Hollywood may not always promote the heart of American Patriotism; but when it does, it gains respect for many movie goers and more often than not, these movies make money at the Box Office. For this list we shall focus only on Patriotic Movies that were first screened in the cinemas. While “John Adams,” “Band of Brothers,” “Turn: Washington Spies,” “The Pacific” were all great TV series that promoted Patriotism and Americanism we shall save those for their own list.
10. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939): This movie came out in the dawn of the second World War, and with the current political climate apparently more hostile and full of strife, this movie is still relevant than ever. Jimmy Stewart plays protagonist Jefferson Smith who is appointed U.S. Senator on the suggestion made by the children of the governor of the western state (unnamed in the film) that Mr. Smith comes from. Why, Mr. Smith? He is a Boy Ranger. This boy ranger may be naïve about DC Politics, but he learns quick and up to the point where he uses the filibuster rules to his advantage. Not a true story, but a story that we all need to look at about how a Statesman is made. This is Frank Capra’s Political Masterpiece indeed.
9. 1776 (1972): Long before Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” we had this musical about the formation of America. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1969, and three years later was adapted for the motion picture. What if the Second Continental Congress debated over our Declaration of Independence through a song cycle based on the letters and memoirs of those who were part of that group of men? Well that cannon was made into reality via this musical. Can’t stand John Adams rant? Just tell him to “Sit Down, John.” Thomas Jefferson makes a plea to Adams to write the declaration in the song; “But Mr. Adams.” Edward Rutledge justifies the slave trade in the song “Molasses To Rum.” Granted the real world does not break out in song in time of strife and conflict and not includes the Second Continental Congress but it does help melt the ice and might help us understand a few things about our founding….at least help us take an interest.
8. Yankie Doodle Dandy (1942): George M. Cohan was a man who loved his Country and loved music. He was called the man who owned Broadway. He also developed the “Bible” of the Book Musical which is common place in most Broadway musicals to this day. It was only fitting that all of these things deserved a movie in his honor, and that honor is the movie “Yankie Doodle Dandy.” The movie is named after the lyric line in the song “Yankie Doodle Boy” which also goes by the title “(I’m a) Yankie Doodle Dandy.” The movie is biographic story featuring Cohan’s body of work. He is played in the movie by James Cagney. Sadly in November of the same year, Cohan passed away at the age of 64.
7. Gettysburg (1993): Based on the book The Killer Angels, this movie focuses on the four days of battle during the Civil War in 1863 near, in and around the namesake city in the state of Pennsylvania. While the movies focus might have been focused on the South and rewarded a split vote by famed critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (Siskel giving the thumb down). It shows both the leaders in this key and historic battle of the Civil War. The movies stars Martin Sheen and Tom Berenger in the roles of General Robert E. Lee&Lieutenant General James Longstreet who fought for the Confederate; and Jeff Daniels in the role of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain who fought on the side of the Union.
6. Argo (2012): This movie based on a true story was about a uncover mission to rescue American hostages from Iran in 1980. CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Ben Afflack) watches the movie “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” while talking to his son over the phone andas he watches the movie he gets an ideal of how to rescue six escapees that they have managed to shelter. Mendez contacts makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) who was a CIA agent himself and lists the services of Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Together they set up a fake movie company that “plans to make a science fiction movie” in Iran called “Argo.” The escapees would pose as a film crew from Canada. Canada agreed to this and issued Canadian passports to the six attempting their escape from Iran. They eventually escape by the skin of their teeth. “The Canadian Caper” wrote the wave of Sci-Fi Box Office smashes (such as “Star Wars” “The Black Hole,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and even the 11thJames Bond 007 installment “Moonraker”) in a totally different real life way. They got Americans out of real life hell hole than Iran became under the Islamic Republic. This movie deserves a place in the ten.
5. Patton (1970): This movie would be the crowning achievement for George C. Scott. It would win seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and won Scott a Best Actor award…which he would not accept. The opening scene is Patton addressing American Troops (not shown on Camera) and raising their morale of the war effort. Then his story about how he would eventually bring down Nazi Germany begins. This movie still holds up as in important movie on the side of America and its founding principles.
4. The Longest Day (1962): An ensemble cast portrayed both sides of the Battle of D-Day in Normandy, France. The Americans overcome severe weather and their rivals in their attempts to get deep into French Territory. Among the all-star cast is John Wayne, Eddie Albert, Paul Anka (who wrote the theme music for the film), Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Curt Jürgens, Richard Dawson and so many more. It would take a long time to list them all.
3. Sargent York (1941): Gary Cooper plays Sergeant Alvin York. A real life person who recently converted to the Christian faith and took the old King James Version of Sixth Commandment of God to heart (Don’t Not Kill rather than Don’t Murder) as he struggles with that interpretation when he is drafted into the Army and fighting in World War I. York fought those who wanted to make the movie based on his life. Eventually he allowed them the movie rights as way to get a Bible School funded and established. Today the movie ranks 57th in its Top 100 list of Inspirational Movies.
2. Lincoln (2012): It took some time but respected filmmaker Steven Spielberg took Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about our 16th President to the big screen. Spielberg’s adaptation of Goodwin’s book has a passionate Lincoln (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) determined to win the Civil War and abolish Slavery in America. The history presented in the movie is very accurate and does indeed shows the Democratic Party of its day as those who want to keep it going and being critical of the Republicans of being radical. The end of the movie says it best when Edwin M. Stanton (Bruce McGill) says “Now he belongs to the ages.” It just took a few ages to find the right film to make about Abraham Lincoln.
1. Saving Private Ryan (1998): Another patriotic picture from Steven Spielberg. If the battle at Omaha Beach does not get to you at the beginning of this film, the lead up to the climax and the climax itself…WILL!!! This movie tells the tale of Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks), company commander, 2nd Ranger Battalion and their mission of bringing paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) back home when Miller and company learn about the deaths of Ryan’s three brothers, making him the last Ryan standing. Ryan however still wants to finish a battle that he is engaged in. Ryan survives and is indeed saved, but at a high price.
Honorable Mentions: I will give Honorable Mentions to two Superheroes. Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” in which our protagonist fights a secret battle during World War II and pays the ultimate price by going into deep freeze only to be thawed out in the present day. Also Superman II has our man in tights realizing there is more than his wild oats when General Zod kidnaps the President of the United States (E.G. Marshall) and forces Superman to accept his responsibility to Earth.”Sorry I’ve been away so long. I won’t let you down again.” His words as he puts the American Flag back on top of the White House.