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Independence Day Movies

Damon Linker has a list [1] of five movies to watch this Independence Day:

I love my country. But I want to love it truthfully, thoughtfully — for what it is, in all of its moral and historical complexity, not as a purified object of imagined perfection.

The best way to seek out this understanding is through reading history. But other forms of creative expression can be helpful, too. Fiction, poetry, theater, song [2] — and of course the modern age’s most viscerally powerful and technologically advanced form of creative expression: film.

Picking just a handful movies that shine a revealing light on the meaning and struggles of American life can be a challenge. But here are five that fit the bill. All are enduring works of art, and all would make excellent selections for inclusion at a Fourth of July film festival for thoughtful patriots.

His five films include two released in 1989, two starring Robert De Niro, two that are about Vietnam, and three that are about people from New York. If I made a list, it would probably look similar, which just proves we’re both northeastern white guys born around 1970. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Myself, I’m in a more dyspeptic mood, so this Independence Day I’d choose to re-watch “Foxcatcher [3],” a film I wrote about back when it came out [4], but which I suspect will cut a bit more to the quick in the current political context [5].

(Meanwhile, if I don’t make progress on this essay, I’m going to have to do what I usually do when blocked, and re-watch the great writer’s block triptych: “Barton Fink [6],” “Adaptation [7]” and “The Shining [8].” Wish me luck; I’m already part-way down that rabbit hole, and I really don’t want to go all the way.)

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9 Comments To "Independence Day Movies"

#1 Comment By SteveM On July 4, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

Re: “I love my country. But I want to love it truthfully, thoughtfully — for what it is, in all of its moral and historical complexity, not as a purified object of imagined perfection.”

A related aside, the Pentagon has its propaganda tentacles deep into Hollywood film making.


You wanna use their stuff, they oversee the script. And what they want in a script is the War Machine portrayed as a purified object of imagined perfection.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 4, 2017 @ 2:01 pm

Until 2003, I would never miss 1776 on the fourth of July. On Veteran’s day, it’s Patton.

4th of July like many other events surrounding what it means to be a US citizen has changed – the more one reads of US history, the more cautious one becomes about what that means.

I love the country, and would fight for her and on her behalf, I don’t regret my service, but knowledge matures one’s thinking on the matter, in my view.

As with most people I have a long list of movies that I watch routinely, But that’s for the other Post. Some of those films could qualify for films about what citizenship and patriotism means.

#3 Comment By Dave On July 4, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

“I love my country. But I want to love it truthfully, thoughtfully — for what it is, in all of its moral and historical complexity, not as a purified object of imagined perfection.”

I do this 364 days out of the year. On July 4th I’d rather celebrate what this country has accomplished and what great heights it has the potential to reach -even if know it likely never will – rather than dwell on our failure to live up to that potential.

#4 Comment By Dave On July 4, 2017 @ 2:04 pm

As a follow up, HBO’s John Adams series was a great 4th of July watch.

#5 Comment By OMM 0910 On July 4, 2017 @ 2:38 pm

All work and no play makes Noah a dull boy.

#6 Comment By cka2nd On July 4, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

“1776” is on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) tonight, right after “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

I’ve been enjoying “Turn: Washington’s Spies” for the last three years on AMC, so ya’ll could binge watch that.

I really should watch public television’s “The Adams Chronicles” and “The Scarlet Letter,” The former is supposed to be excellent, but I can’t really recommend the latter, except that my father had small roles in the both of them. Another reason to watch “The Adams Chronicles” would be to compare its portrayals of John Dickinson, Edward Rutledge and Ben Franklin – and Adams, of course – to those in “1776” and “John Adams.”

#7 Comment By Howard On July 4, 2017 @ 8:56 pm

I’m not much of a movie-watcher, so it would take me some time to come up with a list of 5 movies that I thought were really solid contenders. I will suggest two, though.
(1) SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949). Come on; a John Wayne movie HAS to make the list! This one stands out in no small part because of the respect shown to “Trooper John Smith”, in particular in the words spoken by John Wayne’s character over his grave:

I also commend to your keeping, Sir, the soul of Rome Clay, late Brigadier General, Confederate States Army. Known to his comrades here, Sir, as Trooper John Smith, United States Cavalry… a gallant soldier and a Christian gentleman.

At a time when America seems to be coming apart at the seams, it is good to remember a time when a deliberate effort was being made to heal terrible wounds. It is also refreshing to remember that at one time “a Christian gentleman” was used without irony. Olivia Dandrige (Joanne Dru) was the pretty young love interest, but Abby Allshard (Mildred Natwick) is the one who steals my heart, showing how a strong female character is not just a girl doing a job usually done by boys.

(2) THE RIGHT STUFF (1983). One of the movies has to be about the space race, so I think it should either be this one or Apollo 13 (1995). You won’t go wrong with either one.

There have been [10] over the years, so I’d love to include a movie about one of them, but to the best of my knowledge, there have been no good movies to spotlight them.

#8 Comment By MrsDK On July 5, 2017 @ 6:47 am

The PBS version of The Scarlet Letter is a classic!

#9 Comment By Conewago On July 5, 2017 @ 12:37 pm

As a devoted enthusiast and referee of the sport of wrestling, ‘Foxcatcher’ deeply disappointed me.

When, for crying out loud, can we make a true American movie about the greatest American wrestler (and, in my view, athlete) ever – Dan Gable? Now, THAT would be a great American work of art.