Veterans Day is coming up, but sadly, many Americans look at it as just another school holiday for the kids, or an excuse to take advantage of the pre-Black Friday sales. In light of the occasion, not to mention this week's elections, why not spend at least a little time watching one of these movies on Veterans Day as a reminder of what our country stands for, and a tribute to the men and women who help keep it that way?
As the Veterans Administration website explained, Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, in recognition of the agreement that ended World War I. Fighting between the Allied nations and Germany officially ceased at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918 (or the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month), although the actual Treaty of Versailles was signed the following June. Congress declared Veterans Day a legal holiday in 1938.
There are many ways to honor the day, such as attending a parade in your area, thanking service personnel for their work, or making a contribution to organizations like the Veterans Administration or the USO. But you can also give yourself (and your children, when appropriate) an important reminder of the freedoms our men and women in uniform give their time for — and, too often, their lives — by checking out these and other patriotic flicks available on Amazon, Netflix, and other outlets.
In 1980, the US Olympic men's hockey team, largely made up of Midwestern college students, defeated the heavily-favored Russian team in the medal playoffs, and went on to take home the gold. The game, as dramatized in the 2004 movie, is considered one of the greatest sports moments of all time. Not only was it a classic win for the underdog, but it also represented a victory for American democracy over the repressive Soviet regime.
Daniel Day-Lewis turned in an Oscar-winning performance as The Great Emancipator in this 2012 Spielberg epic, focusing on Lincoln's efforts to keep the nation together during the Civil War. It calls to mind a time not so long ago when America was nearly torn apart by political differences, and reminds us of Lincoln's famous warning: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
An American Tail (1986)
America has always been held as the ideal home for anyone looking for a better life. This Steven Spielberg-produced classic cartoon is a great way to introduce your kids to the concept of American immigration. Little Feivel the mouse finds that it's not easy to adjust to his new homeland, but living in freedom is still far better than the danger and oppression he and his family faced in tzarist Russia.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
What could be more patriotic than a brave young American during World War II who agrees to try an experimental treatment that makes him a super-soldier? Cap, aka Steve Rogers, goes on to use his powers to rescue his best friend's military unit and battle a Nazi scientist intent on global domination. Talk about defending the American Way.
A Wrinkle In Time (2018)
Behind this sci-fi/fantasy story of interstellar travel and mystical beings is a tribute to one of the ideals America was founded on: the right to individuality and self-expression. A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and classmate Calvin as they traverse time and space in search of the Murrys' missing father. They find him on the planet Camazotz, a forbidding place where a being named IT controls everyone's thoughts and actions. Only Meg's ability to love her family and reject conformity can save them all. (Plus, the movie has Oprah, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon, so there's that.)
The Freedom To Marry (2016)
It wasn't all that long ago that LGBTQ couples couldn't acknowledge their relationships publicly, much less get married in the US. This documentary traces the history of this important civil rights movement, from its beginnings some decades ago to the Supreme Court's historic ruling that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.
Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)
An important reminder that "freedom isn't free." In one of his best roles ever, Tom Cruise stars as real-life Vietnam vet Ron Kovic, who came home from the war in a wheelchair to find his beloved country changed in ways he wasn't prepared to cope with.
Inherit The Wind (1960)
Science, religion, education, and the right to free thinking are all at stake in this classic Spencer Tracy movie, which is as relevant as ever. Based on the actual 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" case, the tense courtroom drama pits an evangelical prosecutor against an atheistic defense attorney to determine the fate of a high-school science teacher jailed for the crime of teaching evolution. (In a surprise bit of casting, Gene Kelly turns in a stellar performance as a sardonic newspaper reporter.)
All The President’s Men (1976)
Our current administration may consider the media the "enemy of the people," but freedom of the press has always been one of our country's most important rights. It was that freedom that allowed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to investigate the Watergate break-in of 1972 - which set into motion the historic events that led a disgraced President Nixon to resign. The movie dramatization, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, is still a thriller.
If you're a Hamilton fan, this musical about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence should be in your film library. Based on a hit Broadway show, 1776 pits Founding Fathers like John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, determined to establish a free country, against fellow Congressmen who feared that independence might mean economic disaster for them. It also includes a poignant song, "Momma, Look Sharp," sung by a teenage soldier who watched his best friend fall in battle.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)
No movie list celebrating American democracy would be complete without Frank Capra's timeless film about an idealistic new senator fighting against all odds to expose a graft operation. The movie becomes even more significant when you consider that when it was released nearly 80 years ago (!), it was considered so controversial that the real-life Congress protested it as being un-American, according to Breakpoint.
Cradle Will Rock (1999)
This award-winning film is a stirring tribute to our cherished freedom of speech. In '30s New York City, Orson Welles' Federal Theatre Project drama company rehearses a pro-union musical in the face of government anti-socialism paranoia. Under pressure from the feds, the WPA cuts off funding for the show and forbids the union actors to perform in it. The clever way in which the company flouts the ban and puts on the show anyway will have you cheering along with the audience.