I first want to state that I fully believe that America, and this great holiday in particular, are meant to be celebrated outdoors. Not necessarily in those ridiculous looking American flag shorts you bought online a few years ago to “stand out” and then dug through your closet to find late last night to wear again today after partaking in that case of Sam Adams… but who am I to judge? You just do whatever that bald eagle that lives within your heart tells you to do.
However, if you’re a movie junkie you can always find a way to make time to squeeze in a movie viewing or two. Maybe you can even choose to treat yo self and extend your celebration of America a few more days. In any case, what I wanted to do this year is create a list of movies that you should consider watching to celebrate America in all of it’s glory this weekend.
There are lots of great viewing options that I’m sure you’ve watched over and over to celebrate the Fourth of July (Independence Day, Rocky/Rocky IV, The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, etc.), but I wanted to propose some other options for you of films that really embody America to me. These films celebrate the American Spirit and from my perspective are underseen and underappreciated these days. I know how much you wholeheartedly love that President Whitmore speech, and it probably still occasionally gives you goosebumps like the rest of us, but maybe just this year consider viewing just that two minute clip and then investing that other two and a half hours in a new story that might just make you love America even more?
I’ll just leave this list here and let you and that bald eagle sort through those feelings.
These aren’t necessarily in any particular order:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)- If you haven’t seen this movie then stop what you’re doing now and let’s go ahead and remedy that. Love freedom? Love the thought of someone not corrupted fighting for your freedom? Well when it was released it was banned in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Soviet Russia. Know what they all hated? Freedom. It also upset many in Washington and several Senators stormed out of the screening in Constitutional Hall. Mr. Smith was a well-meaning man who stood up to a corruption. He truly believed that one man can make a difference in the world and refused to back down. PLEASE don’t let the age of this film deter you, it’s well worth your time. If you watch this and aren’t inspired I’ll personally send you the $3 it costs to rent this through Amazon.
Noteworthy quote- “Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books… Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I’m free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn’t, I can, and my children will.”
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)- Hopefully I don’t have to explain to you why To Kill a Mockingbird is brilliant and beautiful and important. My only goal in listing it here is to merely remind you of it and it’s connection with America and justice. We’d all be better people, and better Americans, if we visited with Atticus Finch more often.
Noteworthy quote- “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
All the President’s Men (1976)- Why is a film about the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal on my list? Because it’s also about pursuing truth at all costs and the importance of freedom. Our country was founded by those fleeing from corrupted governments and freedom of the press plays an invaluable role in preserving our liberties. It’s also just a really good movie…
Noteworthy quote- “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys f*** up again, I’m going to get mad. Goodnight.”
Sullivan’s Travels (1941)- I’ve rambled on about my love for this movie before and I’m sure again. I’m going to keep listing it until people watch it. The message here in Sullivan’s Travels is one of hope and the power of laughter to brighten people’s lives despite their circumstances. I like to think that’s a distinctly American quality.
Noteworthy quote- “There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that’s all some people have? It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.”
Lincoln (2012)- If you missed this a few years back consider going back and checking it out. I don’t know that there has been a better movie encompassing the power of America in recent years.
Noteworthy quote- “‘Yes,’ said Mr. Allen, ‘where it will do good service. The world knows nothing will make an Englishman shit quicker than the sight of George Washington.’…I love that story”
Patton (1970)- General Patton was quite the character and he embodied a lot of the fight America has. Though certainly a flawed man, you have to appreciate his swagger and determination. That man
hated loathed losing. I respect that.
Noteworthy quote- “Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost, and will never lose a war… because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.”
Selma (2014)- For this one I’ll direct you to Joseph Williams’ review. This is an incredibly powerful and important film, and, while it may spotlight some of the ugly scars of our country, it also spotlights a wonderful man who played a monumental role in making our country a better place. No reason you can’t celebrate that on Independence Day.
Noteworthy quote- “Our lives are not fully lived if we’re not willing to die for those we love, for what we believe.”
12 Angry Men (1957)- This is such a powerful and important film that deals with our justice system and how we judge people. I think this movie still embodies a lot of America today and there’s still a lot that can be learned from soaking in the wisdom.
Noteworthy quote- “Juror #10: Bright? He’s a common ignorant slob. He don’t even speak good English! Juror #11: He doesn’t speak good English.”
Sergeant York (1941)- A little shoutout to the great state of Tennessee. Alvin York was a great American and one that we can certainly learn from. Like many of the other heroes above, he wasn’t without his flaws. In the end he did what needed to be done though to protect his brothers.
Noteworthy quote- “Alvin: Well I’m as much agin’ killin’ as ever, sir. But it was this way, Colonel. When I started out, I felt just like you said, but when I hear them machine guns a-goin’, and all them fellas are droppin’ around me… I figured them guns was killin’ hundreds, maybe thousands, and there weren’t nothin’ anybody could do, but to stop them guns. And that’s what I done. Maj. Buxton: Do you mean to tell me that you did it to save lives? Alvin: Yes sir, that was why. Maj. Buxton: [amazed] Well, York, what you’ve just told me is the most extraordinary thing of all!”
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)- This is such a powerful film. There’s a lot that we can still take away as Americans from this film and most notable might be the importance of maintaining hope despite current circumstances. I think it’s inspirational qualities make it a great way to spend your holiday weekend.
Noteworthy quote- “I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.”