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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 barbeque recipes, 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, 32 of the best 4th of July movies and how to watch them.
1. ‘The Sandlot’
Who’s in it: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, James Earl Jones
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: Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field
What it’s about: The historical drama film examines the final months of President Abraham Lincoln’s life and career. You know, when he ended the Civil War and abolished slavery.
3. 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Who’s in it: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Joel Edgerton
What it’s about: In the aftermath of 9/11, a female operative joins forces with Navy SEALs to launch a worldwide manhunt in search of Osama bin Laden.
4. ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’
Who’s in it: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci
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.
5. ‘Hidden Figures’
Who’s in it: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Mahershala Ali
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.
6. ‘Independence Day’
Who’s in it: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin
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: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Donovan Leitch Jr.
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.
7. ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Who’s in it: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper
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.
8. ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’
Who’s in it: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp
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: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb
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.
11. ‘Top Gun’
Who’s in it: Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards
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: William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Donald Madden, John Cullum
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.
13. ‘The Patriot’
Who’s in it: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Donal Logue
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.
14. ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER’
Who’s in it: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche, Freddie Prinze Jr., Ryan Phillippe
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.
15. ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’
Who’s in it: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
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.
16. ‘The Music Man’
Who’s in it: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford
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.
17. ‘Born on the Fourth of July’
Who’s in it: Tom Cruise, Bryan Larkin, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava, Josh Evans
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.
18. ‘Air Force One’
Who’s in it: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, William H. Macy
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: Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Christopher Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr.
What’s it about: This lively Broadway production follows the life and career of one of America's most memorable founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Separated into two acts, the play follows Hamilton's work in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, his role as the first Secretary of the Treasury and his personal relationships.
20. ‘Elvis & Nixon’
Who’s in it: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer
What’s it about: This comedy drama centers on the historic meeting between legendary artist Elvis Presley and U.S. President Richard Nixon at the White House on the morning of December 21, 1970. The two bond over their similarities before posing for an iconic photo together.
21. ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’
Who’s in it: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Jessie Usher, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner
What’s it about: Two decades after the events of the first film, the United Nations has developed the Earth Space Defense, a program that helps protect the planet from extraterrestrial threats through recovered alien technology. But will this be enough to save the Earth?
Who’s in it: Angela Davis, Melina Abdullah, Michelle Alexander, Cory Booker
What’s it about: Ava DuVernay’s insightful and raw documentary explores a loophole in the U.S. amendment that abolishes slavery and discusses the mass incarceration of Black men in America. The movie also touches on topics like disenfranchisement, the Jim Crow era, the war on drugs, which disproportionately affected the Black community.
23. ‘National Treasure’
Who’s in it: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha, Christopher Plummer
What’s it about: Cage stars as a historian and cryptologist named Benjamin Franklin Gates in this family-friendly adventure. He’s on a quest for lost treasure, which includes jewels and other valuable artifacts, but the only way to find it is to get his hands on the Declaration of Independence.
24. ‘JFK: The Making of a President’
Who’s in it: Emily Charnock, Nigel Hamilton, Jonathan Kydd
What’s it about: Get some insight into the life of one of the most notable presidents in U.S. history: John F. Kennedy. This documentary takes a deeper look into Kennedy’s early life before he took office, including his health struggles and dealing with a family tragedy.
Who’s in it: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt
What’s it about: If you’re curious to learn even more about the Kennedys, this biographical film follows the life of former First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Portman) after JFK’s assassination. The film took some of its inspiration from journalist Theodore H. White's interview with the widow for Life magazine.
Stream on Netflix
26. ‘Banner 4th of July’
Who’s in it: Brooke White, Mercedes Ruehl, Christian Campbell
What’s it about: Up for a feel-good Hallmark flick that also happens to be patriotic? Allow us to introduce Banner 4th of July. A trio of talented siblings rise to fame as a rock band, but things go south when one member leaves the group. And more than a decade later, it’s revealed that their town will go bankrupt if it can’t make a bond repayment by the 4th of July. Will this lead to the family’s long overdue reunion?
27. ‘Red Dawn’
Who’s in it: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Darren Dalton
What’s it about: Before Swayze and Grey shared their provocative moves in Dirty Dancing, the actors starred together in Red Dawn. The action-packed film follows a group of American high school students as they fight to defend their country against dangerous Russian invaders.
What’s it about: The Academy Award-winning film details how former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (Bale) grew to become the most powerful vice president in American history, from working under the Nixon Administration to landing a seat with the U.S. House of Representatives.
Who’s in it: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Keith David, Steve Buscemi
What’s it about: Nothing says patriotism like joining a life-or-death mission to save your country—and this movie never fails to remind us of that. After learning that a giant asteroid is headed towards Earth, NASA recruits an unlikely team of deep-core drillers to prevent a catastrophic collision.
Who’s in it: Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Nathan West, Sean McCann, Noah Emmerich, Patrick O'Brien Demsey
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.
31. ‘A League of Their Own’
Who’s in it: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell
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.
32. ‘Patriot Games’
Who’s in it: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Samuel L Jackson James Earl Jones
What’s it about: Before John Krasinksi took over as Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime, Ford embodied the famed action hero. Inspired by Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name, a retired Ryan re-joins the CIA and goes up against an Irish terrorist group after they target his family.
Stream on Netflix