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The 10 perfect movies to celebrate Independence Day

Is there a better country in the world than America? Well, if you’ve only seen Hollywood movies your entire life you may think not, but of course, the romantic view of the United States of America across the history of cinema has indeed skewed the impression of the complicated country. Though, for one day, and one day only, let’s bathe in the patriotic glory of the broad stripes and bright stars. 

You don’t have to look particularly hard to find a movie that so passionately defends America either, with the likes of filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and Robert Wise singing the country’s praises with great cinematic might. 

From bombastic action movies to intricate dramas and hysterical comedies, take our look at the perfect movies for Independence Day, below, featuring some of the finest filmmakers of all time, and some others who find themselves as cult heroes. We apologise in advance for the abundance of Spielberg flicks. 

The 10 perfect movies to celebrate Independence Day:

10. West Side Story (Steven Spielberg, 2021)

Though possibly sacrilegious, Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story may be even better than the coveted original film, approaching the story with a zip, vim and vigour that the 1961 film could merely dream of. With a rousing cast that includes Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose, Spielberg puts together a musical masterclass, updating the energy, cinematography and narrative structure. 

It’s a competent retelling of the classic tale that doesn’t shy away from altering key moments and adding several new details, whilst not mind-blowing; it’s a great throwback to classic Hollywood cinema.

9. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012)

Winner of two Oscars at the 2013 Academy Awards, Lincoln is a factual account of the 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln, who struggled to contain the chaos of his own cabinet during the American Civil War. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis in a career-defining role as the titular president, Lincoln is a thrilling biopic that undoubtedly acted as a vehicle for the actor to collect his third Academy Award. 

As one of the greatest American Presidents of all time, Lincoln would make for a solid choice to celebrate your own patriotism this Independence Day. 

8. Team America: World Police (Trey Parker, 2004)

Not just a comedy classic, but also an innovative cinematic feat, the makers of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone created a timeless satire with Team America: World Police, a criticism of American foreign policy made entirely using puppets. Idiotic and farcical yet also strangely insightful, Parker and Stone created an enigma of the comedy genre back in 2004, with several of the film’s quotes remaining iconic to this day.

Sure, Parker’s satire is critical of America in more ways than one, but it’s also a sly smile at the country’s own proud optimism, you’ve simply got to love it.

7. The Sandlot (David Mickey Evans, 1993)

A cult classic movie that has won over generations of American movie lovers, The Sandlot, by director David Mickey Evans, is set in the summer of 1962 and tells the story of a new kid in town who is taken under the wing of a young baseball team. A truly loveable coming-of-age adventure that proudly beams the community spirit of small-town America, it’s hard not to be totally won over by the charm of this 1990s gem.

It’s made all the more endearing by the fact that almost the entire cast of the movie failed to go onto anything bigger, with the likes of Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Art LaFleur, Patrick Renna and Chauncey Leopardi forever being known solely for The Sandlot.

6. The American President (Rob Reiner, 1995)

When it comes to the most beloved filmmakers of modern American cinema, Rob Reiner certainly takes a high spot on the list, being responsible for such classics as Stand by Me, This Is Spinal Tap and Misery. No film is quite as patriotic in Reiner’s repertoire as The American President, however, a rom-com that follows a widowed US President who runs for reelection and falls in love with an environmental lobbyist. 

Featuring such classic Hollywood actors as Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox, if romance is what you’re after on the fourth of July, The American President is the film for you.

5. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)

War is hell; this is no doubt. However, in popular culture, this may not always seem to look the case. Steven Spielberg showed this to be overwhelmingly true in his classic war drama Saving Private Ryan in 1998, starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Bryan Cranston and many more. Following the Normandy Landings, Spielberg’s film tracks a group of U.S. soldiers who go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Known for its masterful recreation of the D-Day landings in the thrilling introductory scene, arriving for battle in tinpot vessels before being immediately met with the roar of gunfire and the true horrors of war.

4. Independence Day (Roland Emmerich, 1996)

Yeah, sure, Roland Emmerich’s well-known disaster movie Independence Day may literally be named after the day this list is celebrating but that doesn’t give the film a free pass right to the top of this list. Known as one of the most famous movies of its type, Emmerich’s 1996 alien-invasion thriller follows an extraterrestrial bid to invade and destroy earth only for humans to fight back with all their might. 

With an all-star cast that features the likes of Bill Pullman, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and many more, there are few films more obvious to catch on the fourth of July than this one.

3. Rocky IV (Sylvester Stallone, 1985)

Often said to be the best, if not the most enjoyable Rocky movie, the fourth film in the boxing series sees the title character Rocky Balboa go up against the Russian man-mountain Ivan Drago in a brutal battle. Featuring Sylvester Stallone alongside Dolph Lundgren as Drago, Rocky IV is a patriotic movie of epic proportions, as we see the heroic boxer fall and get back up again at least five times. 

A long-standing ode to American patriotism, we had to include at least one Rocky movie on the list, though truly any one of them could have made the cut.

2. Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986)

A monument to 1980s cheese and Hollywood fantasy, Top Gun is not only a cultural relic but also a cracking homoerotic thriller at the same time. With a young Tom Cruise in the lead role, the film follows students at the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapons school who are each competing to be the best in their class, using their arrogance, sharp wit and high-speed skills to beat out the rest. 

Recently awarded with a highly acclaimed sequel, there has never been a better time to rewatch Top Gun, especially as if you like it enough you can hop straight in the car and catch the new movie in cinemas. 

1. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)

This sparkly version of American history is pop melodrama, but enjoyable pop melodrama nonetheless. If you’re after a redux version of 20th-century history along with comedy, charming romance and a romp of a central narrative, movies don’t come quite as American as Forrest Gump. It certainly helps that Tom Hanks turns on the charm for the 1994 film, leading the film with wit and an irresistible personality.

Celebrated by fans and critics, Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 classic is full of schmaltz, but who doesn’t love a bit of that on the fourth of July.