While America does love its movies about sexy bank robbers knocking off banks and street-racers smashing up cop cars, there’s still always an audience for a good patriotic movie. Whether it’s about the US of A fighting the good fight with weapons and explosions, or just quietly demonstrating why we fight with our hearts on our sleeve for the US Constitution, these movies are some of the best examples of America being awesome on the silver screen.
It’d be hard to get to the root of American patriotism without finding a lot of sports along the way. And while baseball might be considered the American pastime, it’s a hockey movie that sums up one of the greatest sports moments in the US of A. Beating the heavily favored Russians in the middle of the Cold War is the best feel-good story that we could ever hope for, but by beating them in the sport where they were strongest, the 1980 USA Hockey team (and this movie about it) made Americans feel like they could overcome pretty much anything.
At first glance, Casablanca is hardly a patriotic movie. Rick is an ex-patriate living in France. He might not be a fan of the Germans, but he’s also run guns for different sides of the war, and generally takes care of himself and nobody else. And even when he does start to help, it’s a leader of the Czech Resistance. But Rick’s love for Ilsa starts him on the path to doing the right thing – and soon, he and everyone else are making sacrifices to do what’s right. And his biggest sacrifice of all at the airport, Rick shows Ilsa that the fight against bigger evils is more important than their “hill of beans”. He might not be draped in the American flag, but Rick shows his heart is true red white and blue.
It might not be the most critically acclaimed movie on this list, but damned if there’s a movie that doesn’t fulfill every patriotic dream the USA could hope for. Aliens attack countries across the world, and we start to figure them out. An American pilot captures one of the aliens (and knocks it out with a right hook, no less). An American scientist figures out the way to disable the alien’s shields. And the president himself rallies the troops, hops in a fighter plane, and helps blow up their ships. The only way this movie could be more patriotic is if the aliens were allergic to apple pie.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
It’s easy to root for the United States when we’re being attacked or threatened by enemies. But what about when the fight is within our own government? Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith is a beacon of purity, and his introduction to Washington politics and its media is rough at best. When he runs awry of corruption, he uses the rules and methods of the senate as laid out in our fine constitution to fight for what’s right – and he wins one not just for America, but for the American way.
Saving Private Ryan
There have been countless movies detailing the heroics of men who gave their lives to defend this country. Few of them were quite as honest about the horrors of war as Spielberg was with Saving Private Ryan. The opening D-Day sequence was probably hard for some people to watch, but it didn’t pull any punches in explaining exactly what our veterans were up against – and how they went ahead anyways. Tom Hanks gives one of his best performances as a schoolteacher forced to become a leader at a whole other level, and his supporting cast is stressed but dedicated to their mission – to save the last of the Ryan brothers. Their willingness to put their lives on the line for this boy – and our country’s decision to save the sole survivor of his family – speaks volumes about the best parts of this country.
Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukranian Village. He enjoys eating and drinking above his means, finding new music, and socially conscious hedonism.