When the barbecue has been eaten and the fireworks all safely set off, there may come a point this 4th of July where you and your kids find you’re ready to just
chill out with a fun movie. But which movie? Sure, you could watch the latest summer blockbuster or pull up Frozen for the 900th time. Or you could opt for one of these 20 family-friendly patriotic films. From tales about baseball to stories pulled straight from American history, these films keep the 4th of July spirit rolling all weekend long.
While younger kids may prefer following Fievel’s daring adventures in
An American Tail or cheering on the Rockford Peaches in A League Of Their Own, middle school-aged children may want to learn about the lives of real American heroes in Hidden Figures, Harriet, 42, or Selma. For families that love action, Men in Black, Independence Day, National Treasure, and Captain America: The First Avenger offer stories packed with thrills.
With 20 family-friendly films centered around patriotism, freedom, or just plain summer fun on the list to choose from, you’re sure to find at least one movie on the list that everyone in the house can agree on. So assemble some festive
red-white-and-blue treats and get ready to hit “play.” An American Tail
Like many of the real-life families that have immigrated to America, the Mousekewitzs are in search of a better life. When cats destroy their home in Russia in 1885, the mouse family decides to seek a new life in America. But while sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, young Fievel Mousekewitz becomes separated from his family after being thrown overboard during a fierce storm. Thankfully, a bottle carries Fievel to New York, where two immigrant mice and a kind cat help him find his family. An
American Tail is a moving story that will tug at your heartstrings and remind you of the courage and grace that it takes for immigrants (be it mouse or human) to start over again. Rent An American Tail, rated G, on Amazon Prime Video for $3.79. A League Of Their Own
Few things are as emblematic of America as baseball. The sport is, after all, America's National Pastime. For all the patriotic feels, cue up
A League Of Their Own. The film stars Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, and Lori Petty among others and centers around a professional all-female baseball league that gets its start after World War II. Coached by Jimmy Dugan, a grumpy baseball has-been, the girls must learn to put aside their own rivalries and differences if they have any chance at winning. You’ll root for The Peaches as they knock their obstacles out of the park, but don’t blow this off as just another fluffy Girl Power flick. In 2012, the movie was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress! Stream A League of Their Own, rated PG, on Netflix. Hidden Figures 20th Century Studios/YouTube
Celebrate the Fourth of July by diving into the stories of real-life American heroes.
Hidden Figures tells the true story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson — three brilliant Black women whose incredible mathematical work at NASA launched astronaut John Glenn into space and cemented America’s achievements in the so-called Space Race. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Butler, and singer Janelle Monet received critical acclaim for bringing the lives of these phenomenal women to the big screen. Hidden Figures is not just an entertaining movie, it’s a fascinating slice of history and an example Black excellence that must be shared. Stream Hidden Figures, rated PG, on Disney+. Annie Sony Pictures Entertainment
I know what you’re thinking: how is a film about an orphan hoping to find her real parents a Fourth of July flick? It’s true that, as a whole,
Annie isn’t a film centered on a patriotic message. However, Annie officially finds her forever home with Will Stacks (an updated Daddy Warbucks) on the Fourth of July and the pair launch a massive fireworks display to celebrate the occasion. Cameron Diaz stars as meany Ms. Hanigan in this remake of a classic kids’ movie that will have you singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” for months afterward. Quvenzhané Wallis shines as a modern-day Annie with the chops and charisma of a seasoned pro. Stream Annie, rated PG, on Starz. National Treasure
Nicolas Cage stars in
National Treasure, a film that follows a young historian named Benjamin Franklin Gates as he searches for a trove of treasure hidden away by the nation’s founding fathers during the American Revolution. But can a secret coded map on the back of the Declaration of Independence lead Gates to the treasure before his rival finds it and pockets it for himself? National Treasure is a treasure of a movie that appeals to both history buffs and adventure-junkies, or anyone who refused to give up on a childhood dream. The sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets , is another wild ride that takes it up a notch as Ben must kidnap the President of the United States to solve the next big mystery. Stream National Treasure, rated PG, on Disney+. The Sandlot
The summer of 1962 is an eventful one for Scottie Smalls. It’s when his family moves to the Los Angeles suburbs, where he befriends a group of kids who spend their days playing baseball at the neighborhood sandlot. Over the course of the summer, the boys have a series of adventures, including multiple run-ins with a monster of a dog known as “the beast” and a meeting with a former professional baseball player. Keep your eyes peeled for the film’s fun Fourth of July scene where the kids grab their mitts and run the bases beneath a firecracker-lit sky.
