6 Patriotic Movies To Celebrate Independence Day

Growing up, Independence Day was one of my favorite holidays. It landed the third spot on my list of favorite holidays (with Christmas at the top and Thanksgiving following close behind) every year for most of my childhood. I think a big part of this had to do with the fact that the Fourth of July is a summer holiday, and summer is heaven for kids. But it was also largely due to the fact that I watched so many awesome patriotic movies around the Fourth, and they always made me feel extra stoked to celebrate America’s Independence. Every July 3rd, my siblings and I would pick out a patriotic movie to get us feeling super duper American, and consequently, they never failed to get me pumped for the big day.

Of course, I also loved the holiday because in my family, the Fourth of July means shooting off fireworks by the lake, (and proceeding to run like hell in the opposite direction) doing lots and lots of swimming, and consuming copious amounts of strawberries with homemade ice cream. But our tradition of watching patriotic movies the night before the holiday definitely helped too, and I've tried to keep it going as I've gotten older for this reason. So, if you’re looking for a movie to help you pre-game for the United States' birthday, here are six epic, patriotic movies to choose from.

1. The Patriot (2000)

Mel Gibson has arguably been a real tool in recent years, but his performance in The Patriot is stellar. In fact, every actor in this film did a fantastic job. Including one of my biggest '90s crushes, Heath Ledger. The Patriot does get pretty graphic in some parts, as it is about The American Revolutionary War, but I still love pretty much every moment of this movie. If by some unfortunate miracle you haven't seen this film even though it's been out for 15 years, I would highly recommend checking it out this Independence Day. Spoiler alert: you're going to cry.

2. Independence Day (1996)

I won't lie, it's been many, many years since I watched this movie. But one of the best Fourth of July's I ever celebrated concluded with a screening of this glorious, cheesy film. How couldn't I enjoy a tale about Earth's bravest banding together to resist creepy space invaders and protect the freedom of all humankind? Especially when said banding takes place on a holiday that is literally all about freedom? Plus, I had a huge crush on both Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith as a girl. Still do, actually.

3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Even though this movie is devastatingly heartbreaking, contains the most graphic war violence I've ever seen in any film, and is incredibly long, it really is such an important portrayal of war and patriotism in cinema. Yes, it is difficult to watch at times. I can't even keep my eyes on the screen during the slow stabbing scene between Pvt. Stanley Mellish (played by Adam Goldberg) and the German soldier who takes his life. But as violent as Saving Private Ryan is, it also does a great job of showing love, compassion, and triumph of the human spirit during horrible times. And, wherever you stand on the act of war, this film makes you further appreciate all the men, women, and children who were (and those who still are) thrust into it.

4. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Okay, so Captain America is probably my least favorite superhero out there. I love America, and Chris Evans is undeniably handsome, but Captain America is just so appropriate all the time that I have a hard time relating to him. I mean, he's an adult who's offended by swearing and I just can't wrap my head around that. Having said that, Captain America: The First Avenger is a fun, patriotic ride that will make your Fourth of July all the more enjoyable.

5. National Treasure (2004)

All well-deserved and hilarious Nicolas Cage jokes aside, the National Treasure movies are pretty dang patriotic and exciting. I get why some people make fun of the films if for no other reason than the fact that, although I think he's actually really entertaining, Nic Cage is super easy to mock. But I genuinely dig these movies. Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, and Justin Bartha basically play grown up versions of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Except instead of being underage, British wizards, they're grown-up, American treasure hunters. On top of that, I just love the American Revolutionary War period and that's kind of what these movies are all about.

6. Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump is yet another patriotic movie that absolutely breaks my heart, but in the best way. I can't think of any other film that takes it's viewers on a more inspiring tour of U.S. history post 1960, and it does so with such a talented cast.Tom Hanks is obviously a champ, Sally Field is a queen, and Robin Wright's portrayal of Jenny is agonizingly poignant. If you haven't seen it, you're crazy. And if you have seen it, I think now might be a good time to re-watch it.

Images: 20th Century Fox