Before watching the fireworks this Fourth of July, click on a classic American film to help celebrate our country’s independence. From fictional films that illuminate the realities of war to historical dramas about sports to good ol’ fashioned superhero stories, this list has something for every viewer…and weirdly a lot of Tom Cruise.
10. Top Gun
Top Gun is not only a funny, romantic, classic action movie about fighter pilots, it’s also legitimately important to the conservation of American history. That is according to the U.S. Library of Congress. In 2015, Top Gun was added to the National Film Registry, along with Shawshank Redemption and Ghostbusters, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis combine powers for this the greatest historical drama in recent history. In it, the two Hollywood heavyweights manage to make a history lesson about the end of the Civil War and the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation absolutely riveting. Tommy Lee Jones also gives an almost-upstaging performance as the foul-mouthed Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania.
8. Apollo 13
Long before the likes of IMAX, Interstellar, and Neil deGrasse Tyson made space travel seem like a very expensive cake walk, Apollo 13 drew attention to the real dangers of leaving the atmosphere in favor of reaching other planets. Leave the U.S. and the this terrestrial planet behind for an anxiety-inducing two hour true-to-life drama about the 1970 aborted lunar mission and the resulting attempt to bring U.S. astronauts back to Earth.
7. Born on the Fourth of July
An autobiographical account of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic’s enlisted life, Born on the Fourth of July is the first installment in director/screenwriter Oliver Stone’s trilogy dedicated to life before, during, and after the Vietnam War. An award-winning film, this movie was Tom Cruise’s first Academy Award nomination, which he received for his portrayal of Kovic.
6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the U.S. Senate and CSPAN just isn’t going the trick, watch this 1939 political feature that follows a newly-appointed Senator on his journey to Washington, D.C. to figure corruption. James Stewart plays Senator Jefferson “Jeff” Smith, a presumptuously naive Boy Rangers group leader who finds himself in office and struggles to adapt to the unrelenting atmosphere of the nation’s capital. The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning for Best Writing, Original Story.
5. Air Force One
This mid-air action thriller follows Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman), a Russian loyalist who hijacks Air Force One while veteran-turned-President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) and his cabinet as well as his family is aboard. Watch as the commander-in-chief attempts to retake the plane after it is stormed by Korshunov’s men, who were disguised as members of the press and aided by a double-crossing secret service agent. It’s a heart-pounding tale of heroism that features (as a recent WSJ poll calls it) the “greatest fictional president.”
4. A Few Good Men
Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, and Twin Peaks‘s brooding heartthrob James Marshall star in this story of court-martialed marines and murder. As well as having a stellar cast, this 90s legal drama also has a cameo from screenplay writer Aaron Sorkin and the infamous line, “You can’t handle the truth!”
3. Captain America
Captain America is about origins. Follow pip squeak and local Brooklynite Steve Rogers as he enters the U.S. Army only to learn that despite his courageous heart and early acts of valor, he just doesn’t have the brawn for the job. Rogers then enlists in a secret military program to become the ultimate super-soldier, an act that transforms him into the shield-toting super hero that we know today.
Based on the 1980’s U.S. Men’s olympic hockey team, Miracle tracks the journey of these twenty-odd young college athletes from tryouts to their heated initial practices to all the way to Lake Placid and the Games. Kurt Russell plays head coach Herb Brooks, who’s rallying speeches will have you believe that you too can trounce the Soviets in the first medal round.
1. Independence Day
In this classic film about the impending apocalypse and extraterrestrials, Will Smith stars as Captain Steven Hiller, an ill-fated USMC pilot who find himself amidst an alien invasion on the eve of Independence Day. More summer blockbuster than political drama, this movie is for those of us who enjoy explosions, space invaders, and Jeff Goldblum and need something a little more light-hearted given the current political climate.
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