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10 Films That Make Us Feel More American

Back in 2008, we waved the red, white, and blue as we showcased our favorite patriotic movies.
patriotic movies Easy Rider
Sony Pictures
By  · Published on July 4th, 2008

We here at Film School Rejects are huge fans of America. We swell with patriotic fervor on the Fourth of April just because it’s three months away from the big, firework-exploding extravaganza that celebrates this great nation of ours. We paint our pets red, white, and blue. We all got The Bill of Rights tattooed on our backs except Robert Fure who got Thomas Jefferson’s face framed by two sub-machine guns. Even though celebrating Independence Day excites us more than Christmas, we get even more excited when we watch patriotic movies that remind us of the land that we love. And nothing makes the sub-dermally inked image of Tommy Jefferson on Fure’s back smile more than when we share those movies with you Rejects.

So here they are, in a particular order:

10. Easy Rider

Power to the people.

The open road. The thrill of stashing your drug money in your gas tank. Growing mustaches. These are all uniquely American ideals that we can all get behind. This cinematic rite of passage has us wanting to quit our jobs and fall off the grid after we hit the Harley store. What’s that, Mr. Harley Dealer? You’ll throw in a leather jacket with a blazing American flag on the back? Don’t mind if we do.

9. Scarface

Protection of rights not in the Constitution.

The American Dream is a bright, shining beacon of hope. This country was built on the idea that anyone with ambition can work their way from the bottom, reach the top, lounge around in a hot tub, and get shot in the back with a shotgun. It’s the pursuit of happiness, and we’re pretty sure the pursuit of Michelle Pfieffer is also on a piece of paper somewhere in the National Archives. Say “Hello, to our little Freedom.”

8. Yankee Doodle Dandy

Protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

It’s a story celebrating the father of American musical theater. American. Musical. Theater. There are few things on this earth that celebrate freedom more than James Cagney parading around in a giant Old Glory top hat, singing at the top of his lungs about calling the feather in his cap “macaroni.” We have no idea what that means, but here in America, we probably have the drugs that would make it make sense. To add the cool whip to our patriotic pie, James Cagney won an Oscar for his role. Because Americans are winners.

7. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Civil trial by jury.

The most beautiful thing about our wondrous country is the governmental system that protects all those sweet, sweet freedoms. Every six or seven years we all come together to choose the brave men and women who will sit in the seat of government and represent our interests. So far, so good. It’s the story of a simple man with grand ideals who has to speak (for, like, two days straight) for us. It’s people helping people, and that’s what America is all about.

6. To Kill A Mockingbird

Rights of the accused, to speedy trial, to right to counsel.

Our history is something to treasure, a brilliant tapestry that has its light patches and dark swaths. Part of celebrating that history is to recognize when injustice is being done, and when good men and women stand up and do the right thing. If ever there was a real-life, fictional man based on an actual person that embodies Uncle Sam, it’s Atticus Finch. Whether we’re the down-trodden needing the aid that’s guaranteed us or we’re the powerful-looking out for the little guy, we’re all part of this star-spangled wonderland. Touching, we know.

5. The Patriot

Eminent domain.

The title says it all. This land is your land, this land is our land. Not Britain’s. The way Mel Gibson sends those Red Coats packing is classic American spirit. Organized military service is fine, but a bunch of rebels stealing away into the forest, taking the British General’s pets, and cutting up dudes with hatchets is more our style. Our style is also stabbing people with the business end of Old Glory – a tradition that lives on to this day.

4. Independence Day

Unreasonable search and seizure.

Where else on the planet did the very opportunities and freedoms and beautifully landscaped sunsets draw millions from around the world to its borders? This nation is a nation of aliens, creating this multi-dimensional, many-cultured fondue pot we love so dearly. When those people are attacked, they band together to fight a common, freedom-hating enemy – especially when that enemy blows up buildings in our major cities with an eerie green death-ray. We have something to fight for, and that makes us want to shovel a giant bite of apple pie into our mouths while punching an evil extra-terrestrial in his and welcoming him to America.

3. Forrest Gump

Protection from quartering troops.

An epic journey that we all take in this gorgeous, incredible land we call home. The sprawling roads of rural Alabama, the football fields, the highways that criss-cross from the Redwood Forrest to the Gulf Stream Waters, the monuments of our capital, the park benches. We all travel that road, looking for home, and along the way, we realize that it’s been with us all along. If you don’t want to slush through the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial to embrace the love of your life – you just don’t have red, white and blue flowing in your veins.

2. Animal House

Right to bear arms.

It’s okay to let a small tear creep out of your eye while raising a glass to the splendor of the Toga Party. You don’t have to go to college to appreciate the joy of Otis Day and the Knights making you want to shout. The only thing missing is several million in taxpayer dollars paying for Eagle-shaped fireworks to cap off the celebration. What, exactly, are we celebrating? Try 232 years of having the right to get wasted drunk, sleep with the Dean’s wife, and ruin the big parade. If you think those freedoms may go away, that this country will ever see the end of them, we have one question: Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

1. Team America: World Police

Freedom of speech.

America. Fuck, yeah. Our jingoistic excitements gets revved at the very thought of being able to hop in a jet to go shoot large guns at and drop bombs on people we barely know. Just on principle. Still, the very pinnacle of cheering for our liberating lifestyle is dropping the F-bomb 37 times in our theme song alone. More than any other experience, this film exhibits why Sean Hannity, and every sane individual out there, knows that America is the greatest, best country on the face of the Earth that has ever existed, ever.

So there you have it, Rejects. The most awe-inspiring films that get us in the mood to say whatever we want, carry guns around, and tell soldiers, “Hell no, we won’t quarter you, and we don’t have to.” We can’t tell you how many times a day soldiers request quartering from us.

To really get in the spirit, I decided to write this list while sitting on the Capitol steps.

Unfortunately, a Capitol Hill Police Officer told me to move along, so I had to finish it up at a coffee shop near Eastern Market. Even from there, with the Capitol Dome looming off in the distance down Pennsylvania Avenue, I made a toast and gave a salute to this great land that I love, and I hope you will, too.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.