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4th of July Movies for Teens & Tweens

Between the fireworks and other festivities, sometimes we just want to relax on the couch with a movie. From our homeschooling experience, this is especially true with teenagers! What better time than the 4th of July to watch films related to the holiday, that help explain our country and our complicated history, as well as patriotic films about important events in history --or even just important events in summer moviegoing? We've included some Americana classics, and some of our favorite patriotic films to get you started. We hope you're able to enjoy a few of these films on Independence Day with your teens & tweens!


Hamilton: An American Musical

Rating: PG-13, mature content, and ideas.

Release date: July 3, 2020

Summary: This sung-and-rapped-through musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was inspired to write the musical after reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton (by Ron Chernow). The musical draws heavily from hip hop, as well as R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes. It casts non-white actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures. Miranda described Hamilton as about "America then, as told by America now".

Where to watch: Disney+



Rating: G

Release Date: 1972

Summary: This 1970s movie musical centers around John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson as they try to get the Declaration of Independence signed. The nation's fathers harmonize their way through the founding of America.

Where to watch: Rent on Amazon Prime


The Patriot

Rating: R, due to graphic battle scenes.

Release date: 2000

Summary: This American epic historical fiction war film focuses on a peaceful American colonist who is loyal to Britain. After witnessing the atrocities of the British Army, and experiencing the murder of his son, he becomes a reluctant but fierce warrior against British forces.

Where to watch: Netflix



Rating: R, Civil War movie with violence, profanity, and many forms of racism graphically depicted.

Release date: 1989

Summary: This American historical war drama is about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union Army's first African-American regiment in the American Civil War. The film depicts the soldiers of the 54th from the formation of their regiment to their heroic actions at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863.

Where to watch: Starz



Rating: PG-13, depictions of the civil war

Release date: 2012

Summary: Daniel Day-Lewis's unbelievable depiction of Abraham Lincoln won him an Oscar for Best Actor. This film's depiction of Lincoln is completely human, in all of his complexities. It's great for our kids to view our past figures through a more nuanced lens. I highly recommend this film for anyone learning about, or interested in this part of America's history.

Where to watch: HBO


Born on the 4th of July

Rating: R, due to depictions of the Vietnam war, depression, anguish, includes profanity.

Release date: 1989

Summary: In the mid-1960s New York teenager Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) enlists in the Marines, fulfilling what he sees as his patriotic duty. During his second tour in Vietnam, he accidentally kills a fellow soldier and later becomes permanently paralyzed in battle. Returning home to an uncaring Veterans Administration bureaucracy and to people on both sides of the political divide who don't understand what he went through, Kovic becomes an impassioned critic of the war.

Where to watch: Hulu


National Treasure

Rating: PG, due to some scary images of skeletons and potentially scary action scenes.

Release date: 2007

Summary: A treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence? It's not the craziest thing that happens during this story's running time. This Nicolas Cage action flick is pure campy fun. It's the kind of film you watch with everyone in the family, along with lots of popcorn and candy.

Where to watch: Disney+


Night at the Museum

Rating: PG, due to rude language, and behavior.

Release date: 2006

Summary: Night at the Museum tells the story of a night security guard at the American Museum of Natural History, who discovers that the museum exhibits come to life at night. It's a good 4th of July movie since it features several important US historical figures like Sacajawea and Teddy Roosevelt. It's also fun to note that it's part of a series, including a new one scheduled to come out soon - so you can continue the fun with the sequels!

Where to watch: Disney+ and Hulu



Rating: PG, mild profanity, brief violent scenes.

Release date: 1975

Summary: It might not inspire your inner patriot, but this film is set on July 4. A beach town is rocked when a killer shark is out for blood. Steven Spielberg's thriller is a can't-miss summer flick. Although it's truly a terrible premise of a movie; it's bad for the way people viewed sharks, and it's definitely not a feel-good movie, there's something about it that has made all three of my children laugh out loud really loudly! I think the cheesiness of it, as well as its iconic status, has made it a classic my family enjoys.

Where to watch: Rent on Apple TV


Independence Day

Rating: PG-13, due to sci-fi destruction and violence.

Release date: 1996

Summary: In this movie released the day before the 4th of July in 1996, Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) are on a mission to save the United States from an alien invasion. Collaborating with people from all over the world, they launch an all-out counterattack on July 4—Independence Day in the United States. This is another classic my family enjoys, of course, they love anything Will Smith does!

Where to watch: Hulu


Hidden Figures

Rating: PG, due to racism & inappropriate language.

Release date: 2016

Summary: Three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson -- serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world. This is a fabulous watch and it's great to see all of these amazing women onscreen together!

Where to watch: Disney+


Forest Gump

Rating: PG-13, some references to drugs, language, and war violence.

Release date: 1994

Summary: Tom Hanks' iconic kind-hearted character Forrest Gump lives a life full of adventure as history unfolds, and he unwittingly influences it. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the Vietnam War, and Watergate are all shown in this fictional story. If your children don't know the phrase, "Run, Forrest, run!", a theme that embodies the film, they won't forget it after watching this classic American film.

Where to watch: Rent on Amazon.



Rating: R, language, some sexual content, and brief violence.

Release date: 2008

Summary: Milk is a powerful film about the true-life story of Harvey Milk and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official. I'm including this here because it's on my list to watch with my kids after I previewed it and found it a worthy watch. It also happens to be PRIDE month and I'm a mother of a trans child, so I try to include LGBT stories when it fits, and this really, truly does!

Where to watch: Netflix


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Ratings suggest PG due to some scenes of people smoking.

Release date: 1939

Summary: This one's an excellent choice for those that love a bit of political drama and enjoy old-time movies. A young entrepreneur is suddenly appointed to the United States Senate and quickly learns how to stand up for himself and his strongly-held views. A classic about democracy in action and how it so crucially affects the lives of everyday Americans.

Where to watch: HBOMax


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