The Patriot (2000)
Mel Gibson takes on the Brits during the Revolutionary War in this epic from director Roland Emmerich. There are some historical inaccuracies in the story, but the film provides beautiful cinematography, strong performances, and rousing battle sequences. And who could forget Jason Isaacs as Tavington, a cartoonish bad guy you root for to die?
Independence Day (1996)
Here’s another from Roland Emmerich. This one sees Will Smith and others uniting against aliens who invade Earth. The film is completely bombastic and pretty dumb, but it’s also very exciting at times (those aerial flights!) and the large cast is fun. Bill Pullman’s speech as the American president is one for the ages.
Top Gun (1986)
Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer fly jets, share quips, and play some homoerotic beach volleyball in this ‘80s classic from director Tony Scott. The film turned the charming Cruise into a movie star, and it’s understandable as to why. Now is the perfect time to view Top Gun as the long-awaited sequel will hit theaters this year.
Steven Spielberg’s summertime natural horror film Jaws basically invented the template for modern blockbusters. A giant great white shark terrorizes swimmers around the 4th of July as Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss’ characters team up to kill it. The film still holds up well and provides nonstop thrills, as well as a classic John Williams music score.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The introduction of Steve Rogers into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is exciting with its old-school action and wartime plot. Chris Evans perfectly captures the American strength and patriotism of the character. Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull provides inspired casting too.
National Treasure (2004)
Nicolas Cage hunts for treasure and has to steal the Declaration of Independence in National Treasure, an underrated Disney adventure with plenty of history mixed into its plot. The cast is clearly having a good time, though Sean Bean’s casting as the bad guy feels a bit obvious. There’s a lot of family-friendly fun to be found with the huff-and-puff chases and puzzles the characters have to solve.
Team America: World Police (2004)
The team behind South Park provides a lot of rude and crude humor with Team America: World Police. The film mixes puppets, gags, and action as it skewers America’s jingoism and fight against terrorists. While it is making fun of American characteristics, it is entertaining to laugh along with it as songs like “America, Fuck Yeah!” play in the background.
Rocky IV (1985)
The fourth Rocky film finds the title character taking on the mammoth Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in the ring — and seemingly the whole Cold War too. What the film lacks in intelligence it makes up for with insane training montages and sweaty boxing sequences. While all of the Rocky films have the American underdog spirit in them, Rocky IV feels especially fitting for a crowd-pleasing 4th of July viewing.