July 4th is upon us, dads fire up the grill, moms make “Independence Day Margaritas”, and teenagers try their best to steal the Independence Day Margaritas. Instead of getting cooked by the sun, some will be celebrating July 4th inside by watching patriotic movies. Which got me thinking, what are the best July 4th movies? What makes a movie patriotic enough to be watched on July 4th? And what criteria should be used to determine the greatest movie to watch on July 4th?
The criteria for best movies to watch on July 4th are: patriotism, impact or depiction of America, quality, and rewatchability. Each movie will be ranked out of 10 for each category, and I will then tally up all of the scores to determine the greatest July 4th movie of all time. Movies like Top Gun and Rocky IV will be disqualified because they aren’t about our Independence Day, it’s about America kicking some ass! I guess if that’s why I’m disqualifying Top Gun and Rocky IV, I will also have to disqualify Team America: World Police. Even though it’s about America it isn’t a July 4th movie. Without further ado.
Jaws invented the summer blockbuster and encapsulated America in just 2 hours. You have the nerd, the evil businessman, the hero, and the villain. Even if the villain is a shark. A quick summary of the plot: an evil shark is killing citizens of Amity Island, Chief Brody wants to close the beaches down until the beast is caught, Mayor Vaughn fears the town will be crippled by the lack of tourist revenue, a scientist and a ship captain try to capture the shark with the help of Chief Brody before more die.
Before Jaws summer was considered the “dump months” for movie studios, after this movie summer became the time all the blockbusters were released. There are an endless amount of stories about this movie like the animatronic shark not functioning most of the time, and Spielberg hiring himself for the movie. I think the best story about this movie is an untold one, how the hell did the MPA give this movie a PG rating? At the least, it’s a PG-13 rating, and I could argue that the movie should be given an R rating.
For patriotism, I give the movie a solid 7/10. Some will say the movie is about doing the right thing, and not letting money dictate life decisions. I say the movie is about a killer shark and one man who has to save the day against all odds.
For impact or depiction of America, I give the movie a 7/10. Again this movie is about a killer shark so I wouldn’t say this movie makes a lot of political statements. Although, one could argue the Mayor is a symbol of capitalist greed. But please don’t, I just want to enjoy people getting eaten by sharks.
This is a no-brainer for quality, Jaws is a 10/10. In one movie we get the best of Spielberg and we get to see the techniques he will use for years to come. Roy Schneider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton. Every actor plays their part to perfection, if this cast were an NBA team it would be the 2013 Spurs. No actor outshines the other, they all do their job and do it well.
Do I even have to do rewatchability for Jaws? An obvious 10/10, this movie supplies us with endless quotes like “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, suspense, horror, and action. The get out of the water scene is iconic, and the July 4th scene where the shark attacks Michael in the pond is a classic. Ellen Brody telling her husband (Chief Brody) “Michael’s in the pond” is another great quote that starts a great sequence of Chief Brody running to Michael to see if he’s okay. And then another great quote which is also unintentionally hilarious is when Ellen Brody quickly pronounces Michael as dead before Brody tells her he’s just in shock. Maybe there’s something wrong with me if I think that’s funny?
This movie is altogether awesome. It includes aliens, world destruction, and an endless amount of rewatchable scenes. This is Jeff Goldblum at his most Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman is president, Will Smith saves the world, and Randy Quaid does his impression of a crazy person, or was he just being himself? Randy Quaid probably thought they were filming a documentary and everything was real until shooting wrapped.
Patriotism in this movie is a solid 10/10. Bill Pullman is a president that actually does something, Randy Quaid dies for his country, Will Smith saves Earth, and oh yeah the Bill Pullman Independence Day speech. We’ll get to that later, but holy crap that’s a good speech.
