Beyond the cookouts, cold ones cracked with the boys, and fireworks displays, the Fourth of July is (checks Wikipedia to make sure) a very patriotic holiday. If your plans for the long weekend include little more than parking your keister in front of the AC and zoning out to a few movies, here's a few staff selections to get you into the holiday spirit. God Bless America, indeed. -- Larry Fitzmaurice, Senior Culture Editor, Digital
The Fast and the Furious series
You could easily argue that the entirety of the Fast and the Furious franchise is patriotic and emblematic of the American Dream; at its core, it's about a group of lower-class friends who fight their way to the top. But there's nothing more American than the franchise's commitment to good ol' fashioned BBQs, often taking place at the end of each movie. After all the racing, hijacking, backstabbing, and occasional tragedies, the main group gets together to unwind with grilled meats and the requisite bottles of Corona. It's these BBQs where they meet new members of the gang or toast to dead friends or even call a truce with someone who was an enemy in an earlier movie. In a franchise that celebrates America's obsession with shiny cars and expensive things, the BBQ scenes always bring us back to reality. -- Pilot Viruet, Associate Culture Editor
Bridge of Spies
Any movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks is bound to be stuffed full of that Midwestern, vaguely liberal, aw-shucks Americanism that Hollywood has exported to the entire world. The second half of the (too-long, frankly) Bridge of Spies is all about ingenuity and common-sense tricks in the face of trying circumstances and some evil communists Hanks is negotiating with—apple pie stuff, for the most part.
But the beginning of the movie, when Hanks's James B. Donovan defends a Russian spy in court despite being terrorized by his fellow Americans, and even takes the case to the Supreme Court, is a sharper look at the challenges of actually living up to the Constitution. Being a patriot means standing up for the rights of the accused and the oppressed, even when cops, your neighbors, and the US government are against you. That's embodied by Donovan, a real-life figure who later negotiated the release of more than 1,000 prisoners from Cuba. Also, Hanks's speech to a shady FBI agent about the Constitution is a wonderful moment, and had me so passionate about America that it embarrassed me. -- Harry Cheadle, Politics Editor
I'd always remembered Apocalypse Now for its brightest moments: a boat full of soldiers dancing to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" while one skis off the back; a pair of GIs surfing a wave that breaks two ways; three Playboy bunnies helicoptering into a USO show. But rewatching the movie reminded me that those moments are as dark as a closet in hell. The skier knocks two innocent fishermen into the water. The surfers only dive in to avoid the battle raging behind them. The calendar girls are forced to flee a mob of love-hungry grunts. The duality of those scenes, that balance of All-American Fun and absolute horror, is our country in a nutshell. Amid all the good times, something awfully fucked up unfolds in the background.
Watching a movie about the Vietnam War won't make you feel all that patriotic, but it's perfect for July Fourth. Apocalypse Now forces you take a step back, think about the country you're celebrating, and reel in horror at the fact that you actually live here. All the more reason to shotgun so many Budweisers you forget the national anthem. -- Drew Schwartz, Junior Staff Writer
Killing Them Softly
Jackie, Brad Pitt's character in Killing Them Softly, was the hero America needed in 2012. In Andrew Dominik's film, the mob was a heavy-handed metaphor for the United States during the financial crisis. A gambling ring (read: Wall Street) had just been knocked over by some idiots, and the underworld had been thrown into disarray. Jackie was this enforcer and hit man who went around not so much meting out justice as he was meting out the only kind of sanity that could help get things back to even a dishonest, corrupt version of a status quo. He was the only criminal with a clear picture of who needed to die, and the competence to kill them.
Naturally, the malevolent forces of greed and stupidity tried to stop him, but (spoiler) Jackie got that shit done by doggedly hunting down and murdering people joylessly. Then at the end they tried to fuck him out of the money he so richly deserved for his work, because when you do something right, no one is ever grateful. The last five minutes of Killing Them Softly may seem like Jackie is just shitting on the whole idea of America (which probably explains why it got one of the worst focus group scores of all time), but listen to him. Know, deep in your heart, that he's right. Only then can you love America, not some Normal Rockwell painting, or Ronald Reagan campaign ad, but actual America, as-is. -- Mike Pearl, Staff Writer
What, you thought you were going to make it through this list without this movie being mentioned? Independence Day is so good that I've watched it on New Year's Eve, multiple times, as well as the Fourth of July. It's an action movie about a holiday that feels like a holiday, despite the fact that it's all about the world possibly getting annihilated by aliens that look like the squid that the guy eats in Oldboy. It has one of the greatest movie speeches of all time, as well as Jeff Goldblum, who is quite possibly one of the most sexually appealing dorkus malorkuses ever. And if you haven't seen it yet: Welcome to Earth. -- LF