The Brits came, but we conquered. Celebrate our nation’s 240th birthday with some of the most American-ass movies ever made.
Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldbloom: the holy trifecta of The American Dream, battling aliens bent on the destruction of Planet Earth. INDEPENDENCE DAY is more than just required Fourth of July viewing; it’s mandatory movie magic for anyone with a GODDAMNED SOUL.
True, the sequel sucked. Don’t let that tarnish your memories and confusing sexual feelings for Bill Pullman as the President of the United States–a performance that forever blurred a dangerous Freudian line between father figure and object of lust. Watch him give the “let’s defend the world against annhilation by hostile aliens” speech to end all “let’s defend the world from against annihilation by hostile aliens” speeches and unleash the patriot within.
The test of a true American: can you understand a single word Jeff Bridges says in the Coen Brothers’ TRUE GRIT remake? If you said yes, you are definitely lying. But who cares? Jeff Bridges is awesome, Hailee Steinfield is awesome, and Matt Damon has an enormous mustache. The story sees plucky youngster Steinfield defy gender conventions of 19th century American West and embark on a quest to avenge her father’s death with the help of an alcoholic bounty hunter and a pervy Texas Ranger. Why is the remake on this list, you ask, and not the original John Wayne Western? Because there’s nothing more American than a money-grabbing re-tread of well-tested box office success stories. Also, this version’s better.
Team America: World Police
A puppet-y satire of what makes America great–and also kind of the worst. From a secret headquarters lodged on the stone-faced slope of Mount Rushmore, a team of heroic Americans fight terrorism and accidentally destroy quite a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The brainchild of the depraved geniuses behind SOUTH PARK, TEAM AMERICA is a love letter to our country’s militaristic bravado and lack of foreign policy foresight. The theme song, “America, Fuck Yeah,” pretty much sums it up.
Speaking of amazing theme songs, WILLIE DYAMITE is the super groovy ’70s saga of a rogue NYC pimp and his fabulous collection of coats–but also his various beefs with the local pimp kingpin, law enforcement, and the social worker who’s doing her damndest to inspire and reform his girls. Willie’s the poster child for capitalism, a die-hard proponent of free enterprise and Adam Smith’s invisible hand(job).
Ingredients for best/worst/most American movie ever made: 1 young Tom Cruise, 3 parts Air Force fighter planes, 2 parts 80s machismo, and a vital dash of “Take My Breath Away.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to punch Tom Cruise in the face. Nostalgic for some, nauseating for others–but American through and through.
The original HAMLET may belong to the Bard and our ex-colonizers across the pond, but the play’s spiritual successor(ish) could only have come out o the ole US of A. Unnecessary sequels are an American trademark, and when this washed-up high school theatre teacher decides to write one to Shakespeare’s chef d’oeuvre, it’s obviously going to involve sex, Jesus, Sexy Jesus, time travel, racial tensions, lively musical numbers, and a controversial rape backstory, all wrapped into a giant happy rock ‘n’ roll ending.
D2: The Mighty Ducks
Like I said, America loves sequels. In the 90s, we were particularly fond of Disney direct-to-video sequels. In D2: THE MIGHTY DUCKS, Emilio Estevez coaches a misfit team of young underdogs in an international hockey competition where all the other kids are massive and at least 28 years old. It’s a beautiful ode to teamwork and friendship prevailing over large hairy men. And isn’t that the lesson we all need here in America?
More teamwork! More perservering in the face of impossible (and large and hairy) odds! This time, in a groundbreaking live-action/animation mash-up featuring NBA star Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes. This one’s self-explanatory, y’all. This kind of innovation is WHAT AMERICA IS ALL ABOUT.
The People Vs. Larry Flynt
In America, we gotta fight for our right to diddle ourselves to magazine porn. Before PornHub, there was HUSTLER, a publication that the bible-thumping far right claimed corrupted the minds of innocent Amerian minds. This take on Hustler Magazine vs. Falwell case stars Woody Harrelson as the titular pornographer, Courtney Love as his stripper wife, and Edward Norton as his reluctant lawyer. Freedom of the press is a key tenant of American values, as is Woody Harrelson.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Name a single American soul who doesn’t love Will Ferrell. Now add in racecars, slapstick comedy, and Sacha Baron Cochen as a malicious Frenchman, and you’ve got yourself a classic to be quoted for years to come. Thank sweet little baby Jesus for Ricky Bobby.
I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t include this Revolutionary War drama starring a pre-“Sugar Tits” Mel Gibson and late & great dimepiece Heath Ledger. Behold, the epic that launched a thousand “‘MURICA”s, before saying ‘MURICA was even a thing–before MURICA the nation was officially even a thing. Take special satisfaction in seeing evil redcoat Lucius Malfoy suffer defeat at the hands of Muggle Yanks.
The plot of ZOMBIELAND is the only realistic scenario in which America’s lax gun control laws would actually behoove us. In this dark comedy, the entire world has been overrun by rabid, flesh-eating undead and only those who can wield a gun really stand much of a chance of making it. Unless you’re Woody Harrelson, in which case a pair of bush clippers will do.
North By Northwest
So this classic was in fact directed by an English guy–Alfred Hitchcock–but I’ll allow it, because it also involves Old Hollywood heartthrob Cary Grant scaling Mount Rushmore, a sight that speaks to the primal patriot in all of us. Otherwise, there’s suspense, murder, deceptions, leggy blondes, and guns. Classic.
INGLORIOUS BASTERDS will make you feel either extremely squeamish or extremely amped. The name of the game is killing Nazis, and Brad Pitt and his vengeful band of Jewish soldiers are really, really good at it.
Admit it: YOU LOVE THIS MOVIE. Elle Woods is the quintessence of the American Dream, pulling herself up by her pink stilletto straps and checking haters at the DOOR. Sure, Elle grew up with her share of humongous privileges. But in the end, LEGALLY BLONDE evokes the sincerest of “you can do anything you set your mind to, you boss-ass bitch” morale, and is there aything we yanks love more than a tale of an underdog triumphant?
Meet the Beavers: Cccamp Beaverton
This slice-of-life documentary delves into the lives of folks that are less-than-represented in most of the other films on this list: the LGBT community. Specifically, the only sex-positive, trans-exclusive, all-women enclave in the middle of the Burning Man festival: CAMP BEAVERTON. Part social experiment, part sex party, the amp is about more than its annual “Strap-on-a-thon”– it’s about “radical self expression, open communication and exploring their personal and sexual boundaries.” Exactly the kind of freedom of expression and explorative spirit that America was built upon. And you can watch it here on Yuyu!