Impact/depiction of America in Independence Day is an 8/10. Let’s face it, if this really happened in 1996 Bill Clinton wouldn’t have fought aliens as a fighter pilot, no president would have done that. I know I’m picking nits about a movie where aliens invade the planet, but there’s no way Randy Quaid is allowed to fly. He’s a flight risk in the movie and in real life, they didn’t pull up his file? And where’s the scene when all the dust has settled and Will Smith is given zero credit for saving the world? We know it happened.
Quality: 9/10. The dialogue isn’t the best, but do you think the writers were figuring out what the characters would say realistically or how to pitch this movie? Really, how did they pitch this movie? This is a lesson to all the kids out there, don’t do cocaine.
Rewatchability: this movie is insanely rewatchable 10/10. So many great scenes like the one where Will Smith punches an alien to death! What’s more awesome than that! Actually, you know what’s more awesome than that? The Bill Pullman Independence Day speech, that’s what. Here’s an excerpt from the amazing speech, “And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: ‘We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!” USA USA USA USA USA! Sorry, something just came over me there. I almost forgot to mention another great quote from a great scene, “I’m baaaaaaaaaaack!” Something I should say every time I walk back into a room.
This classic from 1993 is what summer is all about for kids. Playing baseball. The Sandlot is the definition of a rewatchable movie. An endless amount of great scenes, one of the most recognizable quotes of all time, and the movie brings a summertime feel even if it’s watched in the heart of winter.
Patriotism 8/10. Baseball is America’s pastime after all, and in the end, we find out Timmy and Tommy become rich after inventing mini-malls. What’s more patriotic than becoming a wealthy businessman?
Impact/depiction of America 8.5/10. An outcast finds solace in baseball and then finds a group of friends through playing the game. This movie shows every friend of a friend group very well, therefore, earning an 8.5/10.
Quality 8/10. This movie is a classic, but it’s not a masterpiece. I mean this movie probably isn’t too popular with the over 60 crowd and is more popular with the under 40 crowd. I hope this movie doesn’t fade as generations do.
Rewatchability 9/10. The Sandlot is only an hour and a half, and the pace is perfect. The movie is insanely quotable, most famously the quote, “You’re Killing Me, Smalls!” A quote that has been used in every wiffle ball/stickball game since 1993. The fireworks scene on July 4th is incredible making the movie a classic rewatchable.
Born on the Fourth of July
Based on the acclaimed autobiography by Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, Tom Cruise plays Ron Kovic. Starting off as a patriotic Military’s dream teenager ending with a shot of Ron Kovic at the 1976 Democratic Convention to speak about his experience as a neglected Vietnam Veteran. Tom Cruise delivers a great performance of a veteran neglected by his own government after fighting a war that wasn’t his to fight.
Patriotism 10/10. Tom Cruise starts the movie as an enthusiastic teen ready to fight communism and ends the movie as a handicapped veteran speaking out against war. What’s more American than volunteering to fight a war that wasn’t ours to fight then having your government neglect you?
Impact/Depiction of America 10/10. The scene where Tom Cruise’s character Ron Kovic goes to protest at the 1972 Republican Convention and the police brutally beat him is tough to watch, but unfortunately, it happened. The same voters who supported sending him to war, spit and cursed at him as he was dragged away.
Quality 8/10. Tom Cruise delivers a great performance garnering an Oscar nomination, Oliver Stone is on point, and Willem Dafoe is great.
Rewatchability 6/10. It’s not that rewatchable because every time you watch it you’re like, “Oh yeah America does this to its veterans.”
There are many more movies I could’ve put on this list like The Patriot, 1776, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or even Lincoln. But I kept these movies off the list because how many movies could you watch in a day and I wanted to make a list of fun movies. Alright, I’ll concede Born on the Fourth of July might not be that fun of a movie, but it has the fourth of July in the title, how could I keep the movie off the list?
In order of least points to most points, here are the best movies to watch on July 4th based on my criteria; The Sandlot (33.5 points), Born on the Fourth of July (34 points), Jaws (34 points), and Independence Day (37 points). Have a fun fourth of July and remember this, nobody cares about what your vegan hotdog looks like Karen!