of himself and desperate to rectify his tarnished name. Frost/Nixon is a political duel between David Frost, who is seeking to extract an admission of guilt from Nixon and is risking his entire career to even make the interview occur. On the other side of the duel is Richard Nixon, who wants the American people to remember his Presidency beyond the scandal of Watergate. This film is a must see.
George C. Scott’s powerhouse performance is reason alone to watch this film biopic of the highly-decorated, yet controversial general, who led the United States Army during World War II. The “Blood and Guts” speech at the beginning of the film is acting and film brilliance.
John Adams (2008)
Technically this is a miniseries, not a film, but its excellence deserves a place on this list. This seven-part HBO miniseries covers the life of John Adams, who personally dealt with the Boston Massacre, the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, was the Vice President to George Washington and served one term as President himself. The miniseries shows how John Adams was a conflicted and often misinterpreted man, who is unfortunately known for signing the Alien and Sedition Act as President, opposed to his genuine triumph of keeping America out of a European war that undoubtedly would have destroyed America’s formation. John Adams is especially worth watching for Paul Giamatti’s incredible performance as John Adams and Tom Wilkinson’s memorable performance as Benjamin Franklin. Also, for those Game of Thrones fans out there: Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon) got his big break from this miniseries for his performance as Thomas Jefferson.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
This Frank Capra film is everything a classic film ought to be. The story is something special: A young and naive politician arrives in Washington D.C. and immediately learns the caliber of backstabbing and deception that occurs behind closed doors. It is when his own integrity is questioned that he seeks to do the impossible: Bring honesty back to Congress. What is especially worth remembering from this film is the famous filibuster sequence with James Stewart reminding Congress of their duty to serve the American people by rereading to them the Constitution of the United States.
Air Force One (1997)
Harrison Ford stars as President James Marshall, who declares his country will never negotiate with terrorists, only to find his air force one hijacked and his family held hostage by terrorists. Managing to avoid being taken hostage himself, the President begins to retake the plane by eliminating the terrorists one at a time. At the same time in Washington D.C., President Marshall’s Vice President (Glenn Close) is stuck in between trying to negotiate with the terrorists’ demands and keeping the plane’s passengers and the first family from being murdered. This film is the perfect action film with Harrison Ford offering one of his best action roles and Gary Oldman is terrifying as the sociopathic terrorist leader. However, it is one sentence that all remember from this film, and is still the most requested line Harrison Ford is asked to reenact to fans: “Get off my plane!”