American Spirit Movies for a Happy 4th of July
A few films that represent the American spirit on Independence Day.
We’ve done 4th of July movie lists in the past but instead of doing another list about Independence Day movies, I thought I’d name a few that capture the essence of how I see the USA. A history lesson is always fun, but here are a few films that exhibit my American pride.
Cinderella Man – Perseverance Despite Defeat
There are many films about boxing that people will attribute to America, but there’s a reason that “Cinderella Man” is the standout film that represents the USA in my mind. What makes many boxing films so representative of the American ideal is the metaphorical representation of the fight to win despite opposing odds.
“Cinderella Man” is the ultimate underdog story even more so than the “Rocky” franchise. It’s also based on a true story of boxing champion James J. Braddock overcoming adversity in the ring and his life during The Great Depression. Despite being old, broken, and poor, Braddock proves that the American dream is there for anyone.
It’s a heartfelt, feel good film that intertwines a historical, difficult period in America with triumphant perseverance. While other boxers fought for victory and fame, James J. Braddock’s response to the question of why he fought was simply, “I fight for milk.”
Field of Dreams – America’s Favorite Pastime
I’m not a sports person but I have always had a respect for baseball and “Field of Dreams” represents why this sport is “America’s favorite pastime.” There are many films that genuinely represent the game itself but this film looks past the game and looks at the values it represents.
Throughout “Field of Dreams” there are very few moments when baseball is even being played. Instead we see this Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner) venture forth on his quest for understanding his own life and discovering why the game is so important to so many and why it meant so much to his father.
From representing the struggling farmer to the spiritual meaning behind a simple game of catch with a father and son, “Field of Dreams” shows us why baseball’s foundations represent the American dream.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Questioning Those in Power
It seems as though any Captain America film would be representative of American independence but “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was more than just a superhero film. In the first Captain America film we follow Cap as he’s established as a symbol for America and one that inspires the people. In the second film Cap still represents American values but is unaccustomed to what America has evolved into over the course of 70 years. After questioning the US government’s methods and military actions, Captain America rebels against his government becoming an enemy of the state.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” represents one of the strongest freedoms we have as a country, the freedom to question those in power and challenge them. Even though this film represents a more extreme scenario in government opposition, it was incredibly political for a superhero movie. Captain America is supposed to represent what America stands for and in this case it shows that sometimes that stance goes against the grain.
American Beauty – Domestic Right to Rebel
It may not seem like it but “American Beauty” is more than just a film about some guy’s obsession with a young girl. During what could be considered either a midlife crisis or an epiphany, Lester Burnham decides to change his life in its entirety. From his personality to his job to his relationships, everything changes in an instant for Lester and it’s all by his own freedom of choice.
Lester’s ability to make these simple changes is a freedom that’s often overlooked in America. His freedom to quit his job and redefine his life is a privilege of free will that we sometimes take for granted. Sure, there may be some obscurity to this film, but “American Beauty” is a perverse representation of our own free will.
Saving Private Ryan – No Man Left Behind
When it comes to war films, many are intensely emotional, but “Saving Private Ryan” carries that intensity along with another message about America. Despite the 300+ million citizens of the United States, there is still a value of life when it comes to the individual.
The idea of this film (and some others) with a focus on the USA value of American life is very noble despite not being very pragmatic. It says a lot for the “no man left behind” mentality and it’s a prideful thing to have a country that would risk so much for a single life. “Saving Private Ryan” exhibits this noble act better than most films being a perfect example of the independence the United States of America fought for.