In honor of the Fourth of July, we are republishing this article from January 2011, as we feel it to be an appropriate act of patriotism. We will now allow you to return to watching Independence Day for the third time. We know that you’re doing it…
Aleric, one of our favorite comment providers on the site, tossed out an interesting theory the other day regarding the state of auspiciously pro-American movies being put out by Hollywood over the past ten years. Specifically, that there was a noticeable lack of them in the face of films that criticize.
It’s an interesting idea, and like most trends, it’s unclear exactly how bold a trend it is. It’s true that those looking for the World War II levels of Americana from Hollywood are out in the cold. There are probably a dozen reasons for that. Levels of pro-American movie production have never been higher than that era, but it was also a wildly different time for movie making in general (no matter what the subject matter).
Still, Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius were charged with the seemingly difficult task of finding movies that celebrated the United States that came out of Hollywood in the past ten years. It’s an oddly specific list, but it’s also a very good list of movies that demand to be seen (whether you agree they’re patriotic or not). Plus, they don’t celebrate any particular political party.
They celebrate the highest ideals of the country.
Overt flag waving is optional.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Ridley Scott’s film about an ill-fated US incursion into Somalia is one of the finest boots on the ground looks at our military in action. Superiors make bad calls, but the soldiers are shown to be brave, strong willed, and heroic in their efforts to do their job when ordered and do their best when needed. -RH
The Majestic (2001)
Small town America is often the butt of easy jokes, but it remains a quintessential part of both our history and our future. This Frank Darabont film set in the 1950s follows a Hollywood screenwriter (probably a liberal) who crashes his car and wakes up in a Capra-esque small town filled with kind and loving people. The combination of amnesia from the accident and his uncanny resemblance to a young man who had gone off to war result in a touching story about love, family, and honor. -RH
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
This movie celebrates a lot of what’s great about this country. Freedom of speech. Nostalgia. The ability to make fun of ourselves and that nostalgia. It focuses on a ubiquitous rite of passage, manages a few bits of romance covered in BBQ sauce, and reminds us that beyond the bluster of bombs bursting in air – it’s also important to laugh once in a while. -CA
We Were Soldiers (2002)
Directed with fervent beauty by Randall Wallace, this story finds Mel Gibson playing Col. Hal Moore – the dedicated leader of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Even though the film is violently honest and is able to display Moore’s men as heroes despite not painting the North Vietnamese officers as mustache-twirling, black hat-wearing villains, Moore’s speech from near the beginning rings most patriotic: “Look around you. In the 7th Cavalry, we got a Captain from the Ukraine. Another from Puerto Rico. We got Japanese, Chinese, Blacks, Hispanics, Cherokee Indian, Jews and Gentiles – all American.” -CA
Spider-Man Franchise (2002)
No, it’s not about a specific moment in American history. No, it doesn’t mention brave governmental leaders. Yes, it does feature a superhero perched in front of an American flag larger than my house (twice). It also shows a character willing to take his power and accept the great responsibility that comes from it. He’s a regular citizen asked by fate to step up, and he answers the call. -CA
Tears Of The Sun (2003)
This Bruce Willis-led action film finds a surprising amount of heart (alongside some intense gun battles) in its story of a US military unit tasked with rescuing a doctor in the Nigerian jungle. The situation alters in the heat of battle and the men are forced to choose between obeying orders and leaving hundreds of civilians to die or doing what’s right and possibly sacrificing their lives in the process. -RH
The Fog of War (2003)
There are few things more American than our ability to search over our past and present in order to set records straight and be better the next day. It’s also laudable that a man of immense power like former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara can sit vulnerably in front of a camera and speak plainly about his triumphs and failings. This isn’t some docu-hit piece on a governmental official. It’s McNamara taking on McNamara, and everyone wins for it. -CA
Disney goes for the Patriotic gusto here with a soaring sports tale and direct retelling of a moment during the Cold War when the ice was thickest and the United States skated all over it to defeat a heavily-favored Soviet team during the medal round of the 1980 Olympics. They got there with discipline, friendship, team work, and creativity. And with Herb Brooks yelling at them (another American ideal). -CA
