The most patriotic films to watch for July 4: Jets, Tomahawks, and Explosions

by Charles Gerian

“We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on...we're going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

4th of July.The beer is ice cold, the bombs are bursting in air to give proof through the night that our alarms for work the next morning are going to wake us up with bitter hangovers and ash-tray mouths as we sift through the charred plastic and cardboard in our front lawns in the 90 degree morning heat.

Nothing beats the 4th of July as a monument to our nation, and nothing beats the power of film as a way to inspire and entertain us, so this week let's look at some of the most patriotic films ever made starting guessed it...

1. INDEPENDANCE DAY (Roland Emmerich, 1996)

This blockbuster film from 20th Century Fox brought together some of the best things imaginable: a white-hot Will Smith just before Sony's MEN IN BLACK propelled him to unseen heights, Jeff Goldblum coming in with his distinct brand of sex appeal from JURASSIC PARK, Randy Quaid, and more. The film is a loud, explosive ode to not just America's military and jingoistic spirit of our country's people, but a surprisingly deep exploration of world unity and the resilient fighting spirit of the human race. Funny, action-packed, and by all means a classic, this is definition of a 4th of July film.

2. THE PATRIOT (Roland Emmerich, 2000)

Roland Emmerich is a man who loves to fetishize America, and one can look no further than this turn-of-the century epic starring Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin, a colonial farmer who takes matters into his own hands during the Revolutionary War.

The film had an all-star cast and has some of the best action scenes still, almost 20 years later, and carries some of the heaviest feels as well especially concerning the late Heath Ledger. THE PATRIOT is “the kind of movie they don't make anymore” and doesn't bog itself down with moral dilemmas as far as the nature of war is concerned. The British are mustache-twirling evil psychopaths and the Americans are badass, honest, hard-working men and women trying to free themselves from the grip of the British Empire.

3. TOP GUN (Tony Scott, 1986)

When you mention the late-80's masterpiece TOP GUN, two things come to mind: the extremely homoerotic tension of Val Kilmer's Tom “Iceman” Kazansky with Tom Cruise's Pete “Maverick” Mitchell...and the rendition of The Righteous Brothers “You've Lost that Loving Feeling”.

TOP GUN, of course, is a high-octane thriller about hot shot pilots, sick aerial combat, and freedom. Hot, sweaty, badass freedom. When “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins starts to blast as F-5 scream off into the sky, your eyes swell with pride and your enlistment papers are basically already in the mail. A sequel is releasing in 2020 with Kilmer and Cruise reprising their roles.

4. WE WERE SOLDIERS (Randall Wallace, 2002)

Another Mel Gibson drama, this one swaps the American Revolution for the complex and extremely bloody Vietnam War, specifically the first major conflict with The Battle of la Drang in November 1965. This ensemble war film also stars Barry Pepper, Sam Elliott, Greg Kinnear, and Chris Klein. The film is one of the most serious on the list, and doesn't shy away from the gory details of what our soldiers faced in the jungles of Vietnam. Heartfelt and powerful, WE WERE SOLDIERS is one of the best war films ever made and has a lot to say about patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice. It will make grown men cry, and terrorists tremble with fear as they pray to God that Mel Gibson doesn't come for them in the night.

5. PEARL HARBOR (Michael Bay, 2001)

Michael Bay might be the most American director to ever live. He's a man with a McDonald's sense of taste but a 5-star restaurant sense of vision. His films might be filled with over the top violence (christened by many critics as 'Bayhem'), scantily clad women, strong-jawed macho heroes, and ridiculously elaborate set pieces that seem like a child on cocaine playing with his G.I. Joe toys, but the way he frames, lights, and explores a shot is the kind of thing that true artists can marvel at. His 2001 film, a... “dramatization” of the December 1941 attack on the Pearl Habor base in Hawaii... is Bay at his best and (depending on who you ask) worse.

The film is just over 3 hours of action so beautiful and visceral it should be displayed in a museum. The storyline is kind of...not that smart...but with a cast including Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale the melodramatic love story (done to cash-in on the success of TITANIC years prior) is as nice to look at as the high-contrast and bloody action.

That isn't to say Bay doesn't handle the emotion well, though.

The scene of the nurses in the hospital after the initial attack is sickening and devastating enough to bring you cratering to Earth...and immediately after that you watch Ben Affleck and his buddy Josh Hartnett with their hilarious midwestern accents flying fighter planes and doing sick barrel rolls in the 1940's equivalent of Tommy Bahama shirts.