With any national holiday it is customary to make a top 10 list in correlation. Which is why it is not uncommon to see a list of holiday-themed movies. Christmas is a big one. Though I remember one event when a communications professor looked perplexed when I told her that Die Hard was the best Christmas movie of all time.
Since she didn’t like that answer, I gave her another one: Lethal Weapon.
That’s right, ladies and gents. I figure as long as a movie is set around or involves a sequence involving a particular holiday it is fair game.
So instead of just looking at movies deemed patriotic this Fourth of July, this top ten will include moments in cinema that occurred on this date plus some regulatory you-need-to-watch-this-on-July-4th-or-you’re-un-American-if-you-don’t entertainment.
As a gag I had considered making a top ten with nothing but movies with American in the title. Because nothing says patriotism like Jim making out with an apple pie in American Pie, or Christian Bale using Huey Lewis and the News as perfect background music as he hacks Jared Leto into pieces in American Psycho.
Honorable Mention: “The Soviets Can Suck It Trilogy”
It would have been a layup to have included Rocky IV in the top ten, because Rocky Balboa, an Italian from Philly, ended the Cold War. This would be deemed unpatriotic by Congress, though Ronald Reagan, previously an actor in his younger years, would approve. As a bonus Balboa was wearing the American-flag style boxing shorts of a dead guy (his friend Apollo Creed) when he defeated chemical engineer-cum-Russian boxer Ivan Drago. Oh, and it also has the best training montage ever.
The other two movies that consist of the Soviets can suck it trilogy are Red Dawn (WOLVERINES!!) and Invasion U.S.A. These two movies involve Russians invading the good ol U.S. of A. Only the Ruskies didn’t count on two things: the Power of Swayze and Chuck Norris, the latter whom finished off his villain opponent with a rocket launcher. Because it’s Chuck, he didn’t need to have a right-to-carry permit.
10. Air Force One
President Harrison Ford opens the movie with a speech on how the U.S. will not negotiate with terrorists. So when Air Force One is breached by Russian terrorists led by Gary Oldman, President Ford forgoes using the escape pod as escape and instead stays on board to kick ass John McClane style, where he rescues his wife and daughter and other hostages in the process. This. Is. Leadership.
Special note: Of Harrison Ford’s two iconic roles – as Han Solo and Indiana Jones – it is this film where he’s asked by most to recite a particular line.
9. The Sandlot and The Pride of the Yankees
Okay, so I’m going with a tie here for no. 9 since both movies deal with baseball. The reason they are on the list is because both have scenes on the Fourth of July. In The Sandlot the boys get to have a night game thanks to the fireworks being set off in the neighborhood. And with The Pride of the Yankees, it is 75 years to the day in which New York Yankee Lou Gehrig gives his “The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech. Gary Cooper played Gehrig in the film and Yankees great Babe Ruth played himself.
8. Forrest Gump
Revisionist history would probably see The Shawshank Redemption or Pulp Fiction as the better film the year Forrest Gump would dominate at the Oscars, but you can’t deny Tom Hanks’ portrayal of a slow-witted and naive Alabama man who would rise above his intellectual hardships to become an All-American football player, a Medal of Honor recipient and brush shoulders with a number of presidents and entertainers along the way. The film pays much respect to 20th century America; I can’t tell you how many times I listened to the double-disc soundtrack. Still if you are naysayer about the comedy-drama or find it as sweet as a box of chocolates, everyone can all agree that Tom Hanks did not do this in the film.
Scott Sawitz eloquently put it one time in a column that there are but a few famous people in history who don’t need a first name to help identify them. Among the names mentioned were Gandhi and Patton. The famous Army general who would command in the European Theater of World War II, Patton would have a biographical war film about his service with George C. Scott in the titular role. Though Patton is nearly three hours long, to get patriotic just watch the opening monologue with the stars and stripes behind him.
One of Steven Spielberg’s greatest also has a memorable scene that takes place just before tourists arrive on Independence Day involving a man named Harry with a bad hat, a man-eating great white shark, and beachgoers on Amity Island. The zoom to Roy Scheider is classic.
5. Top Gun
Almost a decade before Keanu Reeves felt the need for Speed, Tom Cruise experienced the need in Top Gun, otherwise known as the best Navy aviator recruitment video ever produced by Hollywood. The success of the movie sparked a rise in recruitment by nearly 500 percent. It also has a song that I unabashedly love, Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys,” which is the perfect song for a game of volleyball before or after a Fourth of July barbeque.
4. Team America: World Police
Oh those crazy South Park guys, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Leave it to them to make a film consisting of marionettes that pokes fun of big-budget action films (hello, Michael Bay) and their stereotypes (can I get a montage?) juxtapose with the politics of the United States and its globally policing of the world. The group of paramilitary policeman square off against North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, plus a group of liberal Hollywood actors that include Alec Baldwin and Matt Damon. It also has the most patriotic song on Earth. Why hasn’t there been a successful petition to get this to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner”?
3. All the President’s Men
The quintessential journalism film, Alan J. Pakula’s political thriller is also a very patriotic film. Here we have Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, as portrayed by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, bringing down the leader of a country. The film is a callback to a time where journalism actually mattered, where writers would investigate rather than take the word of a press release or daily briefing at face value.
This is arguably David Fincher’s greatest achievement as a filmmaker – it gets better every time I see it. It also deals with reporters obsessed with getting to the truth; only the investigation this time involves a serial killer and not “Tricky Dick.” The reason why it is here is because the second attack resulting in a fatality by the Zodiac Killer occurred just before midnight on July 4, 1969 at Blue Rock Springs Park.
1. Independence Day
As if there was ever a doubt, of course my #1 was going to be Independence Day. Roland Emmerich knew how to drizzle the liquid butter onto popcorn at the movies like nobody’s business in 1996. It’s not that Independence Day piled on the Jewish stereotypes or blatantly made fun of the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when Harry Connick, Jr. was kneeling and holding a wedding ring in front of Will Smith as another serviceman walked by in the background, or gave us the humility (now) of having a drunken Randy Quaid be branded an American hero, it’s that this big-budged B-movie does everything in style. We even get Will Smith jabbing Steven Spielberg movies as he makes off-the-cuff remarks like wanting to kick E.T.’s ass or expressing “now that’s what I call a ‘close encounter'” when he punches out an alien. But the highlight is this address from President Lone Star (Bill Pullman) done without the use of a teleprompter or consultation from his staff. Not only that, but he joins the surviving airmen to take to the skies and fight the aliens! Can he be a write-in for the next presidential election?
Tags: Air Force One, All the President's Men, Forrest Gump, Fourth of July, Independence Day, jaws, Patton, Team America: World Police, The Sandlot, Top Gun, Zodiac