Americinema: Best Patriotic Movies – Top Five!
Movies do a lot for us. They evoke emotion. They provide opportunities to bond with those around us and to share the experience with other viewers around the world. On Christmas Eve, I know I’m not the only one insisting it doesn’t feel right if I’m not watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas while I wrap last minute presents. Patriotic or American historical movies don’t have the same clout as Christmas movies, but you can be sure I’ll be popping some in this time of year. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Tom Clancy’s political thrillers are fun to read and great to make into movies. The Hunt for Red October focuses on the defection of Soviet nuclear submarine captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) to the United States during the Cold War. Ramius lost his wife due to corruption in the Soviet system of government and is taking the Red October submarine to the Americans so that the Russians cannot use it to start a nuclear war. Due to the nature of America’s relationship with the Soviet Union Ramius is unable to make it clear in advance that he wants to defect and has peaceful intentions. It takes tactical and political genius Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) to uncover what is really going on and to figure out how to get Ramius, his crew, and the Red October to safety, while fooling the Soviets into thinking the Red October has been completely destroyed. Of the four existing Jack Ryan movies, this one is my favorite. I think the story is a masterpiece. It’s completely engrossing with twists, top notch performances, and a surprising amount of heart. You feel proud to be an American when the credits roll. My only criticism of the movie is that I wish it was Harrison Ford playing Jack Ryan, as he does in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Sorry, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford IS Jack Ryan.
2. Air Force One (1997)
Speaking of Harrison Ford, he stars as President of the United States James Marshall in Air Force One. In this new classic, terrorists led by Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman) take over Air Force One and plan to execute hostages, including the president’s wife and daughter, until their country’s monstrous dictator is released from prison. President Marshall fakes his escape from the plane and utilizes his war hero skills to take back the plane and defeat the terrorists. Not only is this movie thrilling and original, it has depth as well. Gary Oldman’s Korshunov has a chance to explain his actions and point of view. Though what he is doing is wrong, it’s important to remember that other people, especially those from other countries, often have drastically different life experiences and perspectives than we do. We can’t begin to heal as citizens of the world until we have respect and understanding of other people’s struggles. You also can’t discuss this movie without mentioning Glenn Close’s amazing portrayal of Kathryn Bennett, Vice President of the United States.
3. The Sandlot (1993)
On paper The Sandlot is about being an adolescent boy during the summer in the 1960’s and playing baseball. Of course, if that was what it was all about, I doubt it would have captured the hearts of TONS boys and girls the way it did. I don’t know many people who don’t get Sandlot references, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone a month without whining “You’re killing me, Smalls!” at something or someone when I was frustrated. Aside from just being a lot of fun to watch over and over, the story is heart-warming. It effortlessly conveys the type of life lessons about friendship and acceptance that stick with you as you grow up. This is one I look forward to watching with my kids.
4. My Fellow Americans (1996)
Jack Lemmon and James Garner star as former Republican President Russell Kramer and former Democratic President Matt Douglas, respectively. The current president, William Haney (Dan Akroyd), needs to use Kramer and Douglas as scapegoats to cover up an illegal deal he made and attempts to kill them. However, it becomes apparent the only thing Kramer and Douglas hate more than each other is being murdered. The movie follows them as they try to evade Haney’s murderous agents, clear their names, and expose the conspiracy—all the while insulting each other as many times as possible. Lemmon and Garner are two of my absolute, all-time favorite actors, and their already impressive comedic abilities have only grown with age. This is a go-to feel-good movie in my house. Stereotypical jokes at the expense of our bipartisan system are hilarious and definitely still poignant today. It shows that the bottom line is cooperation. And also writing your own lyrics to “Hail to the Chief” doesn’t hurt!
5. Murder at 1600 (1997)
Washington, D.C., Detective Regis (Wesley Snipes) and Secret Service Agent Nina Chance (Diane Lane) team up to solve a murder that they are not meant to solve. The country is on the verge of war when a White House employee with romantic ties to the First Family is murdered in the White House itself. Regis and Chance start off at odds with each other but feel obligated to team up and uncover the truth, though they are met with opposition from the top at every turn. The movie is both a mystery and a thriller that unveils a murder in what should be a trusted political position. Aside from delivering on the twists and surprises you expect from the genre, Murder at 1600 shows the government in an unflattering light. Sometimes that’s how I see our government, and other times I’m proud of it—but the most important thing I take away from this movie is that I am allowed to voice my support or dissension. I am grateful that I live in a country where I have so many freedoms. I’m blessed to be here.
There are many, many more patriotic/historical movies that I recommend, (though my list is a little heavy on the political thrillers). Here are a few honorable mentions: Independence Day, Roots, The Patriot, Lincoln, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Glory, The Pelican Brief, A League of Their Own, Saving Private Ryan, United 93, Patton, High Noon, To Kill a Mockingbird, and many more!