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Toast the 4th of July with the Stars – and Stripes

Hamilton, 2020

Between the barbecue and the fireworks – or instead of either or both of them – there is time for movies and TV series with 4th of July connections. It’s a rich theme that has been embraced and referenced by filmmakers and stars in many ways throughout the years, with results as unique as their talents. And you can even sing with some of them!

"1776", dir. Peter H. Hunt, 1972

1776, 1972

Decades before Lin-Manuel Miranda dreamed his Hamilton, there was an all-singing, all-dancing retelling of the American Revolution’s political struggle in the Continental Congress to declare independence. 1776  started out on Broadway and became the feature debut of director Peter H. Hunt – who went on to a long career on TV. It was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy category.

Hamilton, 2020

Hamilton, 2020


50 years after Columbia’s 1776 – we have the updated, diverse and irresistible tale of a Caribbean immigrant who landed on what would soon be the U.S. of A. and be a crucial element for the building of a new nation. Loaded with irresistible music and vigorous dance, the seven-year (and counting) success of Hamilton became a movie directed by Thomas Kail, straight from the stage and available on Disney+.

The Patriot, 2000

The Patriot, 2000


Mel Gibson leads the way into the red-white-and-blue celebration as peaceful South Carolina planter Benjamin Martin, haunted by his past in the French and Indian War and driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer threatens his family. As a bonus, we have Heath Ledger in his breakout role as Gibson’s eldest son, Gabriel.

The Crossing, 2000

The Crossing, 2000


The same year that Sony puts out the larger-than-life The Patriot, A+E brought to homes The Crossing, a more subdued version of the crossing of the Delaware River, with the troops commanded by Jeff Daniels as George Washington. The modest  – compared with Roland Emmerich’s bold choices – the movie was shot in Toronto and yielded many kudos – a Peabody Award for excellence, an Emmy for sound, and an ASC Award to Rene Ohashi for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Mini-Series/Pilot.


Born on the Fourth of July, 1989


Director Oliver Stone’s segued into the flip side of the Vietnam War and became a multi-award winner, with four Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture/Drama; Best Director. Oliver StoneTom Cruise and Best Screenplay, Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic. White-hot after a streak of hits, from Top Gun to Rain Man, Tom Cruise slips easily into the complex real-life character Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam war veteran who becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ron and for Oliver”, Cruise told us in 1989. “For bringing a different, fuller perspective to the Vietnam war.”

Independence Day, dir. Roland Emmerich, 1996

Independence Day, 1996


It’s a classic: aliens attack the Earth and only kick-ass president Bill Pullman, genius scientist Jeff Goldblum, and maverick Air Force pilot Will Smith can save us…on Independence Day, of course. But not before all major US and global landmarks are spectacularly destroyed – especially the White House. It gives a whole new sense to Independence Day fireworks.

TURN: Washington

TURN: Washington’s Spies, 2014-2017


For those who prefer binge-watching, there are some excellent options still out there in the streamers. Like AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies, which chronicles the astonishing feats of intelligence gatherers on both sides of the Revolutionary War. Jamie Bell leads the cast as farmer-turned-spy Abraham Woodhull, and there are plenty of chases, explosions, and battles to please both history buffs and action fans.

Revolution (1985)

Revolution, 1985


Fresh from two major hits – Golden Globe winner Chariots of Fire in 1981 and Academy Award nominee Greystoke: The Legent of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes in 1984 – director Hugh Hudson decided to explore the American Revolution with this epic, starring Al Pacino (sporting a mullet) as a trapper unwittingly involved in the fray after his son is conscripted by a cruel British sargeant (Donald Sutherland) – a story that sounds very familiar. The film was poorly received at the time, in spite of its spectacular battle scenes. 

John Adams (2008)

John Adams, 2008


With four Golden Globes to its credit, including best mini-series, John Adams is probably the most complete and intimate peek we’ll ever have in the life of the US’ second president and key craftsman of the brand new republic. Golden Globe nominee Tom Hooper directed all seven episodes, the screenplays are gems and the cast is extraordinary: Golden Globe winner Paul Giamatti as Adams, Golden Globe winner Laura Linney as his wife, Abigail, Golden Globe winner Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, plus Rufus Seawell as Alexander Hamilton, Justin Theroux as John Hancock and Golden Globe nominee Danny Huston as Samuel Adams.

Nick Nolte and Thandiwe Newton in "Jefferson in Paris" (1995)

Jefferson in Paris, 1995


And where was Thomas Jefferson, pray tell? In Paris, according to the 1990s triad of arthouse deities, director James Ivory, screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and producer Ismail Merchant. Elegance abounds in this exploration of Jefferson’s five years in Paris, from1784 to 1789, as the United States Minister to France. The cast is top-rate: Golden Globe winner Nick Nolte as Jefferson, then-newcomer Thandiwe Newton as Jefferson’s enslaved lover Sally Hemings and Golden Globe winner Gwyneth Paltrow as Jefferson’s daughter Patsy. Politics are pushed to the background as the emissary of the young republic explores architecture, gastronomy and joie de vivre as another revolution – the French one – reaches a boiling point.

Lafayette, 1963

Lafayette, 1963


How can we forget our amis Français?! Directed by Jean Dréville and starring Orson Welles (as Benjamin Franklin), Jack Hawkins, and Pascale Audret, Lafayette (La Fayette, the original title) follows, of course, the participation of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, played by Michel Le Royer, a well-know French actor, famous for dubbing Christopher Lee, Warren Beatty and Saruman in the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movies. He died in 2018. With 300 actors, 50,000 extras and 5,000 horsemen, the French version of the American Revolution was the most expensive film until 1964.

The Music Man

The Music Man, 1962


Every Fourth of July needs a parade, and The Music Man has seventy-six trombones and six Golden Globe nominations. The big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical has Robert Preston as a con man who inadvertently brings the joy of music to a small, sad Iowa town over a Fourth of July weekend at the turn of the 20th century. Strike up the band!