On the 4th of July, it’s always important to recognize the strength and resolve of the American spirit. At times, it may seem that Hollywood takes that idea for granted but despite that, filmmakers continue to create great patriotic features that remind us about what being an American is all about.
With that in mind, here’s a list of five movies — all from the past dozen years—that do a great job in capturing and celebrating American patriots.
Miracle (2004): Aside from the 4th of the July, there aren’t that many major events when thousands of people rally around our country and celebrate our nation’s victories. The Olympic Games is one of those occasions. That is especially true when our nation’s athletes face off against the athletes of a nation that is warring against us.
Such was the case in 1980 when the men’s U.S. Olympic hockey team faced off against the Russians in an intense match-up. The Russian team was favored (by a lot) but the U.S. men’s team defeated them in a historic upset and went on to win the gold medal. The 2004 Disney film Miracle chronicles how coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) defied expectations and led his team — and our nation’s spirit — soaring in the midst of the Cold War.
Lincoln (2012): In Steven Spielberg’s commendable historical drama Lincoln, the 16th President (played by a terrific Daniel Day-Lewis) faces a nation divided. The Civil War was ending but our country wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
Lincoln aligns himself with members of Congress — of both political parties — to ensure that former slaves cannot be returned to involuntary servitude after the war is over. Above everything else, Lincoln knew what was right for our country and pushed the United States, which had been divided for years, to embrace our best ideals.
Lone Survivor (2014): Based on the book Lone Survivor, this Peter Berg-directed war movie brings the heroic Marcus Luttrell’s story to life. The feature revolves around a military mission to target a Taliban leader in Afghanistan.
Although the mission faltered and the results were tragic, this patriotic drama showcases the sacrifices that our men and women make every day on the battlefield. Luttrell and his fellow officers were heroes who fought bravely for our country in a war that has cost thousands of soldiers their lives.
Selma (2014): Although our nation was founded on great ideals, we haven’t always lived up to them. Such was the case in the 1960s when African-Americas were fighting for equal rights. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought bravely against the status quo to make our nation live up to its most noble values.
Played by David Oyelowo, King takes center stage in Ava DuVernay’s remarkable 2014 drama, Selma. The feature captures King’s use of nonviolence protests to show the brutality that African-Americans faced in this country. The feature captures King’s obvious personal flaws but it also showcases his fight for a better America — an America that grants all of his citizens equal rights.
Bridge of Spies (2015): Director Steven Spielberg, who made this list earlier with Lincoln, has directed a great number of patriotic films. His greatest one was undeniably the classic Saving Private Ryan (1998) but in 2015, the Tom Hanks-drama Bridge of Spies offered a look at a different type of patriot.
The drama takes on the true story of James B. Donovan (played by Hanks). In the feature, Donovan is tasked with representing a Soviet spy in court. Despite a public backlash, Donovan did his best to represent the spy. He wanted to show that the justice that a Soviet spy faced in America would be fairer (and more humane) than the “justice” that American spies would face in the Soviet Union.
Donovan’s diplomatic skills — used effectively in the eventual prisoner swap here and in this leader’s eventual work in Cuba — helped the United States free thousands of prisoners who were being held overseas.