10 Patriotic Movies to Fire Up Your July 4th

By Colin Bertram
|  Thursday, Jul 3, 2014  |  Updated 11:17 AM EDT
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10 Patriotic Movies to Fire Up Your July 4th

Jay Maidment

"Captain America: The First Avenger"

The July 4 holiday allows us to indulge in all manner of Americana: from parades draped in red, white and blue to fireworks spectaculars.

Add to that list watching some of the best Hollywood has to offer.

So after that last firework dims in the sky, settle back, grab a hot dog and some popcorn and gather the family around the biggest screen in the house.

From films set around the Revolutionary War ("Glory," "The Patriot") to modern blockbusters that owe more to the imagination than historical fact ("Captain America: The First Avenger," "Jaws"), here are 10 titles sure to bolster your patriotic mood across the holiday weekend.

"Independence Day" (1996)

This blockbuster has to be high on any July 4 movie list. Completely over the top, it's the story of an alien invasion of Earth, and the last ditch attempt to save it by a disparate group of humans that takes place on, you guessed it, July 4. Starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, it features a scene in which the president of the United States (Pullman) personally flies a fighter jet in the attack against the extraterrestrials. Best quote: "This… is our Independence Day!"

"Glory" (1989)

Partly based on the personal letters of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, "Glory" tells the story of the first formal unit of the U.S. Army during the American Civil War to be made up entirely of African-American men. Told from the point of view of Shaw (Matthew Broderick), its white commanding officer, the movie also stars Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, who earned a best supporting actor Academy Award for his performance. 

"Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942) 

A true flag-waver, this movie stars James Cagney as entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer and dancer George M. Cohen, who boasted he was born on July 4, though records indicate the actual date was July 3, 1878. Considered by many the father of Broadway, the film chronicles Cohen's life and features all-singing, all-dancing musical numbers that would have made the subject proud.

"The Patriot" (2000)

If you can ignore the historical inaccuracies, this engrossing American Revolution-set film stars Mel Gibson in one of his most critically-respected roles as a peaceful farmer driven to lead the colonial militia after the murder of his son (Heath Ledger) by a British officer.

"Jaws" (1975) 

It's man versus nature in this classic horror/thriller from director Steven Spielberg. The threat: A giant great white shark terrorizes holidaymakers off the coast of Cape Cod through the July 4 holiday. The protagonists: A sheriff afraid of water (Roy Scheider), a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a salty, no-nonsense fisherman (Robert Shaw). Awesome quote: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

"Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) 

A controversial film when it was first released, its message reminds us that as we celebrate with parades, freedom and our country's ideals are something we must continually fight for – as much at home as on foreign soil. Directed by Oliver Stone, the biopic stars Tom Cruise as wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, who becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist. The role earned Cruise his first Academy Award nomination and was awarded Oscars for directing (Stone) and film editing.

"Apollo 13" (1995)

Directed by Ron Howard, this biopic tells the story of NASA mission Apollo 13 – America's third attempt to land a man on the moon. An on-board explosion while en route begins to deplete the craft of its oxygen and power, and what had been a mission for the moon becomes a mission to get the astronauts on board (Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Gary Sinise) home safely. The film speaks to the American spirit of discovery, as well as our never-leave-a-man-behind creed.

"Top Gun" (1986)

Fighter pilots Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer peacock for instructor Kelly McGillis in this Tony Scott-directed action-adventure romp about fighter pilots attending the Navy's elite training school in San Diego. Throw in Russian MiGs and a soundtrack loaded with 1980s anthems including "Danger Zone" (Kenny Loggins) and "Take My Breath Away" (Berlin) and you've got a perfect post-fireworks movie. THE quote: "I feel the need, the need for speed!"

"Forrest Gump" (1994)

An epic American romance covering several decades in the life of the titular character (played by Tom Hanks), who despite his naivete manages to be present for, and occasionally influence, some of the country's defining moments in the latter half of the 20th century. In 2011 the Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry, describing it as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Most quoted line: "My mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"

"Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)

Actor Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers in this action/adventure film based on the Marvel comic book character Captain America and is set during World War II. Small, sickly Rogers is transformed into Captain America when he is enlisted to take part in the super-soldier experiment. The now-robust Rogers must stop the Red Skull, Hitler's henchman and leader of an organization that intends to use an artifact called the "Tesseract" to power their quest for world domination.

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