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10 of the best movies to watch on Independence Day

It’s Independence Day! To celebrate, we’ve picked some of our favorite movies about American history, politics or even just our country in general…

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington   

Released in 1939, Frank Capra’s political comedy-drama follows a young senator (played by James Stewart) who launches a dramatic campaign against corruption in the American political system.

It was hugely controversial at the time, with some critics calling it ‘anti-American’ and even ‘communist’. The Senate Majority Leader at the time, Alben W. Barkley, even complained that the “silly and stupid” movie made the Senate “look like a bunch of crooks”.

However, it went on to become a true American classic for its demonstration of how good, principled people can make a real difference in apparently impossible circumstances.

Apollo 13

In 1970, NASA sent three astronauts – Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise – on a routine lunar landing mission. However, the mission became anything but routine when an oxygen tank exploded.

Apollo 13 is one of American history’s most remarkable stories, with the astronauts and NASA’s mission command overcoming incredible odds with bravery, determination and resourcefulness.

Director Ron Howard does a fantastic job of telling the crew’s story, while Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton portray the three astronauts with the dignity and respect they deserve. Apollo 13 is a true American triumph.

Independence Day

From a real space drama to an entirely fictional one. We just couldn’t leave Independence Day out of this post, even if it’s portrayal of American bravery and triumph is a little over the top!

Roland Emmerich’s blockbuster begins with aliens entering Earth’s orbit on July 2, interrupting pretty much everyone’s plans for the Independence Day weekend by blowing up various cities across the globe.

Luckily, America is led by possibly the coolest on-screen president ever: Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman). With the help of Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), Whitmore spearheads a global fightback against the aliens (which includes actually piloting a fighter jet himself).

Independence Day isn’t exactly subtle, but it is massively entertaining. Whitmore’s final speech alone is worth the watch.

Air Force One

Just one year after Independence Day gave us a jet-flying president, Air Force One gave us a president who takes matters into his own hands after his private plane is hijacked.

Oh, and Harrison Ford plays that president. Seriously, this movie is awesome.

The movie kicks off with Ford’s President Marshall declaring his intention to never negotiate with terrorists, an intention challenged when a group of Russian loyalists led by Gary Oldman (the ultimate 90s baddie) make it onto Air Force Once and take hostages.

Luckily, President Marshall makes it down into a cargo hold and sticks to his word, killing one of the terrorists and going full John McClane. If you love slightly ridiculous action movies, this is the movie for you.

Rocky IV

Rocky Balboa is, in some ways, the Ultimate American. In the first Rocky, he’s an over-the-hill boxer who, through sheer determination, grabs his opportunity at the big time by taking the heavyweight champion of the world to the final round.

By the fourth film, Rocky was running out of opponents. He’d won the championship, had a boxing vs. wrestling match with Hulk Hogan and even fought Mr. T. Who else could he fight?

Enter Ivan Drago, a seemingly unstoppable superman from the USSR. After beating the living daylights out of Apollo Creed, Rocky challenges Drago to a duel in Russia on Christmas Day.

Of course, Rocky IV isn’t really about boxing. It’s actually about the Cold War, and Rocky’s belief that everyone can change and unite in the name of world peace (even if it involves punching each other in the face first).

Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is a reminder of one of the most important moments in recent American history, when millions of young men gave their lives to protect the world from an evil force.

Steven Spielberg’s take on World War Two is famously harrowing, with the opening D-Day sequence still one of the most shocking and harrowing portrayals of war ever committed to screen.

The events that follow, as Tom Hanks’ Captain John Miller and his squad attempt to find the last remaining son from a family that lost three other sons in a week, are just as powerful and unforgettable too.

Forrest Gump

Like many of the movies in this post, Forrest Gump is the tale of a man who changes the course of history through will, determination and dignity. However, in this instance, the man in question doesn’t even realise it.

Forrest Gump is a funny, heartwarming and occasionally heartbreaking journey through recent American history told through the eyes of a man unrecognised for his vitally important interventions in it.

At its heart, though, Gump is about one man’s pursuit of his true love (no, not shrimp fishing). If you feel like crying this holiday, put this on.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Well, obviously. Although Superman is arguably more iconic, no hero embodies American values quite like good old Captain America (if you ignore recent comic book twists, of course…).

Winter Soldier is the better movie, but The First Avenger captures Cap at his Hitler-punching finest. Like all Marvel movies, it’s extremely entertaining throughout and Chris Evans is perfect as Captain America too.


Abraham Lincoln is arguably the most iconic president in history, an instantly recognisable figure with an equally renowned story.

Lincoln focuses on the final few months of Honest Abe’s life, with the signing of the 13th amendment at the front of his mind and his assassination drawing near. It draws particular attention to the politics of the time, with politicians (including Lincoln) scheming for their own ends.

The real highlight is Daniel Day Lewis’ Oscar-winning portrayal of Lincoln. Rather than the noble figure we’re told about in History class, Lewis’ Lincoln is old, tired and haunted by the events of the civil war. His stark, enthralling performance casts new light on one of America’s most important figures.

The Social Network

Now, we know what you’re thinking; what does a movie about Facebook have to do with Independence Day?

Well, nothing really. But is a better modern example of the American Dream than Mark Zuckerberg? Despite flunking college, the Zuck went on to build the world’s biggest social media site (and companies) with just coding knowledge, a lot of determination and just a slight hint of deception.

On top of all that, he changed the way we communicate forever. Whereas most of the movies in this post are about America’s past, The Social Network is one about our future. Who knows what will happen next?

What is your favorite Independence Day movie? Let us know in the comments! Or, if you’d like to see which movies our politicians love most, check out this post!

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