To get into the patriotic spirit, these are the best 4th of July movies to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America’s War of Independence to divest 13 North American colonies from the British Empire established the United States of America in 1776, and there are more than a few ways to celebrate the nation’s birth. There are myriad movies that explore not only the pivotal founding of the United States but life in America through the centuries by the generations of people who have settled in the country and continue to make it one of the most diverse places to live in the world.
Whether fans prefer historical epics, educational dramas, raucous comedies, or kickass action movies that revel in the individualistic spirit that America is known for, there’s a little something for everyone. Fourth of July movies also act as a celebration of Hollywood, one of America’s most significant contributions to global entertainment, with a wide variety of genres and narratives. There’s no better way to throw a party for the US of A than by exercising the freedom to choose whatever movie stirs pride, patriotism, and diversity the most.
10 Born On The Fourth Of July
Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July stars Tom Cruise as New York teen Ron Kovic in a big departure from a lot of his more action-packed movies. In the ’60s, he enlists in the Marines to fulfill his patriotic duty during the Vietnam War, and accidentally kills a fellow soldier before becoming permanently paralyzed himself. Not only does the movie feature a very touching performance from Cruise, particularly as Kovic becomes an anti-war demonstrator, but also highlights the difficulties veterans experienced as they reintegrated into civilian life at the time, abandoned by both political parties and some of their closest supporters.
9 Independence Day
Independence Day is a ’90s blockbuster that showcases what would happen if an alien invasion happened on the 4th of July. It focuses on several different storylines including the president (Bill Pullman) trying to negotiate peace, a fighter pilot (Will Smith) given permission to shoot down the mother ship if it becomes hostile, a scientist (Jeff Goldblum) designated to find a way to save the planet if that doesn’t work, and everyone in between working together to survive Earth’s last day. While it’s easy to dismiss it as one big American action fest, its message of global solidarity in the face of a universal threat stands out amidst the explosions.
Solidarity and a commitment to liberty take center stage in Glory, a historical epic that focuses on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, America’s first all-African-American regiment led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) following the Battle of Antietam. Comprised of junior officer Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), gravedigger John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), and many men like Trip (Denzel Washington) who escaped lives of picking cotton in the fields, they become a superb tactical unit. Many commit to the ultimate sacrifice for a country that refused to give them the same respect, with performances that bring life to many forgotten heroes who made it free.
If fans choose to watch one movie about a former president who helped shape America into a land of equal opportunity, Lincoln offers a compelling historical and educational narrative led by the formidable Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. It traces Lincoln’s push for the 13th Amendment during the worst of the nation’s Civil War, showcasing the opposition he faced as he sought to end the conflict and usher in a new era of prosperity and tolerance. Director Steven Spielberg pulls at the heartstrings with a stacked cast that includes Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, and Joseph Gordon Levitt.
The establishment of the Underground Railroad by abolitionist Harriet Tubman is one of the most inspirational stories associated with America’s continued pursuit of independence. Cynthia Erivo stars as Tubman, whose commitment to finding secret ways to free African American people from all across America is as dynamic and thrilling as any superhero story. The true story behind one of the most famous and heroic figures in US history is communicated with powerful performances, sweeping cinematography, and a tone somewhere between Black Panther and 12 Years A Slave
5 Team America: World Police
One of the best action comedies of the 2000s that doesn’t get nearly enough credit is Team America: World Police, which satirizes and spoofs everything good (and bad) about the United States in one high-octane adventure. Developed by the minds behind South Park, it follows the wise-cracking marionettes in Team America as they try to thwart North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s terrorist scheme and the efforts of Hollywood elites who criticize their “world police” tactics. Heavily influenced by the A-Team, Rambo, MacGuyver, and other film and television series that are aggressively pro-America, it provides a lot of food-for-thought about American militarism with its popcorn entertainment.
4 Top Gun
Certainly considered one of Tom Cruise’s most rewatchable movies, Top Gun is a staple on 4th of July thanks to his performance as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is not only one of the best pilots in the Navy’s elite Top Gun program but an all-American hero helping to protect his country from Russian threats with his unconventional flying methods. Cruise learned to fly a Tomcat for the role, one he got to revisit almost thirty years later in Top Gun: Maverick, which aside from showing even more impressive views of America’s land and sea through the cockpit of a fighter jet, is perfect for a double-feature.
3 About My Father
Energetic comedian Sebastian Maniscalco stars as Sebastian, a hotel manager intending to propose to his longtime girlfriend at her parents’ Independence Day party. Hilarity ensures when his immigrant father Salvo (Robert DeNiro) is also invited, and the ornery Sicilian hairdresser has a hard time fitting in with his son’s privileged future in-laws at their lakeside retreat. About My Father not only brings a lot of laughs, but it also explores the intricacies of second-generation family stories about trying to fit in through humor, while at the same time celebrating the differences that make American citizens stand out as well as come together.
At this point, there are 9 Rocky and Creed movies, but the original film remains one of the most electrifying sports movies of all time. Written and starring Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, an amateur boxer who dreams of one day winning the World Heavyweight Championship, Rocky’s journey to success is one of the most inspiring examples of self-improvement and self-determination. America loves an underdog, and there’s no character who better fits that archetype nor embodies the nation’s fighting spirit than Rocky, who knows that it ain’t about how hard a person hits, but how hard they get hit and keep getting up.
1 Captain America: The First Avenger
It doesn’t get any more festive on 4th of July than watching Captain America: The First Avenger starring Chris Evans as the titular superhero and eventual leader of The Avengers. When the US Army recruits shy Steve Rogers, he takes a superhuman serum developed by the government to turn into the ultimate super soldier, who protects humankind from Nazis and supernatural forces, all the while promoting patriotism over propaganda. While the movie is self-contained, it’s also a nice jumping-off point to the rest of the MCU if fans want to have a marathon of 4th of July movies involving Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.