On this weekend before Independence Day, I thought we'd take a moment to look at movies that instill in us a sense of patriotism.
These films are not necessarily about valor on the battlefield. They are movies that remind us of American exceptionalism and how we live in the greatest country in the history of the world.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Some say that this movie is cheesy. I say it captures a less cynical time in our culture. Steve Rogers is the perfect embodiment of America. He doesn't see himself as above anyone (I'm just a kid from Brooklyn), he always seeks to do more, and he lays down his life for the freedom of others. I still get excited when I hear that Captain America theme as he and the soldiers he rescues come over the hill.
Yes, there are a lot of fictionalized characterizations in this musical. But you will be struck by the vision and genius of our founding fathers and how they put into words the necessity of a new nation.
There are some movies that seem more patriotic than they are (Rocky IV) and there are others that are more patriotic than they seem. Glory is the latter. It seems like its about how horribly treated the first black regiment in the Union army was treated. There is even a long dialogue about one of the main characters is so disgusted with America that he doesn't want to carry the flag. But all of that is overwhelmed by watching the flag raised and rally the soldiers to battle.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
There is a lot of genius in this film. Some look at it as too simplistic. But watch it again and you will see the corruption and cynicism surrounding Jefferson Smith, even by his "friends." And yet this movie is about standing up for what is right and making a difference and show what real statesmanship looks like.
Not only is this a harrowing account of war and valor, but it is a movie that will remind you that in the modern age, America is still a country worth fighting for. Though we have our problems and our soldiers are not saints, there is an unsleeping evil in the world from which we are only protected by our soldiers. It is a reminder that we have a debt to those who fight to keep us safe.
I can understand people being cynical about the moon race in retrospect. And just when that cynicism was sinking in, NASA had to deal with their greatest space crisis. It is a movie about American ingenuity, determination, and ambition. It will make you feel pride in what we are able to do.
(TV version edited for content)
I dare anyone to listen to that theme and not feel more American. Yes, in the post-Vietnam era there is a lot of humor directed at the military, but ultimately the movie is a love letter to our soldiers. And I love Bill Murray's amazing performance as he delivers his "America" speech.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
One of the great things about this movie is the unquestioning patriotism of its characters. Desmond Doss does not deny the righteousness of his country's cause. And he wants to serve as best as his conscience will allow him. Mel Gibson does a fantastic job of showing the horror of war without any romance or glamour while at the same time showing the soldiers with all of their righteousness and valor. It also has a great intersection of faith an patriotism that doesn't equate the two but shows how each can benefit from the other.