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8 of the Best Films to Watch on the 4th of July

8 Best Films to Watch on the 4th of July

 

Summer is officially here in the United States. Get ready to splash in some water, barbecue with friends, and enjoy as many outdoor movie nights as you can. 

Whether you’re looking for some summer fun, patriotism, or just a good ol’ cult classic, this is the time to enjoy movies. From group events to family nights, we’ve got a list that’ll please anyone. Let’s get to it — here’s are the best films to watch on the 4th of July! (If you want a list of great 4th-of-July-themed TV episodes, we gotchu.)

 

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Independence Day

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Written by Dean Devlin; Roland Emmerich

 

Obviously.

The 1996 alien flick starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman is a great ride with alien jumpscares, levity, and a feel-good ending. If you didn’t feel a little something when the earth united to take out the extraterrestrial invaders, then you, my friend, are made of stone. 

See it in an outdoor setting and you’ll join the crowd of fans cheering at President Thomas Whitmore’s iconic speech:

“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. ‘Mankind.’ That word should have a new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: ‘We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

The Patriot

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Written by Robert Rodat

 

Thematically this is another no-brainer. Mel Gibson helms this film as a man fighting to protect his family in the Revolutionary War, and while Gibson himself has revealed himself to be anti-Semitic, I try to remember how many other people worked hard on the film — including the late and beloved Heath Ledger. 

The Patriot packs a lot of Americana into its two hours and 45 minutes, including a look at Colonial life, the resilience of our founding families, and an adversary you love to hate.

Jaws

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Written by Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb

 

Horror is only as good as it is believable. Have fun at the beach this summer after giving Jaws a viewing! Steven Spielberg’s classic horror film still packs a punch, despite how challenging its “star” was on-set. Spielberg knows how to set up suspense and John Williams’ score will have you squirming, no matter how many times you’ve seen the film. 

There’s nothing like a few good jump scares among crowds. This is another one I highly recommend in a group setting.

A League of Their Own

Directed by Penny Marshall

Written by Kim Wilson, Kelly Candaele, Lowell Ganz

 

WWII + baseball — could you get more American culture into a film? When all the men were fighting the war, the ladies of The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League stepped up to the plate…literally. 

A League of their Own, starring Geena Davis, Lori Petty, and Tom Hanks, shows how an underdog sports league lifted American spirits and helped women find a newfound strength. It also paints a personal picture of how the war affected those who were left behind at home. 

This one is based on true events and isn’t one to be missed!

Aliens

Directed by James Cameron

Written by James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill

 

There’s a great Hollywood folk story that says that when James Cameron pitched a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien, he wrote the word “ALIEN” on a whiteboard, then added an “S” — and then struck a dollar sign through it. 

His film went on to surpass the original, at least from a box office perspective. Fans of the franchise have fun debating which film reigns, but there’s an easy consensus that Aliens is the easier spectacle to watch.

A group of Marines joins resident Xenomorph expert Ellen Ripley on an expedition to rescue any surviving colonists from an infested planet and destroy any aliens that remain.

With the queen herself, Sigourney Weaver, as well as the late Bill Paxton, this film still slaps.

Enjoy and Semper Fi.

The Goonies

Directed by Richard Donner

Written by Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg

 

This 80s masterpiece is a family-friendly adventure that still holds up. A group of kids search for lost treasure to save their family home and wind up facing off against bullies, baddies, and booby traps. Watching will make you feel like a kid again.

Come for the pirates and stay for the formative moment in my youth when Josh Brolin saves Kerri Green from drowning and makes out with her in the water. 

And of course, let’s not forget, The Goonies was Sean Astin’s — aka Samwise Gamgee — breakout role. Goonies never say die!

Harriet

Directed by Kasi Lemmons

Written by Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons

 

While the white male colonists may have earned their independence from Britain in 1776, it was another eighty-nine years before the Black people born of slavery were given their freedom (then later in 1920 women were granted the freedom to vote and in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act Black women were actually allowed to vote…but I digress).

Harriet is one of the best films that honors an actual fight for independence in America. The story of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who freed herself from captivity and went on to become a leader of the Underground Railroad and a Union spy during the American Civil War. 

She personally freed over 70 enslaved men and women herself as well as another 750 through the Black soldiers she led during the war.

If you’re looking for an inspiring story of endurance and leadership, Harriet is your girl.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Directed by Jim Gillespie

Written by Lois Duncan, Kevin Williamson

 

Sometimes you just need a little nostalgic campy horror. IKWYDLS debuted during a teen slasher flick renaissance in the mid-90s to early aughts, along with Scream, Urban Legend, Final Destination, and more. 

Taking place during the titular summertime, this film has a great seaside setting and an all-star cast from any millennial or gen-x’s youth including Buffy Summers herself Sarah Michelle Gellar and her future husband Freddie Prinze Jr. (who says set romances can’t work out?), Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Ryan Phillipe. 

It went on to launch some sequels and a recent Amazon series. What are you waiting for, huh?

Conclusion

Summer is a time for fun vibes, relaxation, adventure, and group gatherings. Get clever with mini projectors and white sheets in your community pool or beside a bonfire at the beach. Better yet, check out local outdoor screenings and drive-ins. We’ve all spent time away from the cinema but warm summer nights are the perfect time to get back to it.


screenwriting competitionShannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!