Wondering What to Watch on the Fourth of July? Check Out Weinberg’s Weird Patriotic Picks

By July 3, 2013

This holiday weekend means all sorts of different things. If you’re patriotic, the 4th of July weekend is pretty great. If you just like lazing around with your family and eating junk food, I salute that choice as well. Personally I always recommend movies.Big surprise there. Sure, you can always go with Roland Emmerich’s bombastic alien invasion film simply *because* it’s called “Independence Day,” but what if you’d rather watch a good movie? What then? What about perhaps several?

In theaters: if you really want some crazy end-of-the-world shenanigans,I still heartily recommend This Is The End, which comes from Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and virtually every funny actor pal they have. Some call it self-congratulatory; others dismiss it as “in-joke” heaven, but the critics liked the flick a lot, the box office was pretty strong, and audiences walked out pleasantly surprised. Plus it’s a hard R comedy, which is great for grown-ups, but keep in mind: this is not a movie for kids. Unless your kids are super advanced in raunch humor.

As a guy who loves the 1978 rendition of Superman and not much else about the character, I was taken aback by how much I liked Man of Steel, which combines the myth-making skills of (producer) Christopher Nolan, the slick visual stylings of (director) Zack Snyder, and the (omnipresent) screenwriting prowess of David Goyer. Easily one of the most talked-about blockbusters of the summer, Man of Steel has at least one Superman non-fan psyched up for the sequel. (I mean me.)

Speaking only in terms of demographic “quadrants,” there’s something out there for everybody. The Heat clearly skews towards women, and it’s a “buddy cop” comedy that’s earning some strong word-of-mouth. For tots (and therefore families) we have Monsters University and Despicable Me 2. For the action junkies there’s The Lone Ranger, White House Down, and (my surprise treat of the season) the unexpectedly satisfying World War Z.

But for those intelligent souls who would rather not brave the multiplexes during a busy holiday season, here are a few “holiday-themed” home video (aka DVD/VOD) options:

In the mood for a wacky splatter flick with an American theme? 1996’s Uncle Sam is pretty fun stuff. A basic slasher with a cool cast, it comes from director William Lustig (Maniac) and screenwriter Larry Cohen (It’s Alive), so you already know the movie isn’t boring.

National Lampoon’s Vacation is a very American movie to me because we’ve all taken family road trips, and almost all American dads act exactly like Clark Griswold.

I was way too young to enjoy the 1976 bicentennial celebrations, but if you want a taste of the adorable era, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1995) simply never gets old. And you won’t believe how many “name” actors are in it.So young, too!

Want something weird and funny? See if you can dig up Lucas Reiner’s goofball farce from 1990 called The Spirit of ’76. And have some recreational substances available.

If you’d like the coloring book version of the American Revolution, look no further than 2000’s The Patriot, a film in which Mel Gibson asks Joely Richardson if he can sit down and she replies, “It’s a free country… or at least it will be.” Note: this film is not a comedy.

Only slightly less silly is National Treasure, which is patriotic in that it has Nicolas Cage running around Philadelphia and using the Constitution as a bullet shield.

The original King Kong is a great movie about America’s ability to destroy nature’s majesty and then crow about it. I may be reading too much into it.

Maybe my favorite 4th of July movie pick is Team America: World Police, not only because it has patriotic puppets doing outlandish things, but it’s a film that allows you to scream “America, F*** Yeah!” while also being ironic about screaming “America, F*** Yeah!” That’s the beauty of good satire.

Bonus recommendation from Geek Nation writer/editor Ben Pearson: “Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981) because it ends with a 4th of July celebration.” Can’t argue with that advice. Plus Philadelphia looks so great in that movie.

Have a great holiday! Be safe and pleasant and kind to people.

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Scott Weinberg
Writer. Movie critic. Producer. Semi-actor. Wise-ass. Film advocate. Horror geek. Cat fan. Twitter junkie. Follow me at @scotteweinberg.