James Delingpole

The best Independence Day films to watch on 4th July

The best Independence Day films to watch on 4th July
Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer (Shutterstock/Rex Features)
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Jaws, Amazon (To rent or buy)

Nothing says ‘Murica’ quite like insisting the beaches stay open – killer shark or no – because it’s the 4th July weekend. It’s why – during his brief libertarian phase – Boris Johnson once declared that Larry Vaughn, the Mayor of Amity, was the movie’s true hero. Apart from the now rather obvious clunkiness of ‘Bruce’ the mechanical great white, the film still stands the test of time – the jump scare when they investigate the sunken fishing boat; the memorable scene where Quint describes his experiences after the USS Indianopolis was torpedoed; the literally explosive climax. duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun…

Independence Day, iTunes (To rent or buy)

Roland Emmerich’s aliens don’t take prisoners. Their mothership is one fourth the mass of the Moon; their assault fortress saucers have a fifteen mile radius; they completely destroy millions of people and dozens of cities – including the US capital. Luckily they do this on July 2nd – giving our resourceful heroes (Will Smith; President Bill Pullman; techno-guru Jeff Goldblum) two whole days to plan their timely, feel-good, title-relevant payback, which includes a trip to the Area 51 at Roswell where, obviously, there’s some crashed alien spaceship technology that can help them.

Let’s hope aliens aren’t watching: if they do they might iron out the Death Star like flaw which traditionally enables apparently invincible alien battle fleets to be wiped out by a handful of plucky pilots.

Born on the 4th July, Amazon (To rent or buy)

Tom Cruise’s patriotic Marine becomes understandably disillusioned with war (and life generally) after being paralysed while fighting in ‘Nam. Possibly the most perfect role for Cruise: sitting in a wheelchair you can hide the fact you’re 5’7 (it’s fun spotting how he’s framed to look taller in other movies). A series of gut punches about war and suffering are always good to get the patriotic juices flowing, even if the politics can get tedious.

Lincoln, Amazon (To buy)

I’ve already seen this on a list of films not to watch about slavery for its ‘white saviour’ attitude towards Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves, so it can’t be too long until Lincoln too gets ‘cancelled’. The last four months of the life of one of America’s greatest presidents (ironically portrayed by one of the greatest English actors (Daniel Day-Lewis)) are the focus for this lengthy drama.

The Patriot, Amazon (To rent or buy)

Another rollocking but over-long three-hour behemoth that you’ll never finish in one sitting. In it, the Brits are as sneering, arrogant baddies riding for a fall (obvs) and the Americans the bravest of the brave – but that’s fine, so long as you remember throughout, that Americans at the time were all basically just expatriate, small-government Brits fighting for the entirely admirable cause of ‘no taxation without representation’. Mel Gibson is a father who just wants peace but is forced to fight in the Revolutionary War, partly for plot purposes, partly because he just can’t resist – see also Braveheart – having a dig at the English, can he? Never let it be said that the upstart from the colonies has a chip on his shoulder, no sirree.

Team America: World Police, Amazon (To buy)

Quite possibly the greatest film ever made in the history of the world, this satire from the creators of South Park is a genius riff on American politics, blockbusters, and the insufferable Hollywood wankerati that star in them. The elite counter-terrorism organization (all Thunderbirds-like marionettes) must stop Kim Jong-il’s plans for world destruction, as well as battle with the overreaching Film Actors Guild (FAG). No topic or person is deemed beyond ridicule. The scene where the puppets have sex is beyond disgusting. The score – especially the theme tune – makes you wish you were American.

Captain America: First Avenger, Amazon (To buy)

There’s an excess of overpowered heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), yet Captain America always seems to make an appearance to save the day, despite his powers paling in comparison to his team members (where’s his thunder/chaos magic/complete invulnerability?) This origin story is good fun though, with Cap attempting to stop the Nazis from achieving world domination (see also: X-Men: First Class for one of the best Marvel origins stories).

Top Gun, iTunes (To buy)

Another way to hide Tom Cruise’s height is getting him in a fighter jet or on a motorbike, so props to this blockbuster set at an elite dogfighting school just north of San Diego. Cruise, a young aviator with the callsign ‘Maverick’, and his Radar Intercept Officer ‘Goose’ (Anthony Edwards) attempt to beat coolguy ‘Iceman’ (Val Kilmer) to the prestigious TOPGUN trophy. Also features possibly the most aggressively overused soundtrack in the history of film (cue soaring 80s tunes at any vaguely dramatic moment). A sequel is of course being released later in 2020 so why not enjoy the nostalgia of the original before it’s inevitably ruined.

National Treasure, iTunes (To buy)

Nicolas Cage is a historian and cryptologist (read: inevitable treasure hunter) on the hunt for a legendary hoard of treasure hidden by the founding fathers in the American Revolutionary War. Effectively Disney does Indiana Jones, but in a likable way that tears its way through American landmarks – the National Archives, then a trip to the Liberty Bell to discover a pair of glasses (created by Benjamin Franklin) that allow you to see the treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence that you stole from the archives. As you do.

Midway, Amazon (To rent or buy)

Midway was not merely the US Navy’s revenge for Pearl Harbor but also the pivotal battle of the Pacific War. And just like Independence Day – only for real – it really was won by the pluck, determination of a few good men: Edwin Layton, the cryptologist who got inside the minds of the Japanese and worked out their strategy; the – literally – suicidally brave torpedo and bomber pilots; Admiral Chester Nimitz. Directed by Roland Emmerich, this is probably the last realistic war movie Hollywood will ever make because it tries to show the US sailors and airmen as they were, rather than imposing anachronistic casting.