Many Americans look at Veterans Day as just another school holiday for the kids, or an excuse to take advantage of the pre-Black Friday sales. Why not make the holiday more meaningful this year with some Veterans Day movies? True, “Veterans Day” isn’t exactly a blockbuster-inspiring holiday, but there’s plenty out there that reflects the values of America at its finest — the America veterans signed up to defend.
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 a.. on Nov. 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, for many – because the USSR was a long-time ideological rival and this was an era marked by increased hostility between the countries – the match represented a victory for American democracy over a repressive regime.
Stream Miracle, rated PG, on Disney+.
Veteran’s Day, rightly, is about those who served in the military. But it’s important to remember that soldiers often leave families to maintain the homefront while they’re away. Little Women is the story of a family longing to see their father, who is serving as a chaplain in the Union army. Their strong morals and principles have delved the family into poverty, but their love for one another, and for their community, keeps them strong and gives them hope for a more perfect union.
Of course, you have your choices of Little Women movies – there are six adaptations spanning more than 100 years of cinema – but the 1994 version starring Winona Rider and Christian Bale is our favorite.
Stream Little Women, rated PG, on Amazon Prime.
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 (played by William Daniels aka Mr. Feeny himself!) Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are determined to establish a free country, verbally sparring 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.
How does a 19-year-old nobody from the Caribbean rise from poverty and squalor to be one of the preeminent founders of the United States of America? Hamilton tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary War hero and first Treasury Secretary – from his unyielding desire to succeed and make a name for himself to his fateful duel with Vice President (and the musical’s narrator) Aaron Burr.
Brilliantly told in a synthesis of classic Broadway show tunes and dynamic rap, this ain't your grandparents' Revolution. Somehow, this one feels more real and relevant, capturing the spirit (and deep flaws) of those who seized the opportunity to create something greater than themselves.
Stream Hamilton, rated PG-13, on Disney+
Captain America: The First Avenger
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. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel more proud to be an American than watching Chris Evans punch Nazis in the face. Truly, it represents this nation at its finest and is the perfect Veterans Day movie to feel extra patriotic.
Stream Captain America: The First Avenger, rated PG-13, on Disney+.
Inherit The Wind
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.)
This film is not rated, but Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 12 and older.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 may have legally desegregated the South, but it didn't end unchecked discrimination that it difficult and in some cases functionally impossible for Black communities to register to vote. In 1965, Selma, Alabama became a flashpoint for this struggle, and a symbol throughout the country of the Civil Rights movement. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his comrades pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, inspiring President Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act in 1965. It just goes to show that many of the battles for the soul of America are fought not just on actual battlefields, but in our very communities.
Stream Selma, rated PG-13, on Showtime.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
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 more than 80 years ago and remains poignant and relevant to this day. At the time, it was considered so controversial that the real-life Congress protested it as being un-American.
This film is not rated, but Common Sense Media suggests it’s appropriate for children 8 and older.
Daniel Day-Lewis turned in an Oscar-winning performance as The Great Emancipator in this 2012 Spielberg epic. It is January 1865, and President Abraham Lincoln believes that the Civil War to end soon. But with the defeat and reintroduction of the southern states into the Union, he is concerned that his Emancipation Proclamation may be overturned by the courts and that the yet-to-be-ratified Thirteenth Amendment will be rejected by the reintegrated slave states. The movie follows his efforts to unite the country once more without sacrificing the founding principle – finally realized – that all men are created equal.
Stream Lincoln, rated PG-13, on AppleTV.
We hope these movies can help you have a more meaningful Veteran’s Day this year.
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