Patriotic Films for July 4
By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director
July 4, Independence Day, the beginning of the dog days of summer. It is hot, period. After the grilling and the picnicking, and the fireworks, it’s time to escape into the coolness of the indoors. It’s time to sample some of the best in patriotic movies at this patriotic time of year.
Let’s start with a Frank Capra classic from 1939, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Jimmy Stewart stars as a newcomer to politics appointed to fill the term of a deceased Senator. Little does he realize that he was selected as someone who won’t ask questions. But Mr. Smith does just that when he learns of a pork barrel scheme to build an unneeded dam on the site of a proposed camp for Boy Rangers. Cynical Senators and their cronies attempt to besmirch his reputation, but Mr. Smith stays steadfast to his principles.
Do you remember watching the miracle on ice? Director Gavin O’Connor portrays the underdog 1980 U.S. Hockey team in “Miracle.” Kurt Russell stars as coach Herb Brooks, who leads his group of amateurs against a powerhouse Soviet team in the medal round at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. The Americans beat the Soviets 4-3, advancing to the gold medal game.
Hostile aliens attack Earth in Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day.” With most of the world’s major cities destroyed, survivors U.S. President Bill Pullman, eccentric computer genius Jeff Goldblum, and hotshot Marine pilot Will Smith lead a last ditch effort to save the planet from annihilation. All this as the July 4 weekend approaches.
“Apollo 13,” by director Ron Howard, is a true story of American ingenuity and perseverance. Stranded a couple of hundred thousand miles from home, astronauts Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) struggle to survive the aftermath of their liquid oxygen tank failures. With the mission to land on the moon scrubbed, and faced with freezing conditions in the spacecraft and dangerously rising CO2 levels, Mission Control races against time and the odds to bring the astronauts home.
Director Edward Zwink portrays the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first Black regiment in the Civil War in “Glory.” Matthew Broderick is Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of abolitionists, who volunteers to lead the regiment. Facing nothing by prejudice and the hatred of both their White comrades as well as the enemy, the 54th wins glory ay Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Not by winning the day, but by their courage and heart.
Bum boxer slash debt collector, Rocky Balboa, gets his chance to fight for the heavyweight championship in “Rocky.” Released in 1976, directed by John Avildsen, and written by Sylvester Stallone, “Rocky” is the inspirational story of a failure who doesn’t know when or how to quit. The film spawned six sequels.
Directed by Michael Curtiz, from 1942, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a musical biography of playwright, entertainer, and composer, George M. Cohan. Played by James Cagney, the real Cohan was born on the 4th of July in 1878. He moved from child performer in his family’s vaudeville act to successful Broadway playwright. He composed hundreds of popular songs including “Over There,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” President Franklin Roosevelt awarded Cohan the Congressional Gold Medal. He was the first person in any artistic field to receive such honor.
Steven Spielberg’s biopic, “Lincoln,” portrays the final few months of the 16th President. At the beginning of 1865, Abraham Lincoln is pushing for the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery. He believes the end of the war is in sight and that the possibility of freed slaves being re-enslaved by the former Confederate States is unacceptable. Daniel Day Lewis is Lincoln in this Academy Award winning film.
Finally, “The Sandlot,” directed by David Mickey Evans, harkens back to a simpler time. This is the magical summer in the early 1960’s when clumsy, unathletic, Scotty Smalls joins the gang at the sandlot. Through hours and hours of baseball, swimming, and wild adventures about a ferocious beast with an appetite for baseballs, Smalls becomes part of the team, whose leader becomes a legend.
The library can help you beat the heat this Independence Day with these and other films on DVD, Blu-Ray, and thousands of films across all genres available for free download through Hoopla.