Today is September 11 and should inspire considerable streaming for patriotic movies to help us “never forget.” It was 22 years ago when the United States was attacked in the most cataclysmic fashion ever on native soil.
Most patriotic movies that strike up images and scores of nationalism and heroism are considered during July 4 or November 11 on Veterans Day. However, this day should be chalked up on the calendar in commemoration of the 2,996 people who died on that fateful day.
On behalf of all of us at Geek Vibes Nation, we’re proud of our nation and the world we share. We get to write about entertainment and nerd stuff because of the courageous force from our military and first responders. So, let’s celebrate the efforts of our defenders here and the memories of those we’ve lost.
These are the top 10 most patriotic movies ever made.
Author’s Memo: There are plenty of movies with nationalistic moments that aren’t fully patriotic movies.
- Independence Day. The Bill Pullman presidential speech among the trailer park denizens is as compelling as it is cornball. Yeah, it’s great.
- Top Gun. Maverick (Tom Cruise) comes back in tribute to his fallen friend and shoots up the sky. The Harold Faltermeyer score is iconic. So is the film, but it’s about a guy, not a country.
- Forrest Gump. This Robert Zemeckis film is a stunning walk through some of America’s greatest moments, some of which are absolutely patriotic. However, the story of Forrest and Jenny weaves such a powerful tapestry that it overshadows any USA feels.
- Hidden Figures. Here is the honorable mention. Did you even know this story about Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) before you saw this movie? Neither did most people. It’s a surprisingly patriotic movie and almost made this list of the “Top 11.”
10. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Say what you will about Mel Gibson (and many have), but that man can make a movie. From Braveheart to The Passion of the Christ, he is known for moving stories that capture the raw emotion of a character’s soul. Another true story, Hacksaw Ridge, is no exception at all. In a miraculous tale, Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a medic in Okinawa during the most gruesome and gory WWII battle.
Doss was awarded two Bronze Stars and the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving 75 men without firing a single weapon. If this doesn’t get your “USA! USA! USA!” chants going, your pulse may be plummeting. This is a powerful film of courage and love for people and is certainly among the best in patriotic movies.
9. Glory (1989)
This magnificent film is based on the real letters from Col. Robert Gould Shaw (portrayed by Matthew Broderick) who leads the first all-Black Union Army regiment during the Civil War. His words laid the groundwork for the “war at home” while there was a personal war happening among the soldiers in the regiment.
Led by Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, this story illustrates why the fight for personal and national freedom is vital to the heartbeat of America. Don’t let the year fool you. This movie still holds up like the Statue of Atlas. And if you haven’t seen it yet, grab some tissue. When that tear rolls down Denzel’s cheek, it’s church–the essence of emotion.
8. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
“Patriotic Movies” and this James Cagney-led film are a must on any list about nationalism and love for America. What many younger cinephiles don’t realize is this musical is also a biopic of “The Man Who Owned Broadway,” George M. Cohan.
Cagney sings and dances his way to a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of the man behind 87 Broadway shows (23 of them, musicals). Cohan was also the heart and soul behind American standards “Over There,” “Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” For decades, there was no other film that conveyed a stronger sense of pride in the country than this.
7. Flags of Our Fathers / Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
Clint Eastwood has been a force in Hollywood for seven decades, both as an actor and director. Among all his crowning achievements, this back-to-back filmed, dual-movie feat may be his best and most understated. It’s a double feature of, arguably, the most signature image in military history.
The films focus on the Japanese conflict during the Battle of Iwo Jima and the five Marines and one Navy Corpsman who lifted that flag with pride and honor for our country. To make these even more startling, it’s an Eastwood film recorded almost entirely in Japanese. And despite the language barrier, its equal among patriotic movies and wartime portraits is difficult to find.
6. The Right Stuff (1983)
Although somewhat maligned now, NASA was an insurmountable source of American pride in the 1960s during the “Space Race.” This Phil Kaufman-written and -directed movie about the first humans launched into space is a compelling tale of spirit, achievement, and bravery. They went to outer space when no one knew it was possible. NASA didn’t even exist, which is also depicted in this movie.
