Millions of July 4th celebrations all over the United States include steady diets of barbecues, pool parties, fireworks, and laughter, but this holiday is also a great day for a movie! Well, that’s because every day is a great day for a movie, of course.
If you find a few spare hours on Independence Day, why not catch a movie at home? Here are five films which pay homage to the U.S.A. in various ways, and you can stream them one or all via Amazon for a few dollars each.
“In America” (2002) – The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, and director Jim Sheridan crafts a moving film about an Irish family trying to financially survive in New York City while still mourning the death of their little boy. Exceptionally well-acted, the picture bathes in themes of love and the strength of a close family unit, as Johnny (Paddy Considine), Sarah (Samantha Morton) and their two little girls embrace their new American surroundings during the early 1980s. Balancing emotions and tension throughout the picture, Johnny’s attempt at a carnival game might be the most stressful moment that you will see all year. Djimon Hounsou also plays a key supporting role. (3.5/4 stars)
“Miracle” (2004) – Coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) only has seven months to construct and train a hockey team to compete in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. Rather than slip into convention, he takes unique approaches to build his team, including avoiding the best players and selecting the “right” ones. Director Gavin O’Connor and Russell create a rousing, behind-the-scenes look at Brooks’ out-of-the-box thinking which inspired 20 young hockey players and an entire nation. Do you believe in miracles? Well, after seeing this movie, we all should. (3/4 stars)
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) – Politics has become a figurative combat sport in recent months, but after watching this Jimmy Stewart classic, one realizes that the fight has endured for decades and decades. Jefferson Smith (Stewart) is a brand new senator and arrives in D.C. with a squeaky clean image, as a colleague tells him, “This is no place for you. You are halfway decent.” This movie certainly is leaps and bounds above decent, as director Frank Capra engineers a timeless David vs. Goliath story with the nation’s capital at the very center. Senator Smith does not own a slingshot, but his inspiring principles certainly aim true. (4/4 stars)
“Rocky IV” (1985) – Admittedly, “Rocky” (1976), “Rocky II” (1979), “Rocky III” (1982), “Rocky Balboa” (2006), and “Creed” (2015) are better films than the fourth installment in this storied franchise, but “Rocky IV” features a slugfest between our hero (Sylvester Stallone) and a big, bad, blonde-haired Russian (Dolph Lundgren). Hey, that is something to celebrate on Independence Day! Other than the fight, the picture is a shallow series of clichés, including a dopey, eye-rolling musical montage of Rocky training in an isolated ranch by cutting wood and lifting rocks, while Drago (Lundgren) enjoys pumping iron and gladly accepting modern science and chemistry. On the other hand, it is very difficult not to wave the ole red, white and blue when Rocky and Drago square off. (2/4 stars)
“Saving Private Ryan” (1998) – Steven Spielberg’s World War II picture might feel like a Memorial Day movie rather than a Fourth of July one, but with the film’s bookend images of the American flag, one cannot help but feel utterly patriotic throughout the 2-hour 49-minute runtime. Spielberg’s masterpiece is widely-known for its spectacular, 23-minute D-Day reenactment, but do not underestimate the picture’s deeply affecting emotional core. Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Giovanni Ribisi star, and Matt Damon plays the title role. Without question, one of the greatest war films ever made. (4/4 stars)
Image credits: Walt Disney Pictures; Trailer credits: You Tube Movies