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The Best Patriotic Movies (That Aren't About War)

Rachael Brennan Updated: 18-12-2018
The Best Patriotic Movies (That Aren't About War)

The 4th of July is a celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Despite the fact that the Declaration of Independence was technically a declaration of war, the 4th is not specifically a military holiday and does not celebrate any battles in particular. Independence Day is about celebrating the formation of the American government, which was the first step towards all of our greatest achievements as a nation.

Jonas Salk and the invention of the Polio vaccine, Alan Shepard as the first American in space, Wilma Rudolph and her record-setting gold medals at the Olympics, Eli Whitney and his cotton gin, Alice Hamilton and her fight to stop occupational lead exposure, and so many other Americans who have done phenomenal things are worth celebrating this 4th of July.

Once the picnic is put away and the fireworks are over, if you are looking to embrace the ingenuity, altruism, and determination that so often embody the American spirit you might want to put away your copy of Saving Private Ryan, curl up on the couch with a slice of apple pie and watch one of these movies instead.

Apollo 13

Apollo 13: The Best Patriotic Movies (That Aren't About War)

Universal Pics

The concept of space exploration is kind of crazy when you think about it. When you really consider the intelligence and determination it takes to get a rocket beyond our atmosphere and into the eternal vastness of space you can't help but stand in awe of humanity. The true story of the disaster experienced by Jim Lovell, Jack Sweigert, and Fred Haise was an epic story brought to the big screen, with all of the tension and action of a war movie without a single gunshot. American ingenuity doesn't stop at the Exosphere!

Military films are basically a story of survival in extreme conditions, but if you want a survival story without all the bloodshed you'll want to spend your 4th of July watching Apollo 13.

The Butler

The Butler: The Best Patriotic Movies (That Aren't About War)

The Weinstein Company

American history is a rich subject and has been a source of inspiration for Hollywood for as long as there has been film. There are dozens of historical movies you could watch on the 4th, from Lincoln to All The President's Men, but if you truly want to immerse yourself in the history of our country there is no better movie for that than The Butler. Loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, the movie tells the story of the American Presidents from Eisenhower to Regan as witnessed by a White House employee. The film also tells the story of the Civil Rights movement and class divisions within the country, making this a movie that tells the story of America from multiple points of view.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

4th July Celebrations: The Best Patriotic Movies (That Aren't About War)

Sony Pictures/Columbia

You can't turn on the news today without seeing a story of disgusting amounts of corruption at the highest levels in our government. Everything from corrupt politicians ignoring their constituents in favor of their donors to actual pedophiles and Nazis can be seen oozing around the cesspool that our nation's capital has become. Luckily, we have some truly amazing politicians in both parties who are trying to change things for the better, but it can be disheartening to see what was once a well-run political machine having turned into such a quagmire.

If you have longingly looked back at the days of Teddy Roosevelt or FDR and wondered what happened to all of our honorable politicians you might want to spend your Independence Day watching this Frank Capra classic. When it was originally released it was so controversial it was banned in movie theaters across the globe, attacked by the press in Washington, and declared pro-communist propaganda. The senate retaliated against the movie by passing the Neely Anti-Block Booking Bill to force the break-up of studio owned theater chains, causing the studios and theaters to fire back by flooding the theaters and papers with positive reviews and declaring that the film supports democracy.

If you need to be reminded that positive change is possible this summer you will definitely want to watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Iron Jawed Angels

The Best Patriotic Movies (That Aren't About War)

HBO Films

Women's suffrage was one of the defining moments of American history. Women marched, protested, got arrested, and some even died demanding the right to vote, but many Americans can't name a single suffragette. If you aren't familiar with the amazing women (and men) who fought to give women the right to vote, or even if you are, you will want to rent Iron Jawed Angels and celebrate their fight for equality between the sexes. Learn all about Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Carrie Chapman Catt, Inez Milholland, and many other amazing women who fought the good fight to make sure women were given the same voting rights as men. 

Malcolm X

The Best Patriotic Movies (That Aren't About War)

Warner Bros.

Malcolm X overcame a criminal history to become a leader and a human rights activist, quickly becoming one of the most inspirational forces in the nation. He was one of the most influential African-Americans in our country's history and he continues to inspire people to this day. While he is a somewhat controversial figure, nobody can deny the significance of the role he played in our history.

Spike Lee directed and cowrote the movie based on the autobiography of Malcolm X, creating a cinematic masterpiece that was declared culturally and historically significant by the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. If you are looking for a movie about a great American leader, a story of redemption, or simply to see a movie considered by many to be one of the best films of the 1990's, you can't go wrong with Malcolm X.

The 4th of July is a great time to watch your favorite patriotic movies. What films will you be watching over the holiday this year

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