Happy 4th of July, fellow patriots! Sorry — it’s just such an exciting day. That time every year when we can come together as Americans and watch a Jaws marathon in our basement den before screaming the national anthem on the front lawn at three in the morning without fear of prosecution… at least not without at least one verbal warning from the cops. And on that note, here’s a list of movie renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung in the way our founding fathers intended: under great duress and during something terrible.
1. Robert Downey, Jr. rocks a B.B. King concert in Heart And Souls
This is the most adorably stupid film in the entire world. As you watch Robert Downey, Jr. gets harassed by a team of ghost friends you can’t help but to — for some ungodly reason — enjoy yourself. Like a library basement puppet show, you know you’re probably a little too old to be watching it without accompanying a child, but you don’t give a shit either. And by the time he’s possessed by Ghost Charles Grodin at a B.B. King concert in order to sing the national anthem you’ve completely accepted the situation because whatever…it’s ghosts. The performance goes fine, but like all great impromptu performances, it ends with an arrest.
2. The post-fight, pre-game anthem in Slapshot
From the Hanson Brother’s ultraviolent antics to Paul Newman’s amazing full leather suit, there isn’t a moment of this movie that isn’t incredibly endearing. For someone who doesn’t gravitate toward sports movies but loves alcohol-induced violence, this is the pinnacle right here. A hockey film following a team that learns the only thing more important than winning is making sure the other guy goes home a pulp stack. Like our previous entry, the anthem itself goes off without a hitch — however, it is prefaced by a horribly violent fight that happens before the refs even make it onto the ice, making it a disaster before it even began.
3. The launching of Santa Claus in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
This is one of those films that plays every year but to which no one remembers the ending. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, considering that it closes with a shit-fueled sleigh E.T.-ing the night sky after a gas explosion, it really should be a scene to remember. As Santa goes soaring to spread Christmas cheer, the family — led by their crazy aunt — delivers a festive rendition of our glorious anthem as the film comes to a confusing close.
4. A fight is dispersed in Junior Bonner
Considering that he had just come off making Straw Dogs, it totally makes sense that Sam Peckinpah’s next movie would be eighty-percent dudes talking, and nineteen-percent drawn-out rodeo scenes. It must have been a nice break. The final one-percent is a lovely bar brawl that, like its rodeo counterpart, lasts way too long. It’s finally broken up when the band plays “The Star-Spangled Banner,” settling the crowd long enough for only a few more hits — followed by some small-town drinking. After that, another lengthy rodeo scene follows not far after. This is an interesting film.