The Sandlot will give you nostalgia for a simpler time and make you feel like a kid again. Stream The Sandlot, rated PG, on Disney +. Night At The Museum Fox Family Entertainment/YouTube
Desperate for a job, Larry Daley applies for a job as a night-time security guard at the Natural History Museum. What he didn’t count on, however, was just how busy the museum would get after hours. On his first night on the job, Larry discovers an Egyptian curse brings the museum’s exhibits to life every night. Can he brush up on his history fast enough to keep the museum’s displays from getting into too much trouble? Ben Stiller stars as the hapless museum guard who is not really up to date on his historical facts, but is thrust into an adventure beyond his wildest dreams.
Night at the Museum might also be the only movie to successfully convince your kid to spend a Sunday afternoon at the museum in lieu of playing video games. Stream Night at the Museum, rated PG, on Disney+. The Incredibles
After superheroes are banned from using their superpowers by the government, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl settle into quiet suburban lives as average citizens. Fifteen years and three children later, Mr. Incredible is called on to stop a rogue robot. When he’s captured, his superhero family must band together to save him and their town.
The Incredibles is for anyone who harbors secret dreams of escaping the supposed white picket fences of suburbia to lead an action-packed exciting life. And there’s no better way to kick off an extraordinary adventure than to band together with your family. The Incredibles stars Hollywood heavyweights, Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, in this animated movie that’s both hilarious and fun. Stream The Incredibles, rated PG, on Disney+. Miracle Miracle details the true story of Herb Brooks triumphant return to the ice. Twenty years after being cut from the 1960 U.S. Olympic hockey team, Brooks is called to coach the nation’s 1980 team to Olympic gold. After assembling a team of top-notch college players, Brooks struggles to train them to function as a team rather than individual hotshots. Can they come together to defeat the long-standing champion team from the Soviet Union and bring home a victory for the United States amid the Cold War? Kurt Russell stars as legendary coach, Herb Brooks, who transformed an underdog team and united the nation for one of the greatest moments in sports history. Stream Miracle, rated PG, on Disney+. Becoming
What better way to mark the Fourth of July holiday than with a closer look at the life of a first lady. In the documentary
Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama shares her life, hopes, and sense of purpose with viewers as she travels from city to city to promote her memoir of the same name. Ride along with Obama’s book tour as she gives unprecedented access and an intimate look into the life of a woman whose life trajectory sent her from the south side of Chicago to the White house. Obama is especially inspirational when she sits down with young women to share her story and provides them with the courage and encouragement to live their fullest lives. Stream Becoming, rated PG, on Netflix. Captain America: The First Avenger Marvel Entertainment/YouTube
Captain America: The First Avenger is set in 1941 as the world remains embroiled in World War II. Rejected by the army due to his small stature, Steve Rogers signs up for an experimental super-soldier program in a last-ditch effort to do his part for the war effort. After being injected with a special serum and subjected to rays, Steve becomes a super-soldier and given the nickname Captain America. He then attempts a solo mission to infiltrate a Nazi fortress and rescue a group of American soldiers being held prisoner there. There’s really only 2 words you need to hear to seal the deal and stream this movie: Chris Evans. Enjoy his epic glow up from scrawny underdog to abs-for-days hero. Stream Captain America: The First Avenger, rated PG-13, on Disney+. Harriet Universal Pictures UK/YouTube
While the Fourth of July is often focused on celebrating America’s freedom from Britain with events like parades, fireworks, and backyard barbecues, the truth is Black people in America were far from being free when the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Take a moment with your family to reflect on America’s dark history of slavery with
Harriet, a biographical film about abolitionist Harriet Tubman and her involvement in The Underground Railroad. Emmy winner Cynthia Erivo delivers a compelling performance as the famed freedom fighter. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role and was also nominated for Best Original Song. Check out the stirring rendition of “ Stand Up” that Erivo wrote and performed for the soundtrack. Stream Harriet, rated PG-13, on Max. Independence Day 20th Century Studios/YouTube
After an unknown extraterrestrial race launches a global attack on Earth in an effort to destroy every last living thing, the United States government must forge an international coalition and launch a counter-attack on the Fourth of July. With the planet under attack, an unlikely group of heroes bands together to save the world. Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum star in this action-packed sci-fi adventure movie. Insatiable fans of disaster movies can also check out the sequel,
, which was released 20 years later and gifts the audience with some alien-busting eye candy with the addition of Liam Hemsworth to the cast. Independence Day: Resurgence Stream Independence Day, rated PG-13, on Disney+. Hamilton Walt Disney Studios/YouTube
