'Forrest Gump' 1994 directed by Robert Zemeckis. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images)
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
20 Of The Best Movies To Watch This 4th Of July

In between your hot dog and fireworks, of course.

by Casey Suglia and Sydni Ellis
Originally Published: 

Rain or shine, the 4th of July is always a great time. There’s really nothing better than grilling up a hot dog in the heat of July while celebrating Independence Day under a sky of fireworks. But if rain is threatening to cancel your plans or you simply want to take it easy this year, turn on one of these great movies on the 4th of July. From biographical films about historical figures to movies about baseball and more of America’s favorite pastimes, there’s plenty to stream.

First things first: it’s important to note that not all of these movies are family-friendly. (If you’re looking for a kid-friendly flick, we’ve got you covered here.) For example, some movies, like The Patriot, show the gorier side of the fight for America’s freedom, while others, like I Know What You Did Last Summer, show the dangers of getting too caught up in 4th of July partying.

But there are also a few options on this list that your kids can enjoy, too. Films like An American Tail and Hidden Figures do a good job at explaining history in a way that’s both entertaining and easy for kids to understand.

So consider putting on one of these films during your 4th of July weekend — all of them will go great with a slice of apple pie.

An American Tail

An American Tail is streaming on Prime Video.Movieclips Channel/YouTube

After a young mouse named Fievel is separated from his family while immigrating from Russia to the United States, he lands in New York City in the 1986 animated film An American Tail. There, he meets a melting pot of animals, including an Irish mouse Bridget, an Italian mouse Tony, and a kind cat Tiger, who help him search for his loved ones. This film is a fun and creative way to explain how people got to the United States to kids. For more fun, you can watch the Fievel’s American Tails spin-off series on Peacock.

Rent An American Tail, rated G, for $3.99 on Prime Video.

A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own is streaming on Prime Video.Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Channel/YouTube

There is nothing more American than baseball (well, and apple pie!), and A League of Their Own celebrates the iconic sport. This 1992 film, which takes place in the 1940s, follows alongside the Rockford Peaches, a professional all-women’s baseball team from the Midwest that springs up during World War II, as they learn to put their differences aside to play ball. This Penny Marshall-directed film stars Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell, and others. It’s a great refresher before the A League of Their Own TV series based on a different women’s baseball team, comes to Amazon Prime in August!

Stream A League of Their Own, rated PG, on Netflix.


Armageddon is streaming on YouTube Movies.YouTube Movies & Shows Channel/YouTube

When an asteroid threatens to collide with Earth and kill its inhabitants, it’s up to a team of drillers to go into space, drill into the asteroid’s surface, and detonate a nuclear bomb on it. Oh yeah, and they only have 18 days to get it done. This high intensity action film about the potential end of the world will make you so much more grateful for the land you live on. This movie has a star-studded cast, including Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, and Will Patton.

Watch Armageddon, rated PG-13, on Disney+.

Born on the 4th of July

Born on the 4th of July is streaming on Prime Video.Movieclips Classic Trailers Channel/YouTube

Tom Cruise stars as Ron Kovic, an ambitious young soldier who enlists in the army during the Vietnam War and returns home permanently paralyzed from his battle. Ron then devotes his life to being a critic of the war in this Academy Award-winning 1989 film based on a true story. The real Ron Kovic was actually born on July 4, 1946, and he went on two tours in Vietnam, experiencing brutal violence and tragedies before eventually suffering injuries that left him paralyzed from the chest down. It’s an incredibly moving story.

Watch Born on the 4th of July, rated R, on Netflix.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is streaming on Disney+.Movieclips Classic Trailers Channel/YouTube

During the throes of World War II, Steve Rogers attempts to enlist in the military, but is rejected due to his small size. After Steve is accepted into an experimental program, he gets turned into Captain America, a superhero who leads the fight for freedom against the Nazi-backed HYDRA organization. It’s Captain America — what could be more patriotic? This film stars Chris Evans as Captain America, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Hugo Weaving as Red Skull, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Stream Captain America: The First Avenger, rated PG-13, on Disney+.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is streaming on Netflix.Paramount Movies Channel/YouTube

Born with a low IQ, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) challenges himself to do great things, and he becomes a witness to some of America’s most memorable events from the 20th century. Between fighting in the Vietnam War, meeting presidents, and becoming an investor in Apple computers, Gump is truly one of the greatest (fictional) American men from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Unlike life, Forrest Gump isn’t like a box of chocolates — you know exactly what you’re going to get, and it’s going to be sweet and wonderful every time! This is the ultimate American movie.