The Right Stuff spans 20 years of humans looking up into the sky and reaching for the stars. Each person has a substantial role of importance, which is a difficult task. Yet, their focus was the same — make us understand how the United States felt and believed they could boldly go in real life.
5. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Speaking of 9/11, when a clandestine group of Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, America rejoiced. Kathryn Bigelow, the lens behind Point Break and The Hurt Locker directed a masterpiece detailing the entire decade that led up to that moment from, as Alan Jackson wrote, “When the world stopped turning.”
As you watch the painstaking detail and direction behind each scene, you feel the anger and despair, joy and pain, tragedy and triumph each citizen of the country experienced as everyone waited for the darkest day to be brightened, finally. Although you know how the movie ends, when that scene of events begins, you feel a charge of red, white, and blue electricity throughout your entire body. At least, you should.
4. Patton (1970)
General George S. Patton was the quintessential military commander, so it’s befitting that George C. Scott commandeered an Oscar-winning performance with Patton (even though he declined to take it home, becoming the first-ever to do so). There isn’t a member of the military who has seen the opening “pep talk” and doesn’t want to throw a shoe at the TV. It’s 100% rah-rah, time-to-kick-ass acting.
Aside from showing all directors how to stir up Americana, Franklin J. Shaffner established the gold standard for a biopic as well. Seeing Patton lead our WWII troops on 70MM film is a marvel to behold. It features the most compelling monologue you may ever see. When Scott commands his troops at the beginning of the film, it feels like he breaks the fourth wall and forces even your goosebumps to stand at attention.
3. Miracle (2004)
See? Not all patriotic movies have to involve war. The most stirring American athletic achievement in history–Olympic or otherwise–is the “Miracle on Ice” during the 1980 Winter Games. It was the height of the Cold War between the U.S. and the then-USSR. During the climatic semifinal game (yes, it wasn’t even the Gold Medal match), the Russians were supposed to demolish the no-name Team USA.
But, that team had Herb Brooks (played majestically by Kurt Russell). His belief in the players and his country was overwhelming to behold. When Al Michaels hollered his rhetorical closing comment, “Do you believe in miracles,” the entire nation cried, screamed, and high-fived everyone for the next week. It’s such a powerful film and one the family can enjoy and learn about what makes America the nation it is.
2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
No war. No guns. Not even the Olympics. This is one man’s nationalistic battle with a corrupt government. (If only Mr. Smith was alive today, right?) Although this is a fictional tale, this is one of the most patriotic movies ever made because of its real-to-life message. Frank Capra‘s marvelous direction of Jimmy Stewart throughout this film shows one person truly can make a difference.
Also, some of the best writing on any screenplay is during Mr. Smith’s 24-hour filibuster in Congress. When you have that story, that director, and that actor, any achievement is possible. Mr. Smith could have gone to the North Pole and it would still make future generations of the Claus family proud to be Americans. This wonderful story has stood the test of time for almost a century (think about that). Watch it and you’ll see it’s definitely for a reason.
1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Let’s be clear, this is the best “war movie” ever made. It changed the way military scenes were filmed and produced. If you want “reality TV,” watch the opening scene as our troops storm the beaches of Normandy. It’s grueling to behold because that was the experience–without question.
The effects are surgical with precision and as authentic as any film in history. What Steven Spielberg accomplished with this movie is akin to time travel. It was remarkable. As stirring and captivating this movie ends, the essence of patriotism is bolstered by a powerful story detailing the relationships shared during the soldiers’ journey to find Private Ryan.
For those reasons, and the dry-heaving, snotty, ugly cries anyone experiences during this film, Saving Private Ryan is the strongest among patriotic movies. If you want to stand up and salute in moving pride, this movie will get you in the feels every single time.
Since he saw ‘Dune’ in the $1 movie theater as a kid, this guy has been a lover of geek culture. It wasn’t until he became a professional copywriter, ghostwriter, and speechwriter that he began to write about it (a lot).
From the gravitas of the Sith, the genius of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or the gluttony of today’s comic fan, SPW digs intelligent debate about entertainment. He’s also addicted to listicles, storytelling, useless trivia, and the Oxford comma. And, he prefers his puns intended.