I’m taking the long 4th of July weekend to work on my new novel, and looking forward to watching some movies (while I’m writing.) Seems like a good way to spend a hot July weekend, right? Because there’s nothing more American than movies featuring fireworks, barbecues and patriotic fervor. These five films are so chock-full of American spirit that you’ll be standing and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” before the credits roll.
In that spirit, here’s my list of Movies for the 4th of July Weekend!
Top Gun (1986)
Pilot prodigy Maverick shuns teamwork and the rules of engagement, while making love to his flight instructor, performing dangerous and daring flying maneuvers, and ultimately causing the death of his best friend. In the end, he learns the importance of cooperation and discipline. It remains one of Cruise’s most iconic roles, and naval aviators have never looked so charismatic. If it does nothing else, “Top Gun” demonstrates the emotional impact of the wind-rippled stars and stripes, waving in slow motion.
A League of Their Own (1992)
This movie tends to be most fondly remembered for that important lesson that “There’s no crying in baseball.” But this fictionalized big-screen retelling of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is memorable not just athletically, but historically. The movement that plucked girls out the kitchen and plopped them down on the diamond, with bats in hand, changed the sport of baseball, changed the way the country viewed its female workforce, and most importantly, changed the way women viewed themselves. “A League of Their Own” captures this spirit perfectly with a heart-warming story about the strong, independent women who kept America running while the boys were fighting overseas in World War II. Ultimately though, there’s a deeper lesson about the All-American ideal of equality.
The Sandlot (1993)
The Sandlot is a true blue, American childhood film set in the summer of 1962. A boy moves to a new town and wants to join the neighborhood kids playing baseball on a vacant lot. He borrows his stepfather’s prized baseball –autographed by Babe Ruth – and loses it in a yard patrolled by a dreaded, killer guard dog. He was looking for friends but finds a summer filled with America’s favorite pastime and good ole backyard adventure. Nice touch when the kids play ball at dusk, aided by the flickering lights from the town’s Fourth of July fireworks. In a display of innocent, youthful patriotism, the boys forget the game and get lost watching the brilliant flashes in the night sky.
Jaws is the summer blockbuster prototype, and practically wrote the rule book for every great monster film that followed. Set over the Fourth of July holiday, vacationing city folk swarm the beach of Amity Island, only to run afoul of a big, bad shark. Some have described the waving flags in the background as representing the idealized American Dream, and the monster shark representing whatever cultural phenomenon that’s corrupting that dream, but I view the movie as just good, old fashioned summer entertainment. Plus, Steven Spielberg’s awe inspiring film career began with this adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel.
Independence Day (1996)
There is absolutely no better movie to watch on Independence Day. Not only is it named after the American holiday, but it includes action, sci-fi, humor, romance and cool ’90s Will Smith — all coming to a head on July 4th. In the climatic end, President Bill Pullman declares this day “Independence Day for the world.” Happy Fourth of July, indeed!