Declare Your Independence: Hollywood's Most Patriotic Movies

8:19 AM 6/27/2017

by Jeremy Bergman and Kaeli Wells

Whether it's Tom Cruise playing a cocky Navy pilot, Will Smith punching aliens or Jessica Chastain helping take down Osama bin Laden, Hollywood has plenty of films to satisfy one's Fourth of July cravings.

From left: 'Top Gun,' 'Independence Day' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'
From left: 'Top Gun,' 'Independence Day' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Paramount Pictures/Photofest; 20th Century Fox/Photofest; Columbia Pictures/Photofest

There will be plenty of food, fireworks and festivities this Fourth of July as America celebrates its independence.

But for those needing a break from the heat, The Hollywood Reporter has compiled a list of the most patriotic movies to get you in the spirit of the day.

Check out the list below, and click here for some of America's most patriotic (and un-patriotic) musical offerings.

  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

    1939

    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.

  • Sergeant York

    1941

    Courtesy Everett Collection

    Alvin York (Gary Cooper), a recent Christian convert, struggles to balance his non-violent beliefs and his want to serve his country in World War I. After talking with Major Buxton (Stanley Ridges), York decides to go to war, but once he’s there his struggle with killing or not killing holds him back.

  • 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 Longest Day

    1962

    Courtesy Everett Collection

    Back in 1944, The U.S. Army and allies had plans for a huge invasion landing in Normandy, France. Disregarding the horrible weather, General Eisenhower gives the command and the troops land while General Norma Cota (Robert Mitchum) travels with his men to Omaha Beach. After a lot of hard work and men dying, the troops travel deep into French Territory and try to overrule Adolf Hitler and the German military.

  • Patton

    1970

    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.”

  • 1776

    1972

    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.

  • Top Gun

    1986

    Paramount Pictures/Photofest

    Hotshot pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) is sent to Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School, where his entitled behavior earns him some enemies, including Iceman (Val Kilmer). After graduating, Maverick and Iceman are tasked with rescuing a communications ship that has drifted into hostile waters after being struck. In he end, Maverick wins the affections of Charlie (Kelly McGillis) and returns to Top Gun as in instructor.

  • Glory

    1989

    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.

  • Gettysburg

    1993

    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.

  • Forrest Gump

    1994

    Photofest

    Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) never lived a restricted life. Although he was slow-witted, Gump dominated in every aspect of life whether it was becoming a football star, fighting in Vietnam, revealing the people behind Watergate or becoming a captain on a shrimp boat. While inspiring the lives of many, Gump’s childhood love Jenny (Robin Wright) was too troubled to be saved.

  • Apollo 13

    1995

    Photofest

    When astronauts Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) and Fred Haise (Ken Wantanabe) go on the Apollo 13 lunar mission, everything seems to be going as planned. However when an oxygen tank explodes, the landing on the moon is stopped, and they head back to work. With tensions rising and more technical problems occurring, the group doesn’t know if they will make it back down to Earth alive.

  • 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.

  • Air Force One

    1997

    Photofest

    After making a speech in Moscow stating that he will never negotiate with terrorists, President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) and his family (Wendy Crewson and Liesel Matthews) board Air Force One. Once in the air, a group of terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman) hijacks the plane, leaving the president, who is an ex-soldier, to figure out an escape for his family and everyone else on board.

  • 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.

  • Band of Brothers/The Pacific

    2001/2010

    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.

  • Black Hawn Down

    2001

    Photofest

    Taking place in 1993, U.S. special forces were sent in Black Hawk helicopters to Somalia to overthrow their government and bring food and aid to the starving population; however, an unexpected attack brought down two of the helicopters. Once on the ground, U.S. soldiers must stay alive while getting shot at.

  • Pearl Harbor

    2001

    Courtesy Everett Collection

    Based on real historical events, the 2001 film follows two friends — Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) — as they embark on their journey as pilots in World War II. Excited to start, Rafe decides to fight alongside England’s Royal Air Force in Europe but reunites with his girlfriend Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) and Danny right before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

  • We Were Soldiers

    2002

    Photofest

    Based on the best-selling book We Were Soldiers Once … and Young by Lt. General Harold G. Moore and journalist Joseph L. Galloway, the movie shows the first major battle between the United Stated and North Vietnamese forces. This movie, starring Mel Gibson, portrays the heroism and sacrifice from men and women both at home and at war.

  • Miracle

    2004

    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!).

  • lag of Our Fathers

    2006

    Photofest

    After fighting and winning one of the most crucial battles of the war on the island of Iwo Jima, a photo of veterans raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi becomes one of the most iconic symbols for victory. The 2006 film stars Paul Walker, Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Barry Pepper and Jamie Bell.

  • Letters From Iwo Jima

    2006

    Photofest

    When letters of dead Japanese soldiers reveal stories of what happened during World War II, Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) realizes his men have very little chance to survive, and he has to use as much of his military skills as he can in order to hold off American troops.

  • United 93

    2006

    Universal Pictures

    When terrorists hijack United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, horror runs through the passengers as their helpless family and friends are watching from their TVs, this movie shows the courageous acts by those trapped in the plane as they overcame the terrorists to crash the aircraft so that it did not hit its intended destination, believed to be the Capitol building.

  • Live Free or Die Hard'

    2007

    Photofest

    While the rest of the country is getting ready to celebrate Fourth of July, Veteran cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is working on a routine task: questioning a computer hacker (Justin Long). Since McClane is busy, tech-smart villain Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) sets off an attack on America’s computer infrastructure.

  • 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.

  • Captain American

    2011

    Paramount Pictures

    In 1941, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wanted to join America’s armed forces because of the outrageous amount of wars but was turned down because of his size. After getting accepted into an experimental program Rogers is turned into a supersoldier, Captain America. In order to take down the Nazi’s who are backed by HYDRA organization, Captain America joins forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

  • Argo

    2012

    Warner Brothers

    When militants invade the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, taking 66 American hostages, six of those Americans slip through the crack and find protection with the Canadian ambassador. While believing it's just a matter of time before they get caught and killed, the U.S. government commands extractor Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to save them. In order to get back to Tehran, Mendez's plan is to act as a Hollywood producer scouting locations and train the refugees to act has his film crew.

  • Lincoln

    2012

    Touchstone Pictures

    After another year with a high death count in the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln (Daniel-Day Lewis) uses his passion and skill to create his defining legacy: ending the war and abolishing slavery through the 13th Amendment. Even with all of the backlash, Lincoln continues his fight in order to create a better country and better world for all mankind.

  • Zero Dark Thirty

    2012

    Columbia Pictures

    Since the attacks of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden has become the most-wanted man on Earth. While the worldwide hunt for Bin Laden takes up the attention and resources of two U.S presidential administrations, it is the work of one female operative (Jessica Chastain) that holds the key to finding the terrorist. After learning his whereabouts, on May 11, 2011, Navy SEALs plan a night time strike and kill Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

  • American Sniper

    2015

    Warner Brothers

    As one of the most lethal snipers in American history, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) has saved hundreds of lives. Despite the fact that he is a prime target of the Iraqi’s and has a wife and kids, Kyle serves four tours, but once he leaves for good, he cannot get the war out of his mind.

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