For many people, this Fourth of July weekend is sure to be a busy one — Parades! Picnics! Parties! But when the fireworks have all stopped and you’ve been rendered immobile after consuming too many grilled things — or if you just need a few hours to not talk to your family and friends about the definition of “patriotism” — you can still get into the spirit of the weekend with some movies.
Here’s a list — far from encyclopedic, but a good start — of holiday-relevant viewing available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu (some are admittedly a bit of a stretch, but not every movie can be 1776) on July 4:
A National Geographic series that “depicts some of America’s fiercest scientific and technological rivalries, including Colt vs. Wesson, Edison vs. Tesla, and Jobs vs. Gates.”
A reluctant superhero named Melvin is all about crime, womanizing, and drugs, until he inevitably goes through some kind of change of heart that makes him see everything differently.
Bruce Willis — that steely-eyed icon of American can-do grit — is tasked with saving the world from a Texas-sized asteroid threatening to wipe out humankind. Meanwhile, Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” will threaten to take over your brain after only one listen.
Captain America: Civil War
It’s not about the American Civil War, but rather, fictional, internal strife in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America and Iron Man have beef, deliver witty barbs while they (and most of the Avengers) slug it out.
You know what they say about life, sometimes it can be boiled down to fictionalized versions of important events in American history in a movie starring Tom Hanks.
House of Cards
Oh hey, this one is not a movie and is instead a TV series about politics and presidents starring Kevin Spacey, his southern accent, and the flawless Robin Wright.
How to Make an American Quilt
Romantic drama about a group of women who come together every year to make quilts and tell stories about their lives. A spy thriller it is not.
Inside The American Mob
America’s history isn’t all about heroes, after all. This documentary explores the organized crime activities of the Italian Mafia, especially in New York City.
JFK: The Making Of A President
This documentary is about how John F. Kennedy’s formative years and personal tragedies informed his worldview in the Oval Office.
Ken Burns-apalooza: The War, The Civil War, The West, Prohibition, and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
You want Ken Burns? You got him — hours upon hours of American history.
Making the American Man
Another documentary, this one takes a look at “the makers of American-made goods for men, and the resurgence of clothing manufacturing in the United States,” according to IMDB.
Nick Offerman: American Ham
Nick Offerman’s secrets to a happy life involve red meat and minor nudity in this comedy special.
Of Men and War
A 2015 documentary following several veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, winner of a special jury award at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
If you’re a fan of World War II General George S. Patton, well, this movie is right up your alley. Starring the similarly named George C. Scott and written by Francis Ford Coppola.
Seal Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden
A dramatic recreation that follows U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 from training for a critical mission through the nighttime raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.
The West Wing
Okay, so it’s not a movie. But it is about a president in the White House, so, you know. All seven seasons are available.
Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots
A documentary profiling some of the top-ranking women in the U.S. military.
Somehow, this is Nicolas Cage’s first appearance on this list. Anyway this one takes place during World War II, when an American navy ship is sunk by Japanese forces — in the middle of shark-infested waters. I haven’t seen it but I fully expect Nicolas Cage to punch a shark.
Wet Hot American Summer: The First Day of Camp and
Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot American Summer
For the millions of Americans who’ve spent a Fourth of July at summer camp, the WHAS series based on the 2001 flick will bring back all those hours of macrame, capture the flag, and awkward adolescent social interactions. But funnier. Obsessed with the original movie? It’s not on Netflix right now, but a documentary about the making of it is.
Clear and Present Danger
Oh, look, it’s American Treasure Harrison Ford, starring once again as CIA analyst Jack Ryan. This time he’s fighting a Colombian drug cartel.
The story of the life of teen wonder Ritchie Valens leading up to the tragic [spoiler alert] plane crash that changed American music when it took the life of the 17-year-old musician, as well as fellow legends Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.
Sure, it’s more about the IRA but there’s spy action and the word “patriot” is in the title. Plus, American Treasure Harrison Ford as CIA analyst Jack Ryan.
Christian Bale is a U.S. fighter pilot who gets shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. Co-starring another American Treasure Steve Zahn and directed by Werner Herzog.
The Hunt for Red October
The year is 1984, it’s America vs. Russia, and Sean Connery is there.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Clint Eastwood stars in this hunt for buried gold in the old West. His steely-eyed gaze co-stars.
Maverick! Goose!! Iceman!!! Kenny Loggins!!!! Hotshot fighter pilots compete to be the best at The Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School while Tom Cruise learns some important life lessons about falling in love with your instructor.
American Rodeo: A Cowboy Christmas
Cowboys! Nothing more American than cowboys, right?
Hey, it has the word “America” in it and is about our nation’s obsession with celebrities so it’s pretty apt.
Clear and Present Danger
Oh, look, it’s American Treasure Harrison Ford, starring once again as CIA analyst Jack Ryan. This time he’s fighting a Colombian drug cartel [Yes, this is the same description used in the other section for this movie! You caught me!].
This isn’t an uplifting tale but it is about American history, and Nicole Kidman teaming up with Renee Zellweger to fend off miscreants that would threaten their livelihood in the ashes of the Civil War.
Days Of Thunder
IMDB sums up this Tom Cruise flick pretty aptly so let’s just go with it: “A young hot-shot stock car driver gets his chance to compete at the top level.” Not top gun, but top level, you see.
Kevin Bacon dancing out his frustrations with a repressive, backwards-thinking society in a factory while wearing a tank top? That’s America.
John Adams (Season 1)
Paul Giammatti and Laura Linney both earned Golden Globes for their performance in this miniseries, which I have not yet watched but which my mother assures me is great.
Ken Burns-apalooza!: The War; The National Parks — America’s Best Idea; Baseball; The Central Park Five; The Dust Bowl; The West (Season 1); Prohibition (Season 1); Theodore Roosevelt: A Cowboy’s Ride to the White House
You could destroy at least an entire three-day weekend on Ken Burns documentaries alone. Here’s a start.
No, this isn’t the Mel Gibson/Heath Ledger Revolutionary War movie. The titular patriot of this Amazon original series is an undercover American spy/assassin who also moonlights as a folk singer, and whose songs reveal a little too much about his secretive activities.
Patriotic Cartoon Classics: 25 All-American Cartoons from World War II
You’ve got your Bugs Bunny, you’ve got your Porky Pig, and then there’s Daffy Duck, Popeye, and Superman — for two and a half hours. If your kid has chicken pox and can’t go outside, this will help (believe me).
Christian Bale is a U.S. fighter pilot who gets shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. Co-starring another American Treasure Steve Zahn and directed by Werner Herzog. [Yes, I reused the summary from above, you are very observant].
Spirit of the Pony Express
The story of how the Pony Express became the Pony Express at the beginning of the Civil War. Also, PONIES!
The Jackie Robinson Story
The Dodgers legend stars as himself in the 1950 drama about Robinson’s journey to becoming the player that broke long-enforced ban against non-whites in Major League Baseball.
The Tuskegee Airmen
Laurence Fishburne stars in this tale of “The Fighting 99th” — the first squadron of African American U.S. Army Air Corps fighter pilots in WWII.
Wild Wild West
A not-entirely-accurate depiction of the American Old West, as interpreted by Will Smith and Kevin Kline.
4th of July Fireworks Patriotic Ambient Video for Independence Day Party
If, for some reason, you cannot view fireworks in person, you can always put them on your TV to set the scene.
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