Legendary director Frank Capra celebrates and captures pre-war Americana and pride in this classic film. Jimmy Stewart stars as Jefferson Smith, the head of the Boy Rangers who is selected to replace a deceased senator, but finds his naive political aspirations overshadowed by Washington corruption and big business. The senator fights tirelessly against his fellow senators, eventually launching a 24-hour filibuster that results in his fainting, but ultimate victory. A classic American underdog success story, Mr. Smith is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time.
'Yankee Doodle Dandy' (1942)
A biographical musical about the great American musician George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy celebrates the lyricist’s best compositions. James Cagney stars as Cohan and serenades the audience with classic American songs like “Yankee Doodle Boy,” “Grand Old Flag” and “Give My Regards To Broadway.” The extravagant film was nominated for eight Oscars and won three, including best actor for Cagney.
The infamous World War II general gets the Hollywood treatment in the Oscar-winning film from director Franklin J. Schaffner and writer Francis Ford Coppola. Played perfectly by George C. Scott, Patton is an unapologetic love letter to George S. Patton, war and American dominance. The opening scene, in which Patton gives an inspiring speech to the Third Army, is one of the most iconic images in film history; the general declares, “That's why Americans have never lost, and will never lose a war... because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.”
The founding fathers sing their way through the signing of the Declaration of Independence in this Peter H. Hunt film. Adapted from the Broadway musical, the film chronicles America’s last dependent days as a melody of political arguments and pleas. Notable songs include “Sit Down, John,” a call for John Adams to stop preaching, “But, Mr. Adams,” the plea for Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration and “Molasses to Rum,” a Southern rep’s ode to slavery.
'Rocky IV' (1985)
It's Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago. The retired legend (Sylvester Stallone) from the streets of Philly faces off against the imposing Soviet muscleman (Dolph Lundgren) in the fourth and most patriotic installment of the Rocky series. After Drago kills Rocky’s friend and trainee, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), in the ring in a politicized bout, he comes out of retirement to defeat the Red warrior and win one for America.
This star-studded production tells the heroic story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first all-black volunteer company in the Civil War. Led by Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), the infantry (including Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman) fights off prejudice from Union soldiers and attacks from Confederates. The film received five Oscar nominations and three wins, including best supporting actor for Washington.
'Born on the Fourth of July' (1991)
Though the critical undertones may not be as patriotic or all-American as other films on this list, Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July is patriotic for confronting and redefining American pride. Based on Ron Kovic’s memoir of the same name, the film follows Kovic (Tom Cruise) from his naive teen years to his eye-opening stint in Vietnam, where he was paralyzed, to his anti-war activism in the mid-'70s.
In an effort to encompass all of the facts, events and gravity of the most important battle ever waged on American soil, this 1993 film runs for 271 minutes of cannon fire, careful strategizing and awesome hats. Based on The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, the film stars Martin Sheen as Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Tom Berenger as Lt. General James Longstreet. It shows both men leading their troops in the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Fun (or not-so-fun if you’re a Confederate soldier) fact: The battle ended in a Union victory on the Fourth of July.
'Independence Day' (1996)
The title says it all. When the world is overtaken by an alien invasion, leave it to America, led by a fighter pilot (Will Smith), a scientist (Jeff Goldblum) and the President of the United States (Bill Pullman), to kick the extraterrestrials out of Earth, not-so-coincidentally on the Fourth of July. The Roland Emmerich-directed blockbuster embodied American confidence in the 1990s and rode massive explosions and dramatic speeches to a massive box-office gross of over $800 million worldwide.
'Saving Private Ryan' (1998)
Possibly the greatest war film of the last two decades, Saving Private Ryan was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Tom Hanks as U.S. Army Captain John H. Miller, who leads his squad on a mission to find James Ryan (Matt Damon), the last-surviving brother of four, to return him home to his mother. The film begins with an intense, well-shot 30-minute depiction of D-Day and never lets up. A critical and box office success, Saving Private Ryan was nominated for 11 Oscars and won five.
'The Patriot' (2000)
A dramatic tale of the Revolutionary War, The Patriot follows Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a creative composite of four separate revolutionary heroes, as he leads a militia against the Redcoats who have threatened his family. The Americans eventually win, of course, but not after an epically long three hours of bayonet violence and colonial quarreling. The Roland Emmerich film also featured Heath Ledger as the eldest son of Gibson's character.
The Disney depiction of the “Miracle on Ice,” the rag-tag United States hockey team’s shocking victory over the dominant Soviets during the 1980 Olympics, is just as magical and unbelievable as the win itself. Starring Kurt Russell as coach Herb Brooks, the film captures the American patriotism of the time, a jingoistic spirit against anything red or Communist, and tells the greatest underdog story in American sports history.
'Team America: World Police' (2004)
There has never been a more entertaining or patriotic marionette-starring musical satire of the war on terror than Team America: World Police. But to be fair, there has only ever been one marionette-starring musical satire of the war on terror. Directed, written and voiced by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Team America shocked many audiences with its vivid puppet sex, puppet violence and puppet profanity (America, f--- yeah!).
'John Adams' (2008)
Paul Giamatti stars as the legendary Massachusetts lawyer and the second president of the United States in the seven-part HBO series. Celebrating one of America’s founders is certainly patriotic, even though his character and the series content is never typically prideful. The spectacular performances, including Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, and the authentic grandeur of the production propelled the series to a record 23 Emmy nominations and 13 wins.
'Band of Brothers' (2001) / 'The Pacific' (2010)
HBO's Band of Brothers (pictured) and The Pacific, both executive produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, chronicle the true journeys of soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division in Europe and the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific, respectively, during World War II. Both consisting of 10 parts, the series were visually striking and emotionally devastating, garnering multiple Emmy awards and providing Americans an important reminder of how the war was won and at what cost.