Stream Forrest Gump, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime Video.

Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York is streaming on Prime Video.Movieclips Classic Trailers Channel/YouTube

Set in early Manhattan in 1862, Gangs of New York follows a young Irish immigrant, released from prison, who seeks revenge for his father’s death. This look into a very young New York City gives glimpses into how the city and the nation became so diverse. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Amsterdam Vallon and Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Bill The Butcher, who killed Amsterdam’s father. Cameron Diaz also stars as Jenny Everdeane. Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, and Brendan Gleeson are also in this action flick, directed by Matin Scorsese.

Rent Gangs of New York, rated R, for $3.99 on Prime Video.


Glory is streaming on AMC+ on Amazon.Militarist Channel/YouTube

This film tells the incredible story of Col. Robert Gould Shaw and America’s first unit of Black soldiers, who fight for the opportunity to be placed into the heat of the battle during the United States’ Civil War. These brave soldiers had to fight racism from the Confederates and their own Union Army. Stars include Matthew Broderick as Col. Shaw, Denzel Washington as Pvt. Trip, Morgan Freeman as Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins, Cary Elwes as Maj. Cabot Forbes, and Andre Braugher as Cpl. Thomas Searles among others. “Overall, this movie is an unforgettable history lesson about soldiers who transcended the profound racism and ignorance of their time to find dignity, courage, valor, and self-respect when given the opportunity to prove their worth,” according to Common Sense Media.

Watch Glory, rated R, on Hulu.


Harriet is streaming on Prime Video.Focus Features Channel/YouTube

This 2019 biographical film tells the story of the iconic Harriet Tubman, a Black women who escaped from slavery in order to lead other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. This thrilling tale follows Harriet (Cynthia Erivo), as she risks her life to help hundreds of people reach safety. Leslie Odom, Jr., Janelle Monáe, Joe Alywn, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and others star in this inspirational movie based on the true story of an American hero. You can’t talk about freedom without talking about Harriet Tubman, and this film explains why.

Stream Harriet, rated PG-13, on Max.


Hamilton is streaming on Disney+.Walt Disney Studios Channel/YouTube

This taped performance of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Hamilton, tells the story of founding father, Alexander Hamilton, through hip-hop, jazz, and R&B music. It’s like, the most entertaining history lesson, ever, with its diverse cast, entertaining subject matter, and music that will stick in your head long after the final curtain. If you never got a chance to see it live on Broadway, this two hour, 40 minute film is the next best thing. “This revolutionary moment in theater is the story of America then, told by America now,” according to the musical’s official logline. It stars Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton, Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr, Daveed Diggs as marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton, and Jonathan Groff as King George.

Stream Hamilton, rated PG-13, on Disney+.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is streaming on Disney+.20th Century Studios Channel/YouTube

Hidden Figures tells the very true story of three Black women at NASA who were responsible for helping with the launch of astronaut, John Glenn, into space. It’s easy to celebrate the brains behind one of the most significant missions in the United States by watching this movie. It centers on Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), who served as highly intelligent “human computers,” who “contributed to the ever-changing design of a menagerie of wartime flying machines, making them faster, safer, and more aerodynamic,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. This exciting movie is based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Stream Hidden Figures, rated PG, on Disney+.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last Summer is streaming on HBO Max.Movieclips Classic Trailers Channel/YouTube

On the 4th of July, four best friends accidentally hit a pedestrian on their way to the beach, decide to dump the body in the water, and vow to never bring up what happened. One year later, their secret threatens to ruin their lives for good (and a man with a hook threatens to kill them). This 1997 film, set during 4th of July weekend, is a great thriller to add into your movie marathon mix. This cult classic film stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, Saah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. If you like fireworks with a side of horror, this one’s for you.

Stream I Know What You Did Last Summer, rated R, on Netflix.

Independence Day

Independence Day is streaming on Prime Video.TrailersPlaygroundHD Channel/YouTube

Aliens threaten to destroy the world on the 4th of July, but it’s up to one man — a marine played by Will Smith — and a group of survivors to stop the aliens and save the planet. This 1996 film is patriotic to its core, with themes of coming together to save humanity. C’mon, the title is Independence Day! Other stars include Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, and Judd Hirsch. Rotten Tomatoes calls it “a thrilling, spectacle-filled summer movie,” which is still just as exciting as it was more than 25 years ago.

Stream Independence Day, rated PG-13, on Disney+.


