The 10 Best Patriotic Movies to Watch on the 4th of July

There are many ways to celebrate the Fourth of July, but certainly one of the most fitting is by indulging in a great American pastime — watching a movie. There have been many films made about American history, from war epics to inspiring true stories, but we’ve put together a curated list of the best of the best — the most patriotic films that tackle America’s complex history in ways both grand and intimate, comedic and dramatic, awe-inspiring and fist-pump-inspiring.

Behold the best patriotic movies to watch on the 4th of July and where to stream each one.

Saving Private Ryan

DreamWorks Pictures

Steven Spielberg’s 1998 film is hailed by many as one of the best World War II movies ever made, and it stands as a tribute to those who served. Set in 1944 Normandy, the story follows a group of soldiers whose mission is to find a private (played by Matt Damon) whose brothers have all died in the war. The travelogue nature allows Spielberg to show many different facets of WWII combat, from the opening Normandy invasion (one of the most striking sequences ever put to film) to the toll the war took on the Allied soldiers and civilians. With a stacked cast led by Tom Hanks, “Saving Private Ryan” won five Oscars including Best Director for Spielberg, but famously lost Best Picture to “Shakespeare in Love” in a shocking upset.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Paramount+


Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

If you like your patriotism in musical form, “1776” is the film for you. The 1972 film is based on the Broadway musical of the same name and captures the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. William Daniels is John Adams and Ken Howard is Thomas Jefferson, and over the course of two and a half hours they recount history while occasionally breaking out into catchy songs from musician and lyricist Sherman Edwards. This movie’s a delight.

Where to stream: Tubi


Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

1989’s “Glory” tells the true story of one of the Union army’s earliest all-Black regiments in the Civil War, offering the kind of American story that’s too-little told in U.S. history. Denzel Washington won his first Oscar for his supporting performance as Private Silas Trip, but the entire ensemble is remarkable — Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, Matthew Broderick and Cary Elwes all star in director Edward Zwick’s epic yet intimate war drama.

Where to stream: Philo

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Columbia Pictures

Filmmaker Frank Capra’s superpower was capturing the human spirit onscreen in a way that didn’t feel saccharine or false, and his 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is one of his best films. Jimmy Stewart stars as a naive U.S. Senator who arrives in D.C. fresh-faced and ends up fighting against government corruption, culminating in a filibuster that stands as one of cinema’s most iconic moments. Cynics will see the film as naive, but it’s aspirational in the best way.

Where to stream: Prime Video

The Patriot

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

2000’s “The Patriot” isn’t winning any awards for historical accuracy, but the American Revolution drama came at a time when Hollywood was spending inordinate amounts of money on glossy epics, and in that regard it’s compelling to see this story told on such a grand scale. “Saving Private Ryan” screenwriter Robert Rodat wrote this tale of a widower with seven children who goes toe-to-toe with the Brits after suffering devastating loss at the hands of one particularly evil British colonel played by Jason Isaacs. The cast here is spectacular with Heath Ledger giving a terrific performance as Gibson’s eldest son, while Chris Cooper, Tom Wilkinson, Joely Richardson and Logan Lerman all appear.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Philo

Top Gun & Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (Paramount)

When it comes to quintessentially American movies, “Top Gun” is at the top. But the magnificent 2022 sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” is right there with it, making this a perfect double feature on the Fourth of July. Director Tony Scott’s original “Top Gun” catapulted Tom Cruise to movie stardom in the story of pilots chosen to train as part of an elite program. “Top Gun: Maverick,” steered by director Joseph Kosinski, impossibly captures the magic of the original while upping the emotion as Miles Teller stars as the son of Goose, played by Anthony Edwards in the first film. These movies are dynamite.

Where to stream “Top Gun”: Paramount+ and Pluto

Where to stream “Top Gun: Maverick”: Paramount+ and Prime Video

Independence Day

Independence Day
20th Century

It’s literally called “Independence Day” — what could be more patriotic? Roland Emmerich’s 1996 film turned Will Smith into a movie star, but it’s also just a super fun watch. The blockbuster imagines an alien invasion all across the globe and the resistance — led by Bill Pullman’s President of the United States — that’s put together to fight back. Smith is a Marine pilot who has a close encounter with one of the creatures, and his back-and-forth with Jeff Goldblum’s satellite engineer is unforgettable. But what really seals the deal on this patriotic pick is Pullman’s iconic “We will not go quietly into the night” speech. That’s the stuff movies are made of.

Where to stream: Hulu


lincoln daniel day lewis

If “Saving Private Ryan” was Steven Spielberg’s ode to American military veterans, his 2012 film “Lincoln” was his love letter to U.S. lawmakers. The filmmaker’s long-in-the-works film about Abraham Lincoln finally clicked when he and screenwriter Tony Kushner decided to focus on the January 1865 effort to abolish slavery, told from Lincoln’s point of view (played in an astounding, Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis). But the film dives deep into American legislative process — the messy, passionate and complicated path that Lincoln and his cohorts paved to get the 13th Amendment passed. “Lincoln” doesn’t paint the past with rose-colored glasses either, as the film puts forth a conflicted man at a breaking point for our country. This movie is also, it must be said, funny as hell.

Where to stream: Prime Video

Born on the Fourth of July

Universal Pictures

Patriotism has many colors, and Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July” is a searing take on the Vietnam War through the eyes of a wounded veteran. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Tom Cruise plays Ron Kovic, a man who became an anti-war activist after being wounded in Vietnam and returning home to find his country was leaving him behind.

Where to stream: Netflix

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