While the 4th of July is traditionally marked with fireworks and explosive displays of celebration, there are plenty who’d rather curl up on the couch and celebrate another one of America’s favorite pastimes: movies. There have been a number of films made that tie into the Independence Day holiday, whether you want to spend your 4th of July watching a musical about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence or a thriller about Nicolas Cage stealing it decades later, but we’ve gone through and put together a curated (and varied) list of some of the best movies to watch for the occasion. Here’s a list of Independence Day-themed movies that hit the spot.
In the first feature film about abolitionist Harriet Tubman, Kasi Lemmons paints a vibrant picture of the legendary conductor of the Underground Railroad and the suffering she faced as a slave before her heroic escape. “Harriet” also features the original song, “Stand Up,” by the film’s Oscar-nominated star, Cynthia Erivo. This film looks our country’s history square in the eye and pays tribute to a courageous American icon.
Stream on Max.
National Treasure (2004)
What’s more patriotic than stealing the Declaration of Independence? In this light-hearted action-adventure film, Nicolas Cage uncovers a hidden cypher on the back of the Declaration of Independence with a hairdryer, outruns his enemies in Philadelphia and miraculously evades criminal punishment despite stealing one of the most important documents in American history. Aside from its obvious laughs, “National Treasure” might spark reflection on who holds the secrets of our country — and who should benefit from its treasures. (Answer: Everyone.)
Stream on Disney+ (and for bonus points, stream the sequel on Disney+ as well)
Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian (2009)
The second installment in the “Night at the Museum” series takes viewers to the nation’s capitol as Larry attempts to save the Tablet of Ahkmenrah, which enables his friends at the museum to come to life. Amy Adams joins the film as Amelia Earheart and the pair tour the monuments, befriending Abraham Lincoln along the way. This family-friendly flick stays true to its comedic nature while showing you Washington, D.C.’s — and our history’s — highlights.
Stream on Starz.
50 years after this jubilant, hilarious musical hit theaters, we’re still arguing about what the Founding Fathers intended for this nation. But surely we can all agree that in between hotly debating issues of slavery and states’ rights, John Adams (William Daniels), Declaration of Independence drafter Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) and Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva) danced and sang wonderfully.
Stream on FuboTV and Roku.
“Independence Day” (1996)
People of all faiths around the world work together to defeat homicidal aliens in this rousing, eminently rewatchable blockbuster. Stuff blows up, aliens get punched, and people actually listen to scientists to help save the planet.
Stream on Starz.
Both a terrific thriller about a man-eating shark and three guys named Brody, Hooper, and Quint who set out to stop it, and a smart satire on politics-as-usual. Close the beaches? On the 4th of July? It’s going to be Amity’s best summer in years!
Stream “Jaws” on Peacock or FuboTV.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” (2014)
The first big mission for the supercharged Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)? Putting on a patriotic stage show to sell war bonds instead of going into battle. At least when he disobeys orders to fight the real bad guys in person, he has the experience of having knocked out Hitler over 200 times. Hey, let’s hear it for Captain America!
Stream on Disney+
The ultimate. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s zeitgeist-dominating musical was filmed one last time on Broadway before the original cast departed, and the complete filmed version of “Hamilton” is a sight to behold whether you’ve seen the stage version or not. The musical recontextualizes the period of the American Revolution while staying accurate to historical events, resulting in a thrilling, urgent and timeless story of America’s birth through the lens of one man’s life.
Stream on Disney+.