From the Fourth of July to Pioneer Day, there are occasions where you may want to remind yourself what it is to be an American. And curling up with a good movie is a great way to add to your celebrations. Here are the best patriotic movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime and beyond to help bring out your American Spirit and make you proud. This list has something for everyone. Celebrate now. Clean up the party later.
Top Gun (1986)
Pilots at the Navy’s elite fighter weapons school at Miramar Naval Air Station, engage in an intense friendly competition to earn the prestigious Top Gun award. During their advanced training, Maverick, Goose, and Iceman learn life lessons both inside and outside the cockpit. What’s more American than fighter jets, falling in love with your female civilian flight instructor and a game of shirtless beach volleyball?
The Tony Scott (Ridley Scott’s brother) directed film features an incredible opening scene aboard an aircraft carrier, the 1980s hit Kenny Loggins‘ song “Danger Zone” and an all-star cast including Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, and Kelly McGillis. Plus how many times have you caught yourself saying Top Gun quotes like “I feel the need… The need for speed”?
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan is a fictional story about a D-Day rescue mission. After Private Ryan (Matt Damon) loses all three of his brothers on the same day, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and his 2nd Ranger Battalion are sent in to pull Ryan out of combat so his mother doesn’t have to receive grave telegrams for all her sons.
Parts of the Steven Spielberg film, especially the famed Omaha Beach scene, were praised for its realism by World War II veterans and war historians. It’s an incredible account of the valor and bravery of the Greatest Generation and their sacrifice for American freedom.
A League of Their Own (1992)
With most of the men off fighting in World War II, only the ladies were left to help keep Major League Baseball from shutting down. The 1992 film, A League Of Their Own, is a fictional story about the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The heartwarming Penny Marshall-directed film stars Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Jon Lovitz, Bill Pullman, and Lori Petty.
Praised for its detailed account, the sports comedy-drama was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 2012 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Independence Day (1996)
How do you take American patriotism beyond baseball, fighting terrorism and a World War? How about aliens? After alien forces destroy the Capital Building and start invading major US cities, it’s up to a unique team to save humanity. The Roland Emmerich directed film stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Fierstein, Judd Hirsch, Mary McDonnell, Brent Spiner, Randy Quaid, and Vivica A. Fox.
Some exciting moments in Independence Day include Randy Quaid flying a plane into the butt of an alien spaceship and Will Smith punching an alien in the face.
Air Force One (1997)
Harrison Ford played some incredible roles throughout his career including Han Solo, Indiana Jones and even President Of The United States inAir Force One. After terrorists hijack Air Force One, it’s up to Ford, a Veteran, and Medal of Honor winner, to single-handedly stop their evil plans. In addition to Ford, the film features an incredible cast including Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, William H. Macy, and Dean Stockwell.
Air Force One was a huge box office success. It made over $315 million dollars worldwide and was one of the biggest films of the 1990s.
Glory is based on an incredible true story of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War. This first all-black Army regiment, included freedmen, runaway slaves and white volunteers willing to face prejudices and racism from both the Confederate Army, as well as their own.
Glory stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Cary Elwes. Although it wasn’t a huge box office success, the Edward Zwick directed film was showered with numerous honors including multiple Academy Awards. It is a gripping and powerful film. I saw Glory during a high school field trip and remember everyone after the movie walking out of the theater in tears.
Daniel Day-Lewis gives a powerful performance as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg‘s biopic Lincoln. The film follows the cunning and political maneuvering that “Honest Abe” had to accomplish in order to win the votes needed to abolish slavery.
Apollo 13 (1995)
One of the first major setbacks of the American space program was NASA‘s failed Apollo 13 mission to the moon. Directed by Ron Howard, Apollo 13 is about the 1970 space mission that made the phrase “Houston, we have a problem” famous. After an oxygen tank exploded in mid-flight, the crew fought against the odds to get back to Earth alive. Starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris, the film is a touching tribute to everyone who has ever had a role in America’s quest to explore the stars.
On the surface, the USSR’s Olympic program was an almost invincible machine. And one of their most powerful efforts was their ice hockey team. But somehow a scrappy young U.S. hockey team defeated the odds and won a gold medal against the Soviets in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Kurt Russell stars as coach Herb Brooks in Miracle, the true story of the incredible Olympic upset dubbed the “Miracle On Ice”.