National Treasure (2004)
While it’s only 1/10th of the quality of the second worst Indiana Jones movie, National Treasure is a fun commercial flick that gives a lot of great facts and reverence to the landmarks of Philadelphia and DC, and to the founders of this great land. It’s a two hour history lesson that ends up telling us the true treasure of our country while delivering the golden goods. -CA
Flags Of Our Fathers (2006)
A sprawling look at the flag raising at Iwo Jima that gives a massive amount of honor and respect to military – specifically the marines and naval corpsmen involved in bringing Old Glory on up. -CA
Ready to pop some fireworks? Check out the final ten…
World Trade Center (2006)
Even though it’s easy to look to military films for patriotic senses of duty, it’s even more incredible to see civilians and those serving as firefighters and police officers answer the call when they’re needed. There’s no doubt of the effect that 9/11 had on the entire country, and here’s a film that celebrates the heroism of those who made a difference in a crucial moment of devastation. -CA
United 93 (2006)
September 11th, 2001, was a day of great tragedy, but it was also a day of true heroism. Director Paul Greengrass’ film celebrates the actions of both the passengers and the crew on-board flight 93, and it does so without an ounce of sensationalism. -RH
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
The “American dream” is an ideal that emboldens our citizens and draws foreigners to our shores every waking day, and it’s been happening since our inception. This true story looks at the perseverance and determination of one man who struggles and succeeds to make a better life for himself and his son. -RH
Charlie Wilson’s War (2006)
I was just thinking the other day, and what I thought was that our democracy republic is the worst form of government except for all the others. (Go ahead, you can quote me.) Mike Nichols’ film highlights the true story of a US Congressman who worked by any means necessary to stop the Soviet war machine and help end the Cold War. It’s a lively and cheer-worthy portrait of our government in action that not even our subsequent inaction regarding Afghanistan can diminish. -RH
This action flick about an ex-soldier living a life of solitude and manliness in the mountains sees him drawn into a conspiracy by corrupt government agents. Sounds anti-American I know, but his 2nd Amendment right to bear arms allows him to fight back and preserve the integrity of the American way against corruption. -RH
The Kingdom (2007)
Peter Berg’s look at a terrorist attack against Americans on Saudi Arabian soil is a brilliant and tense action film, but it also highlights America’s determination and honor in its quest for justice against those that wrong us. FBI agents work hand in hand with their Saudi counterparts to find those responsible, and together they find the strength to succeed. -RH
Iron Man (2008)
Sure the bad guy at the end of this comic book adventure is an old, white capitalist, but few summer blockbusters celebrate that very same capitalist attitude as enthusiastically as this one. Tony Stark is a man who’s made wealthy by the American military complex, and the film is not shy about showing that as a positive when he uses his know-how and abilities to fight terrorist enemies in the Middle East. (In the sequel he gives the thumbs up to personal liberty by giving the middle finger to government regulation.) -RH
Peter Berg’s offbeat superhero film has issues in its third act, but there’s no denying it has something to say about America. Bear with me here… it’s metaphor time. Hancock is a powerful force who often finds himself the only protection between innocent civilians and those who would do them harm. Sure he’s clumsy and leaves a wake of destruction wherever he goes, but he’s also pure of heart and honorably intentioned. He may not always do good, but at least he’s always trying to. -RH
The Hurt Locker (2009)
Even if his actions are un-realistic (bomb expert and long-range sharp shooter?) and strict protocol isn’t enforced at all, Sergeant First Class William James is a force that risks his life (alongside his EOD team) every single day. He’s essentially Captain America without the shield and with a more useful super power. It’s the only boots on the ground Iraq War film, it shows the US military kicking ass, taking names, helping the Iraqi citizenry, and it does it with depth. -CA
The Messenger (2009)
There are few films in the current era as frustrating or heartbreaking as this one, a movie that shows the impossible job of notifying family members when a loved one has been killed in combat. It makes a commentary on the true cost of war and does so by displaying earnest portrayals of emotional loss. It shows two specific members of the service doing a difficult duty, but it also speaks highly of the sacrifice members of the military make in the service of their country. -CA
What do you think? What movies get you bleeding red, white, and blue?