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The 10 most patriotic movies ever

Even political cynics will be stirred by these paeans to American virtue. (USA! USA! USA!)


Patriotic movies: Click to the next image to see our 10 most patriotic movies ever


Patriotic movies: Rocky (1976)


Patriotic movies: Born on the Fourth of July (1989)


Patriotic movies: Apollo 13 (1995)


Patriotic movies: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)


Patriotic movies: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)


Patriotic movies: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)


Patriotic movies: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)


Patriotic movies: All the President's Men (1976)


Patriotic movies: Sergeant York (1941)


Patriotic movies: Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Rocky (1976)

No list would be complete without a sports movie, and while baseball looms large in our national consciousness, it’s this Stallone-scripted boxing drama—about “going the distance”—that feels most emblematic. A scrappy rejoinder to Watergate and Vietnam, Rocky depicts a warrior refusing to take a dive.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Oliver Stone’s biopic of paraplegic Vietnam vet Ron Kovic not only got a career-high performance out of Tom Cruise, it reclaimed the notion of American pride for those at the forefront of the era’s protest movement. Real patriots, the film tells us, don’t just wave flags. They demand accountability.—David Fear

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Apollo 13

Whereas The Right Stuff was a pageant of the space race, Ron Howard’s tense, uplifting drama about the ill-fated 1970 shuttle mission looks at how a technical malfunction transformed our post-Moon-landing apathy into nail-biting attentiveness. If you ever doubt your country, just look to the stars.—Keith Uhlich

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Vincente Minnelli’s musical is the ultimate hymn to the all-American family. Our heroes, the Smiths (of course), live a comfortable life in the U.S. heartland, the daughters’ pining for boys next door and having themselves merry little Christmases. There’s no problem they can’t overcome through the power of kinship.—Keith Uhlich

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Mr. Smith goes to Washington (1939)

From the awestruck look on Jimmy Stewart’s face when he first sees the Capitol dome to the political-monument montage that follows, Frank Capra’s populist parable pays peerless tribute to the spirit of American democracy. Even a tea-partyer would get misty-eyed over Stewart’s pro-Congress filibuster.—David Fear

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Young Mr. Lincoln

Honest Abe’s early days as a small-town lawyer receive the bucolic John Ford treatment, with Henry Fonda doing a breezy, Law & Order–in-the-boondocks interpretation of our 16th President. The story is a mostly fictional amalgam of rumor, conjecture and legend, but few films do American mythmaking so well.—Keith Uhlich

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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Some films, like Saving Private Ryan, salute our troops’ sacrifice in WWII; this classic reminds us of exactly what they were fighting for. William Wyler’s Oscar-winning drama deals with psychic wounds and physical trauma, but it gives equal emphasis to what these veterans came home to: family, community, the everyday Midwestern life that others died to defend. That the movie favors domesticity and healing over battlefield victories only makes this look at the postwar American Dream that much more stirring.—David Fear

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All the President's Men (1976)

About nothing less seismic than the peaceable toppling of a corrupt administration, Alan J. Pakula’s expert dramatization of the Woodward-Bernstein scoop turns young people on to the allure of America’s finest tradition: the freedom of the press. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman crystallized the image of the idealistic 1970s crusader, yet the film’s supporting cast is just as inspiring, especially Jason Robards as defending publisher Ben Bradlee.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Sergeant York (1941)

A beautifully complex film about why we fight, Howard Hawks’s WWI heart-stirrer comes from the diary of Alvin York, a poor Tennessean and religious pacifist who nonetheless took up a rifle and became an ace marksman. The real-life York refused to let his life story be turned into a movie unless Gary Cooper agreed to play him; call it an uncanny bit of chutzpah. The actor was never more sensitive to the stuff of heroism than he is here.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

The country was still reeling from Pearl Harbor when this look at the life of George M. Cohan—arguably the most patriotic songwriter ever—provided the Stars and Stripes salve our nation needed. (That Michael Curtiz’s rah-rah film premiered less than a week after Memorial Day was far from coincidental.) It’s an aggressive, toe-tapping ode to the red, white and blue that has everything: James Cagney in full-blown hoofer mode, pro-USA sentiment as thick as hasty pudding, and musical numbers less subtle than a ticker-tape parade led by Uncle Sam. Only baseball and apple pie can be considered more American than this.—David Fear

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Paul M
Paul M

While "Apollo 13" was a very good movie, I'll take "The Right Stuff" over it any day of the week.

Paul M
Paul M

While "Apollo 13" was very good, I'll take "The Right Stuff" over it any day of the week.

Mark Bell
Mark Bell

Surely "The Fighting Sullivan's" has more patriotism than does a screed such as 4th of July. What would happen if "Battle Cry", movie had been as good as the book? It would be there also.


This site wild be 1000% better if not for the snide, childish snipes against those to the right of the isle. Just remember who created this country, who ended slavery, and who leads to economic prosperity. Republicans. Tea Party Members. Libertarians.

Gerald M.
Gerald M.

The strongest patriotism I've ever felt was when I saw Saving Private Ryan. I can't believe it didn't even make it on the list.

Jimmy J
Jimmy J

@RightWired Fuck you.