When it comes to the 4th of July, our main concern is usually the menu. Not to mention, breaking out the patriotic decorations and planning fun activities to do with the fam. However, this year, we’re adding something else to the list—movies. Because in between grilling, taking a dunk in the pool and chatting with your Aunt Kathy, you might want to squeeze in watching a film or two. So, why not go with the most patriotic ones to stay on the holiday theme? Here, 18 of the best 4th of July movies and how to watch them.
1. ‘The Sandlot’
What’s it about: In the summer of 1962, a new kid in town is taken under the wing of a young baseball prodigy and his rowdy team. There is absolutely nothing more American than a bunch of young kids playing baseball outdoors. Not to mention, there’s an annual Fourth of July baseball game the team participates in.
Who’s in it: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, James Earl Jones
2. ‘Saving Private Ryan’
What’s it about: This Steven Spielberg war drama focuses on the Normandy landings during World War II. When two brothers are killed, a team led by Captain Miller is sent over enemy lines to find Private Ryan (ah, we get it now) to tell him about his brothers' deaths and to bring him home.
Who’s in it: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper
3. ‘Independence Day’
What’s it about: When alien forces begin to seize major cities in the U.S. in hopes to destroy Earth on (you guessed it) Independence Day, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive. Plus, Will Smith punching aliens to save his country just screams patriotism.
Who’s in it: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin
4. ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’
What’s it about: It may be a superhero movie, but no one embodies patriotism quite like Steve Rogers (aka Captain America). Seriously, a scrawny civilian transforms into a super soldier to fight in WWII, what more could you ask for? Plus, there’s a quirky musical number thats full of stars and stripes.
Who’s in it: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci
5. ‘Hidden Figures’
What’s it about: An adaption of Margot Lee Shetterly's book by the same name, Hidden Figures follows three black female NASA mathematicians who worked to launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit (along with a handful of other impressive space missions). The film was also nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture, so it’s definitely worth the watch.
Who’s in it: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Mahershala Ali
What’s it about: This 2004 classic tells the true story of Herb Brooks, a hockey player-turned-coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Soviet squad. There’s nothing we love more than an emotional sports drama. That and Kurt Russel.
Who’s in it: Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Nathan West, Sean McCann, Noah Emmerich, Patrick O'Brien Demsey
What’s it about: This 1989 film follows the Union army's first African-American regiment lead by white commander, Robert Gould Shaw. Famous faces Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman star as ex-slaves turned volunteer soldiers who are fighting prejudices in both their own unit and the confederates. And boy is this one chock-full of history.
Who’s in it: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Donovan Leitch Jr.
8. ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’
What’s it about: This 1942 musical starring James Cagney, does a deep dive into the life of renowned musical composer, playwright, actor, dancer and singer, George M. Cohan. Featuring classic tunes such as “You're a Grand Old Flag,” this black-and-white flick will surely have you singing and dancing your way around the BBQ table.
Who’s in it: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp
9. ‘A League of Their Own’
What’s it about: During World War II, a group of women came together to join the first ever all-female baseball league after the men are sent to war. Two sisters join the league and struggle to help it succeed amidst their own growing rivalry. They also learn that there’s “no crying in baseball,” from their washed-up, alcoholic coach. Having absolutely nothing to do with the actual holiday itself, this pick is saturated with patriotic themes.
Who’s in it: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell
What’s it about: When a rogue (not to mention, massive) great while shark unleashes chaos on a local beach town, it's up to a sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer to hunt the animal down. Perhaps not as patriotic as some of the other films on this list, Jaws is actually set on July 4th.
Who’s in it: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb
11. ‘Top Gun’
What’s it about: As flyboys at the United States Navy's Elite Fighter Weapons School compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom. Plus, we’ll take any excuse to watch a young, handsome Tom Cruise in uniform.
Who’s in it: Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards
What’s it about: We like to think of this one as the original Hamilton. Based on the hit Broadway show by the same name, this musical tells the story of the American Revolution's political struggle in the Continental Congress to gain independence. It doesn’t get more patriotic than the founding fathers singing and dancing their way to the sign of the declaration.
Who’s in it: William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Donald Madden, John Cullum
13. ‘The Patriot’
What’s it about: After his son is murdered by a British officer, peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution. We love it (almost) solely for young Heath Ledger. Disclaimer: This one is not for children.
Who’s in it: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Donal Logue
14. ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER’
What’s it about: This teen slasher film kept the summer thrills going when it hit theaters in October 1997, thanks to writer Kevin Williamson's (Scream, Dawson’s Creek) mastery of teen angst and well-paced scares. Again, nothing super patriotic about this one, but teen horror flick that takes place on 4th of July weekend sounds all-American to us.
Who’s in it: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche, Freddie Prinze Jr., Ryan Phillippe
15. ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’
What’s it about: The fictional story follows young, idealistic Jefferson Smith who is suddenly appointed to the United States Senate. He quickly realizes what he’s up against and learns how to stand up for himself and his strongly-held views. And as we know politics can get quite messy these days, this film reminds us that it isn’t all bad.
Who’s in it: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
16. ‘The Music Man’
What’s it about: Based on the 1957 Broadway musical, The Music Man tells the story of a con man named Harold Hill who tries to deceive Iowan residents into thinking he's a traveling band instructor. Luckily, the townspeople are onto his act, but getting out of town becomes difficult when he starts to fall for one of the locals.
Who’s in it: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford
17. ‘Born on the Fourth of July’
What’s it about: Yes, we’re including another Tom Cruise movie. Based on former Marine Ron Kovic's life, this 1989 film tells the story of how the once dedicated soldier became an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after being paralyzed in the Vietnam War. Directed by Oliver Stone, this one is definitely a tear jerker.
Who’s in it: Tom Cruise, Bryan Larkin, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava, Josh Evans
18. ‘Air Force One’
What’s it about: Leave it to Harrison Ford to take on the role of a President, veteran and action hero. Communist Radicals hijack Air Force One with the U.S. President and his family on board. The Vice President negotiates from Washington, while Ford fights to rescue the hostages on board.
Who’s in it: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, William H. Macy