Hidden Figures (2016)
From the ice rinks of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics to the deserts of Afghanistan, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviets was fought on many fronts. But one of the most intense battlefields was the Space Race. Incredible feats of science, aviation and mathematics were required to send Americans into space. Coinciding with the Space Race, was the American Civil Rights Movement. Hidden Figures tells the true story of how three female African-American mathematicians confronted both sexism and racists at NASA in the 1960s and made critical contributions to the US Space Program. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe.
The American President (1995)
Dating isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you’re a widower and the president of the United States. Written by Aaron Sorkin, The American President, tells the fictional story of President Andrew Shepherd and his struggle with his political enemies and their assault on his environmental-lobbyist girlfriend. In a powerful speech, President Shepherd defends the honor of both his country and his girlfriend at the same time, “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight.” The Rob Reiner directed film stars Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, and Michael J. Fox.
Red Dawn (1984)
At the height of the Cold War, there was one movie that really made it personal for suburban America, Red Dawn. The film depicts what it might look like if World War III and Russian occupation came to mid-western America. After most of the US military has been defeated, it’s up to a small band of teenagers, called the Wolverines, to repel invading Soviet forces and restore hope to the country. The film stars Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, and Jennifer Grey.
Do yourself a favor and steer clear of the 2012 Red Dawn remake starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games). It’s a poor retelling of a true classic.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Before Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man and The Hulk, there was Steve Rogers, The First Avenger. After repeatedly being rejected for World War II military service because of his size, Rogers volunteers to undergo an experimental procedure. Experimental “Super-Soldier serum” transforms Rogers from a short and scrawny man to the ultimate soldier, Captain America. But after Rogers helps lead American forces towards victory in WWII, he’s accidentally frozen in the icy water of the Atlantic. Several decades later, he’s rescued and resumes defending his country as part of The Avengers.
The 2011 film stars Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, Tommy Lee Jones, and Hayley Atwell.
Team America: World Police (2004)
With a $32 million dollar budget, Trey Parker and Matt Stone‘s R-rated film Team America: World Police is the most expensive puppet movie in history. This brilliant satire follows an elite team tasked with defending America from terrorists and rogue world leaders like Kim Jong-Il. The only problem, Team America’s actions cause more destruction than the terrorists. The film has a great script and you’ll find yourself saying Team America quotes constantly.
Personally, it’s one of my favorite patriotic American movies, but it’s definitely not a family film… even with the puppets. The film is full of ridiculous puppet fight scenes, an NC-17 sexual encounter and lots of crude language. Even the fist-pumping anthem, “America, F— Yeah!”, is dirty. Keep the kids away! Too bad there will never be a Team America 2 sequel.
G.I. Jane (1997)
Ridley Scott’s action-drama, G.I. Jane, tells the story of a woman’s quest to become the Navy’s first elite female soldier. Demi Moore stars in the lead role and shows how much discrimination, misogyny, and hazing that some women have to endure in the US Military.
Moore famously shaved her head on camera for the film, a move that generated a ton of press in 1997. A great film to help pump up both your girl power and American spirit. Rosie the Riveter‘s got nothing on G.I. Jane.
Invasion USA (1985)
When an army of Cuban-led guerillas invades Miami on Christmas, only Chuck Norris, a retired CIA agent, can come to the rescue of the United States. Norris is his usual one-man army in this film and takes down hundreds of terrorists by himself. Despite a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Invasion USA has developed a cult following over the years.
An American Tail (1986)
Unfortunately, most patriotic movies tend to be rated PG-13 or R. But one of the best patriotic movies for families is Steven Spielberg‘s first animated film, An American Tail. The film follows the journey of a family of mice on their way to America. But after a young mouse is separated from his family, he has to learn what it means to be an immigrant in America on his own.
Patriotic Movies & American Spirit
The goal of this list of patriotic American movies was to have something for everyone. Hopefully, you found a good movie here to help you celebrate what it means to be an American. Also, you might have noticed that Steven Spielberg, Bill Pullman, and Tom Hanks make multiple appearances on the list. Guess they just have American spirit pumping through their veins.
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Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.