‘Hamilton,’ ‘Glory’ and more: Patriotic movies to watch this Fourth of July weekend – MassLive.com
Who can deny that what we need is a good, old-fashioned dose of patriotism in these troubling times, just as the nation draws closer to celebrating the Fourth of July and remembering our accomplishments as a people, while reflecting on our misgivings.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on many Memorial Day celebrations, and similarly many major and small-town fireworks for Independence Day have been cancelled this year for fear of spreading the virus.
So, go grill those hamburgers and hot dogs outside, grab a cooling libation, and a piece of apple pie, and sit back and choose from some 10 great American films that depict everything that is great about this young nation of ours, while also reminding us that liberty is for everyone.
1. Independence Day — The title alone evokes thoughts of the Fourth of July and American’s independence from British rule. But this modern-day disaster film from popular director Roland Emmerich starring Will Smith and Bill Pullman describes a new is about aliens taking over the world and mankind’s fight to survive. Spoiler: it ends with Pullman as president of the United States declaring a new “independence day” as all countries fought together to defeat the alien invaders. Streaming and DVD from 20th Century Fox.
2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — Dating back to 1939, the premise of this black and white film by award-winning director Frank Capra remains as fresh as ever today. Starring the enigmatic Jimmy Stewart, the film follows the junior senator’s – who was handpicked to replace his state’s U.S. senator – efforts to fight political corruption in Washington, D.C., after being duped by a supposedly “friendly” senator with crooked intentions. Spoiler: the film ends with an emotional filibuster that rights at least one of Washington’s wrongs. Streaming and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
3. Hamilton — The immensely popular Broadway musical about the life and death of Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution is coming to Disney + subscribers on July 3 — just in time for Independence Day. Winner of numerous Tony Awards and grossing more than $650 million, “Hamilton,” featuring the original Broadway cast, including Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote the musical, was filmed at the Richard Rodgers Theater in June 2016 for an eventual release by Disney in movie theaters on Oct. 15, 2021. “In this very difficult time, this story of leadership, tenacity, hope, love & power of people to untie against adversity is both relevant and inspiring,” wrote Robert Iger, Disney’s executive chairman on Twitter about their pandemic-inspired decision to stream the film.
4. Glory — A powerful, inspiring film directed by Edward Zwick, the 1989 movie tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first black fighting unit of the Civil War, led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), who was the son of an influential abolitionist. Based on true events, which depicts the plight of African-American fighters during the war, Shaw leads the brave men – a group of former and escaped slaves – in their ultimate mission to capture Fort Wagner. “Glory” also stars Morgan Freeman as Sergeant Major John Rawlins and Denzel Washington as Private Silas Trip, and features a stirring soundtrack by the late James Horner which features the voices of the Boys Choir of Harlem. Features the depiction of racism and graphic violence. Streaming and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
5. Captain America: The First Avenger — One for young superhero fans, as well as all lovers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” whose name and outfit says it all, is the first of a trilogy of films followed by “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War.” Setting the scene for the first of the three movies, Steve Rogers in 1941 attempts to join America’s armed forces to defeat the Nazis, but is rejected because of his size, only to be taken into an experimental research project that turns him into a supersoldier – the superhero Captain America. Reviewed on Amazon as “this movie is to the Fourth of July what ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is to Christmas – and gets watched every year,” the action adventure stars Chris Evans as Captain America. Streaming and Marvel DVD
6. Patton — The epic biographical war film about U.S. General George S. Patton during World War II won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for George C. Scott’s portrayal of the flamboyant and brilliant military strategist. The 1970 film, released at the height of the unpopular war in Vietnam, was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner with a script by famed director Francis Ford Coppola and Edward H. North. The movie is remembered for many things, including its brilliantly filmed battle scenes in stunning 70 mm, but it is the movie’s opening scene that goes down in movie history as most memorable. As the lights dimmed in the theater and the movie began audiences saw Patton standing in front of an enormous American flag delivering a fiery motivational speech he often gave to his troops. Streaming and DVD from 20thCentury Fox Home Entertainment.
7. United 93 — Only minutes before the first of two hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center, on Sept. 11, 2001, in the worst terrorist attack ever committed on American soil, United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark, New Jersey bound for San Francisco. It, too, was hijacked 40 minutes into the flight by the Islamic extremist group al-Qaida. In real time, the film – written, co-produced and directed by Paul Greengrass – depicts the heroic efforts of passengers to thwart the terrorists and bring down the plane before reaching its target which was believed to be the U.S. Capitol building. Streaming and DVD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
8. Yankee Doodle Dandy — Called “a celebration of patriotic fervor as much as it is a biopic” by Rotten Tomatoes, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a flashy musical about the life of renowned musical composer, playwright, actor, dancer and singer George M. Cohan. Starring James Cagney as Cohan, the 1942 film won him an Oscar for his portrayal of the Broadway showman. The film, which tells the story of his life, depicts Cohan being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940 for his attempt to boost American morale during World War II with patriotic songs such as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Over There” and others. Streaming and on DVD from WarnerBrothers
9. Lincoln — Helmed by uber-director Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln and co-starring Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and Hal Holbrook, the 2012 drama follows the final tumultuous months of the 16th president before his assassination on April 15, 1865, just days after the end of one of the most divisive times in American history – the Civil War. One of the country’s most popular presidents, Lincoln’s efforts to end the war and abolish slavery play prominently in the movie which features a memorable score from John Williams. Streaming and DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
10. Three-way tie: The Right Stuff, Hidden Figures, and Apollo 13 — The space race, described by many as a Cold War competition between the United States and Russia, was for years a symbol of American spirit and ingenuity to conquer what the opening words to NBC’s original classic “Star Trek” television series called “the final frontier.” The recent SpaceX launch, a private enterprise in collaboration with NASA, was the first manned space flight on an American rocket since 2011. For many Americans, its launch represented a renewed enthusiasm and optimism for the future of spaceflight. Relive the glory days of the space race with “The Right Stuff,” which tells the story of America’s first astronauts;
“Hidden Figures,” which tells the tale about three black women mathematicians facing racism at NASA who were the true heroes in putting John Glenn into orbit; and “Apollo 13,” Ron Howard’s blockbuster film starring Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, and Bill Paxton as Apollo 13 astronauts on an ill-fated mission to the moon. All streaming and available on DVD
Honorable mention: 1776 — Nothing says “America” more than the numeral 1776, reflecting the year the 13 American colonies separated from British rule. The 1972 musical, directed by Peter Hunt from a screenplay by Peter Stone based on his book for the Broadway play, features a song score by Sherman Edwards. Among those singing their way through the musical, which portrays the days leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of our nation, include William Daniels as John Adams, Howard Da Silva as Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson, Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson and Virginia Vestoff as Abigail Adams.
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