Top Five Movies (or TV Shows) for the Fourth of July

  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” — Frank Capra really gets America. Or at least, he got the America of his day, and that means he got it the way I get it. (It feels like I was right there, in a previous life.)
  2. Young Mr. Lincoln” — If you don’t do anything else today, watch the clip above. You only have to watch the first minute and 18 seconds. It’s amazing, the best thing Henry Fonda ever did. I thought about Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which is magnificent and of course has superior, modern production values. But I had another Spielberg flick below, and besides, this one’s awesome.
  3. John Adams” — Yeah, this one’s a TV show, which is why I added the parenthetical in the headline. I can’t think of anything better on how America became America. And as I keep saying, Adams is my fave Founder. He’s the one who rammed independence through the Congress. Jefferson just wrote it out — because Adams picked him to do it.
  4. Saving Private Ryan” — Yeah, I know — Bud and maybe others will say, “This isn’t Veteran’s Day, nor yet Memorial Day!” Yeah, well, freedom isn’t free. And this is the best film evocation of that ever made. I get chills, and misty eyes, during the cemetery scenes at the start and end. July Fourth message to us all: Earn this!
  5. Yankee Doodle Dandy” — Because there had to be a musical, and have you ever seen anything better than James Cagney dancing down those stairs? Particularly amazing if you only thought of him as a gangster type.

Honorable mention:

All the President’s Men” — Because America. Because First Amendment. Because scrappy newspapermen taking down a corrupt administration. Best part — the scenes in which Woodward and Bernstein interview people who do not want to talk to them. They are wonderfully ragged and awkward, which is what it’s like in real life. I really appreciate the director leaving them that way and not trying to slick them up, Hollywood-style.

"Yankee Doodle Dandy"

“Yankee Doodle Dandy”

10 thoughts on “Top Five Movies (or TV Shows) for the Fourth of July

  1. Norm

    I’ll play.

    I loved John Adams, but that was a series, and you can do so much more with that. Roots was just as important, and probably reached more people.

    Here’s my list in no particular order.
    1. Mr. Smith
    2. Glory
    3. All the President’s Men
    4. Hacksaw Ridge mostly because I love the story so much.
    5. Born on The 4th of July. It’s just about the only Tom Cruise film I can stand to watch.

    HM: Casablanca just for fun.

    Feel like Patton should be in there somewhere. And has anybody seen Flags of Our Fathers?

    I spent the 4th visiting Appomattox and Monticello, and it felt like the most patriotic 4th I’ve ever had.

    1. Scout

      If you are near Monticello, you should go to Montpelier too, James Madison’s home. It is not far. I enjoyed it more than Monticello I think. It’s a really well done restoration and they are still doing active archaeology and constantly updating the exhibits with what they find. Did you see that crazy clock Jefferson built?

    2. Mr. Smith

      Last summer we visited both the Adams homes (and presidential gravesite) in Quincy, Massachusetts, as well as Jefferson’s Monticello (and presidential gravesite) in Virginia. It felt right being able to bookend these two major figures from the American Revolution and early US history.

      Unfortunately, Monticello is privately managed, overstaffed and charges an excessive fee compared to the modest fee the US Park Service charges for the 3 Adams family homes (which includes a free shuttle bus between sites). Both should be under federal control. But it’s somehow emblematic that Jefferson’s home isn’t.

  2. Mr. Smith

    “John Adams“ is good. But the John and John Q. Adams episodes in the Adams Chronicles mini-series from the 1970s are better – though less flashy in terms of production values.

    The 4th tradition for me is the musical “1776.” I’ve faithfully listened to the soundtrack since I was a teen. And in more recent years I’ve watched the entire 3-hour restored version of the film every July. The debates between Adams and Dickinson are great. Even my youngest daughter finds them enthralling.

    The NPR reading of the Declaration of Independence is also a tradition worth savoring.

  3. Dave Crockett

    We are not traditionalists. So, for many years, our favorite movie for July 4 has been “Independence Day” with Will Smith. “ID2” hasn’t made it into the mix yet…

  4. Rose

    Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
    Because Chris Evans (swoon)!

    Hacksaw Ridge is an incredible story. I read that they actually cut back on some of Desmond Doss’ heroics for the movie because they were concerned the audience wouldn’t think they were believable. But I think it could have eased back on the extremely graphic battle scenes.

Comments are closed.