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Top 10 Patriotic Films for the 4th of July

by Listverse Writers
fact checked by Alex Hanton

During the forming of this list I was blown away by the sheer number of patriotic films that have been made in the US. In going through the pile of possibilities, I have intentionally chosen not to just represent saccharine movies which show only the good side of life – the films I have picked include war films, films about corruption, and films involving racism. There is, however, one underlying current in all of them – they all involve the triumph of freedom – the very heart of American patriotism. I have excluded films that would not be considered to be the best of the best – for that reason don’t expect to see Independence Day or The Patriot here. Please feel free to mention your own favorites in the comments. This list also contains a competition. Happy 4th of July!


The Sullivans
Lloyd Bacon, 1944

The Sullivans (also known as the Fighting Sullivans) is a true story of five brothers who died when their ship was destroyed during a naval battle in the Pacific during World War II. Their deaths changed U.S. military policy about family enlistments (limiting siblings serving together), and later acted as a partial story catalyst for “Saving Private Ryan,” which was about the rescue of one family’s last surviving military son. Despite the battle deaths of the Sullivans, the film spends little time with them in uniform. Instead, it is a movie about growing up in heartland USA–Waterloo, Iowa. The constantly scrapping brothers (thus the title, “The Fighting Sullivans”) are likable, funny, and loyal to their siblings.

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Edward Zwick, 1989

Glory recounts the bravery of a group of Civil War soldiers often overlooked by history–the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, a troop of free black men who fought to help win liberty for their enslaved brothers. Based on the historical novels One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchand and Lay This Laurel by Lincoln Kirstein and the letters of Robert Gould Shaw, the film follows the youthful Colonel Shaw (Matthew Broderick) as he takes responsibility for readying these soldiers for battle.

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To Kill A Mockingbird
Robert Mulligan, 1962

This film is set in the rural American south during the depths of the Depression; two children watch as their principled father takes a stand against intolerance. Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of 1960. Atticus Finch is a lawyer in a racially divided Alabama town in the 1930s. He agrees to defend a young black man who is accused of raping a white woman. Many of the townspeople try to get Atticus to pull out of the trial, but he decides to go ahead.

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All The President’s Men
Alan J. Pakula, 1976

Enactment of the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who uncovered the dirty tricks campaign and the coverup of the White House’s involvement in the Watergate break in. The stories they wrote were very instrumental in the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon. This is an engrossing mystery that reminds us why the founding fathers placed such great value on freedom of the press. Additionally, it illustrates how no one – not even the President, is above the law.

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John G. Avildsen, 1976

Rocky Balboa (a true American underdog) is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time. Working in a meat factory in Philadelphia for a pittance, he also earns extra cash as a debt collector. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a “nobody” to become a “somebody”. The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.

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The Great Escape
John Sturges, 1963

The Nazis, exasperated at the number of escapes from their prison camps by a relatively small number of Allied prisoners, relocates them to a high-security “escape-proof” camp to sit out the remainder of the war. Undaunted, the prisoners plan one of the most ambitious escape attempts of World War II. Based on a true story.

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Yankee Doodle Dandy
Michael Curtiz, 1942

A musical portrait of composer/singer/dancer George M. Cohan. From his early days as a child-star in his family’s vaudeville show up to the time of his comeback at which he received a medal from the president for his special contributions to the US, this is the life- story of George M. Cohan, who produced, directed, wrote and starred in his own musical shows for which he composed his famous songs.

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Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg, 1998

Following the Allied invasion of Normandy, two brothers lay dead in the wake of the onslaught. Meanwhile, in New Guinea, a third brother has been killed fighting the Japanese. After the Army General Staff learns that a fourth brother is missing in the French countryside, a rescue mission is ordered to find the young soldier and return him safely home. The mission is mounted by a veteran Ranger Captain commanding a squad of men who have mixed feelings about risking their lives to “Save Private Ryan”.

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Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970

The story of General George S. Patton, Jr. during World War II. His battlefield genius garners him fear and respect from the Germans, and resentment and misunderstanding from the Allies. A military historian and poet, he believes he was a warrior in many past lives, and that he is destined for something great during this life, but his stubbornness and controversial methods nearly prevent the fulfillment of that destiny.

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Mr Smith Goes To Washington
Frank Capra, 1939

Naive and idealistic Jefferson Smith, leader of the Boy Rangers, is appointed on a lark by the spineless governor of his state. He is reunited with the state’s senior senator–presidential hopeful and childhood hero, Senator Joseph Paine. In Washington, however, Smith discovers many of the shortcomings of the political process as his earnest goal of a national boys’ camp leads to a conflict with the state political boss, Jim Taylor. Taylor first tries to corrupt Smith and then later attempts to destroy Smith through a scandal.

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Forrest Gump
Robert Zemeckis, 1994

While not specifically patriotic, this film is loved by millions and it covers some of the most important modern historical events in US history. In the film, a man with a low IQ has accomplished great things in his life and been present during significant historic events – in each case, far exceeding what anyone imagined he could do. Yet, despite all the things he has attained, his one true love eludes him. “Forrest Gump” is the story of a man who rose above his challenges, and who proved that determination, courage, and love are more important than ability.

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At 1pm GMT tomorrow, I will select one commenter from this list to win a prize of the great recently published book Top 10 For Men – a book of over 250 lists of interest to men (though women will no doubt love it also). Topics include What’s the most common murder weapon? What is the hottest variety of chilli? Who is the most searched for woman on the internet? To read an official excerpt of the book, go here.

The prize winner will be one randomly selected commenter – as usual you can enter more than one comment to improve your chances, but your comments must add value to this list – that means no comments designed just to have a better chance at winning. The winner must be a registered user of the List Universe. You can click here to register.

Finally, many thanks to Octopus Books for donating the prize for this competition.

Notable Extras: Apollo 13, Air Force One, Avalon, and many many more.

Some synopses courtesy of IMDB

fact checked by Alex Hanton
Listverse Writers

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