Once the hottest ticket for any musical in Manhattan,
Hamilton is a tour de force that combines history and Hip Hop in an unforgettable and electrifying way. Lin-Manuel Miranda brings the story of one of America’s founding fathers to life in the Broadway musical Hamilton. Over the course of two acts, viewers are taken through a number of notable moments in Alexander Hamilton’s life, including his marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler and his role in the American Revolution. And while the men make the power moves in politics, it’s the Schuyler sisters and the women of Hamilton who are finally given their due and often steal the show. Thankfully, families can now enjoy Hamilton without purchasing airfare to New York City. Stream Hamilton, rated PG-13, on Disney+. Lincoln 20th Century Studios/YouTube
Infuse your family’s Fourth of July with a bit of history by streaming the biographical historical drama
Lincoln. The film, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, focuses on the final months of President Abraham Lincoln’s life and his attempt to abolish slavery via the 13th Amendment. Steven Spielberg directs this epic biopic that landed Day-Lewis an Academy Award. Travel back in time to follow the fascinating journey of a man who came from humble beginning (even teaching himself to read), to later become the 16th president of the United States. Keep in mind that Lincoln does include one battle scene and ends soon after his tragic assassination. Stream Lincoln, rated PG-13, on Hulu. Men in Black Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube
K and J, a team of secret agents known as the Men in Black, are the heroes most humans know nothing about. The pair supervise and manage alien refugees who secretly live among humans. When an unauthorized alien crash lands on Earth and begins killing other aliens while searching for a device known only as The Galaxy, K and Jare sent to neutralize the problem. What could be more patriotic than saving the planet from an invasion of unfriendly intergalactic visitors? With three sequels and a spin-off, if your family is into flying saucers and UFOS, you’ve got plenty of extraterrestrial entertainment ahead of you!
Stream Men In Black, rated PG-13, on Max. 42
In 1946, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball. But as
42 reveals, breaking baseball’s color barrier was no walk around the bases. While Robinson finds an ally in Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, he still faces racist and hostile baseball fans. Robinson shows tremendous grace and must contend with white players who refuse to play with him and an unrelenting pressure to “prove” his worth on the field. The late Chadwick Boseman stars as Robinson and delivers a stellar performance of a legendary athlete who became a hero to so many people both on and off the diamond. Rent 42, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99. Selma Paramount Pictures/YouTube
Set in the mid-1960s, Selma chronicles how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized
the Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama in response to the violent oppression and overt racism Blacks across the country were facing, especially when attempting to vote. Despite his arrest and numerous threats against himself and his family, King persisted with his plans to march. When the first marchers set off on March 7, 1965, Alabama state troopers violently attacked them with clubs and tear gas, sparking national outrage. A few days later, King led followers on a second march attempt, followed nearly two weeks later by a third march, where members of the Alabama National Guard were ordered by President Lyndon Johnson to protect the 25,000 marchers. King’s tireless activism ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Stream Selma, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime. Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front
Set sometime after America entered World War II in 1941,
Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front centers around 3rd-grader Molly McIntire as she struggles to understand and cope with how war is changing her and her family’s daily lives. Part of the film focuses on Molly’s desire to win the role of “Miss Victory” in an upcoming patriotic performance put on by her school. Whether you're a fan of the Jitterbug or more of a Charleston kind of gal, grab a cool cherry cola and root for underdog Molly as she sets her sights on becoming a dancing queen in this charming period piece movie. Rent Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front, which is unrated but recommended for children age 7 and up, on YouTube, Apple TV, or Amazon Prime Video for $1.99. Miss Juneteenth Vertical Entertainment US/YouTube
While many characterize the Fourth of July as a celebration of freedom, the holiday does not mark a day when
all Americans were free as the enslavement of Black people in America continued for nearly 100 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. As a result, many Black communities mark Juneteenth as the holiday commemorating the day all slaves were finally notified of their freedom. Share the history of Juneteenth with your family by streaming Miss Juneteenth. The film tells the story of a former Juneteenth beauty queen, now a single mom, as she pushes her own teenage daughter to compete in the Miss Juneteenth Pageant. Stream Miss Juneteenth, rated 16+, on BET+ on Amazon.
Once the sparklers have fizzled, and the corn on the cob has been nibbled to the core, there’s no better way to wind down at the end of a holiday weekend than to watch some fun movies with your family.
This article was originally published on
June 24, 2021