With Independence Day coming up this weekend, it behooves me to think of what we think is patriotic when it comes to entertainment. When originally starting this column, I was going to name my top patriotic movies. But halfway through it, I decided it would be more interesting to see what other people think of patriotism when it comes to movies. What I came up with surprised me. When it comes to patriotism, Americans embrace everything from foreign sentiment to blatant lies, and every emotion from sappy Americana to racial hatred as patriotic. I was actually overwhelmed by the variety of movies listed under the various lists I researched that individuals considered patriotic. I'll try to cite the most surprising movies that I found. Keep in mind that this is not a single list from a single source, but a compilation of many, many lists off the Internet that others considered patriotic:
BIRTH of a NATION
- This 1915 silent movie tells a love story (???) and of two brothers who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War. What makes this the most disturbing movie on the list of "patriotic" movies is the blatantly broad stereotyping of the Northern Abolitionists and the former slaves, and the deification of the Ku Klux Klan as the Saviors of the South. Noted as one of D.W. Griffith's
crowning achievements, it is defiled by the rest of the world as the most damning depiction of life in America.
YANKEE DOODLE DANDY
- This bio--pic is only half correct as the life of showman George M. Cohan
, son of Irish Catholic parents Jere
and Nellie Cohan
, is romantically, but grossly inaccurately portrayed as a devoted husband who had no children, at least on screen. But this was 1942, and in the spirit of patriotism and the usual total disregard for the truth in a musical, Cohan
was celebrated for his many patriotic songs, such as "Over There"
and "You're a Grand Old Flag."
TO KILL A
MOCKINGBIRD - another unusual choice, this 1962 tense drama is of a white lawyer defending a black man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman. The premise was very closely mirrored in the 1996 drama, A TIME TO KILL, but the later version had the usual Hollywood Ending, and is jokingly called the "sweatiest movie ever made."
- a gritty biopic, this 1970 patriotic movie is a relatively accurate bio on the the controversial tank commander whose genius and temper were equally legendary. One of the many war movies on several patriotic movie lists.
- an obvious, but silly choice, this 1972 musical featured the Founder Fathers as as a singing troupe of argumentative statesmen trying to knock out the Declaration of Independence. On a personal note, I was able to see a live performance of this musical, several times in fact, on Independence Mall right across the street from Independence Hall next door to where the Second Continental Congress actually met, and every night, at the climax of the show, the signing of the Declaration was accented by the ringing of the Liberty Bell across the street (a replica, actually - the real bell has not rung since 1846.)
ALL the PRESIDENT'S MEN
- one of the many "Nixon
" movies on patriotic movie lists, this 1976 movie chronicles the Watergate scandal that led to the downfall of a President and his eventual resignation.
BORN on the FOURTH of JULY
- the first of the Oliver Stone
movies on this list, this 1989 movie is the biography of Ron Kovic
. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.
Author's Note: Oliver Stone
had spent most of his movie career dissecting and re-assembling - albeit controversially - recent American history. He was especially obsessed with the Viet-Nam War as two films on this list, as well as
are prime examples.
- another Oliver Stone
project, more accurately, his obsession, this 1991 movie makes broad speculations around the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
, involving everyone from a New Orleans District Attorney to the Vice-President of the United States. Possibly the most controversial of the Oliver Stone
movies, this movie gave renewed interest to "the incident."
- a metaphor of it's time, this 1993 light comedy puts Kevin Kline
, a dead ringer for the President of the United States filling in for the real President, incapacitated due to an unfortunate accident. Two familiar themes ring here - an actor as President, and the real power behind the Oval Office.
- another unusual choice for a patriotic movie, this 1994 film is one person's experience in America, if one person could experience it all, the good and the bad.
- Mel Gibson
became very patriotic in the beginning of the millennium. This 2000 film tells the story of a father's grief and the Revolutionary War. He previously did a very similar theme in the 1995 biography BRAVEHEART
. Two years after PATRIOT, he did WE WERE SOLDIERS
. What makes these amusing choices for an American patriotic movie is that Mr. Gibson
was born in Australia, but has a dual Irish and American citizenship.
- another of the many "Nixon
" movies on patriotic movie lists, this 2005 comedy depicts the unintentional downfall of Richard Nixon
as perpetrated by two airhead teenagers, one a devoted "groupie" of the President.
- in the midst of the
2008 Presidential election, this film depicted the speculated events surrounding the 2000 Presidential election, arguably most controversial presidential election of our time.
Then there were the obvious ones, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
, BARNUM, STARS and STRIPES FOREVER
, INDEPENDENCE DAY
, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
and every John Wayne
movie. The films on this list were chosen because they wouldn't be the first choice of films when one thinks of Mom, Apple Pie and the American Dream. These films, in my opinion, showcase why we need an America, as the baser aspects of our nation is depicted in these controversial films. In some, America won. Others, well, we came away with a bloody nose. Of all the themes portrayed in these lists, the main ones here were disillusionment, bigotry, deception and war. But they all show an aspect of America that's uniquely American. Each one is a study of what's wrong, and in most cases, what is essentially right with America. I try to make no judgments; the films speak for themselves. And if they spark conversation, well, this is America and we as Americans enjoy the right to converse it.
As a popular saying goes, "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it,"
which, like every other bit of Americana, the phrase is popularly attributed to Voltaire
but was first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall
, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G. Tallentyre
in "The Friends of Voltaire."
Of course, I could be wrong!
"God bless America. And no place else!
" - Nick Searcy
as Presidential candidate Brian Lewis
in Chris Rock's HEAD of STATE