Lincoln is streaming on Prime Video.Movieclips Trailers Channel/YouTube

The Academy Award-winning movie Lincoln takes place at the end of the American Civil War. Learn more about President Abraham Lincoln in this biographical film, which covers the four final months of Lincoln’s life and his efforts to abolish slavery through the 13th Amendment and in the war quickly before even more lives are lost. There’s no better way to pay homage to this country than by learning about one of its greatest presidents. Lincoln is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, David Strathairn as William Seward, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln.

Stream Lincoln, rated PG-13, on Hulu.

Men In Black

Men in Black is available for streaming on YouTube Movies.Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Channel/YouTube

Jay (Will Smith) and Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) are two special agents of the secret organization, Men In Black, which is tasked with supervising alien lifeforms in the United States and removing them from the existence of humans. When the agents discover a plot to assassinate two ambassadors living in New York City, it’s up to them to save the day. This film was released on July 4th weekend in the United States in 1997, so you can party like it’s the ‘90s when you put this film on.

Stream Men In Black, rated PG-13, on Max.


Miracle is streaming on Disney+.Trailer Chan Channel/YouTube

Miracle is based on the incredible true story of Herb Brooks, a hockey-player-turned-coach who took a group of kids and turned them into the most unbelievable hockey team to play at the 1980 Olympics. It stars Kurt Russell as Herb, as well as Patricia Clarkson, Nathan West, Noah Emmerich, Sean McCann, and others. The Olympic coach passed away in 2003, and one of his players, Rob McClanahan, recalled, “When he passed away there were hundreds of players at his funeral and every one of them would tell you they'd play for him tomorrow. He was a winner and that's what you play sports for. But candidly, I was afraid of him.” It’s the perfect movie combining patriotism, sports, and a tough-love relationship with a coach that audiences love.

Stream Miracle, rated PG, on Disney+.

Miss Juneteenth

Miss Juneteenth is available for streaming BET+ on Amazon.Movie Coverage Channel/YouTube

A single mother and former beauty queen Turquoise Jones (Nicole Baharie) enters her rebellious daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) in the Miss Juneteenth pageant — which offers winners full scholarships to college — in the 2020 movie, Miss Juneteenth. The film pays tribute to Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating independence in the United States, when all slaves were told of their freedom. The cast also includes Liz Mikel, Kendrick Sampson, Marcus M. Mauldin, and Jaime Matthis. Although the film isn’t based on a true story, there are real Miss Juneteenth pageants across the country to celebrate this holiday.

Stream Miss Juneteenth, rated 16+, on BET+ on Amazon.

The Patriot

The Patriot is available to rent on Prime Video.Classic Movie Trailers Channel/YouTube

Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) is a peaceful farmer and former war hero who gets swept into the Revolutionary War when his life at home is disrupted when a British officer murders his son. This inspires him to lead the Colonial Militia. His oldest son, Gabriel Martin (played by the late Heath Ledger), also joins the fight. Other stars in this inspirational film include Jason Isaacs, Joely Richardson, and Chris Cooper. It’s an early American tale based on several real historical figures, including a British officer, Lt. Col. Banstre Tarleton, and American patriots; however, it “pretty much ignores historical race relations and slavery,” according to Common Sense Media.

Watch The Patriot, rated R, on Tubi.

The Sandlot

The Sandlot is available for streaming on Disney+.Movieclips Classic Trailers Channel/YouTube

Watch one of the best films about America’s favorite pastime, baseball, through the eyes of Scotty Smalls — the new kid in town who makes friends with a group of kids who play baseball at the sandlot. There is no better film that celebrates baseball, the summertime, and the feeling of being young. This movie includes the cutest team of Smalls, Benny the Jet, Ham, Squints, Yeah-Yeah, and more, in a way that tackles growing up, making friends, and finding yourself with plenty of humor. Introduce your kids to this iconic 1993 movie ahead of The Sandlot reboot TV series reportedly coming soon.

Stream The Sandlot, rated PG, on Disney+.


Selma is available for streaming on Paramount+.Movieclips Trailers Channel/YouTube

In Selma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965 to fight for the opportunity to allow Black people to vote in the United States during one of the milestone moments of the Civil Rights movement. David Oyelowo stars as Dr. King, who inspires his followers to march for freedom despite violent opposition. Carmen Ejogo stars as Coretta Scott King, with Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson. The film has a rare 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which says, “Selma draws inspiration and dramatic power from the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. — but doesn't ignore how far we remain from the ideals his work embodied.”

Stream Selma, rated PG-13, on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video.

Celebrate America’s birthday by watching these amazing films. From action films to musicals, there’s truly something for everyone.

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