Top 10 Greatest Movies that Premiered on the July 4th Weekend

This is not the typical yearly list of the best 4th of July themed or raw-raw-USA patriotic movies of all time. You’re welcome.

With The BFG, Purge: Election Year, and Legend of Tarzan opening this Independence Day weekend, I thought it would be better to list the top 10 greatest movies that have premiered on this holiday weekend in the past.  Mostly because, I don’t think either of this year’s entries will have as lasting an impact in cinema history like the following.


#10 Men In Black
Opened July 2, 1997

Some master puppet work, special effects makeup, and CGI give Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones plenty to play off of.  It’s a fast paced 98 minutes of two government agents working autonomously (which may be why they are so efficient) to save humans and friendly aliens from the scourge of the galaxy’s worst.

#9 – Terminator 2
Opened July 3, 1991

Arguably regarded as Schwarzenegger’s best action film, writer/director James Cameron lets loose with cutting edge CGI (for the time) in this time-travel sci-fi action thriller where Robert Patrick’s motorcycle cop would haunt anyone pulled over on the highway for speeding .

#8 – A League of Their Own
Opened July 1, 1992

Tom Hanks and Geena Davis are at the top of their game in this fantastic true, yet romanticized, telling of baseball’s first all women’s professional league.  It’s also how we know that there is no crying in baseball.


#7 – South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
Opened June 30, 1999

Trey Parker and Matt Stone take the gloves off and hit the big screen with one of the more brilliant takedowns of those who would deny anyone their right to free speech and expression.


#6 – The Firm
Opened July 2, 1993

The Firm gave us Tom Cruise at the peak of his acting career, and the late Sydney Pollack’s last great directorial outing.  Mitch McDeer’s escape from the law firm offices and the subsequent chase is one of cinema’s greatest foot chases and worth the watch just for that.


#5 – Independence Day
Opened July 3, 1996

Sure, in hindsight we laugh at the idea that the mothership was destroyed because of a computer virus. Clearly any intelligent race who could build technology so advanced as to travel through space and time would have figured out how to install their equivalent of McAffe anti-virus software.  But in 1996, we were still trying to figure out how AOL keywords worked?  So grab a cigar, strap yourself in, and let’s go kick some alien butt. Welcome to Earth!


#4 – Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Opened July 6, 1990

Yippee kai yay motherf***ers!  John McClain is in the wrong place at the wrong time again.  Not that his wife is complaining.

#3 – Apollo 13
Opened June 30, 1995

Let’s just all remember that both Chris Noonan and Tim Robbins were nominated for Best Director Oscars for Babe (Noonan) and Dead Man Walking (Robbins) and the director of Apollo 13, Ron Howard was not.  The only explanation I can find is that it’s because he is a redhead.  #OscarsSoBlondeBrownBlack

#2 – Big Trouble in Little China
Opened July 4, 1986

Kurt Russell is absolutely on point in the cult classic.  The arrogance displayed from his Jack Burton is contemptible, yet what makes him charming is the dumb luck that always pulls through for ‘ol Jack.  It’s that kind of charm that’s missing from today’s popularly admired arrogant characters, like  The Office‘s Dwight Schrute or Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers.


#1 – Back to the Future
Opened July 2, 1985

Allow me a personally anecdote.  I enjoy going to special screenings of classic films on the big screen.  I’ve made my way to theater to see  Hitchcock films, Ray Harryhausen movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The French Connection, The Exorcist, Lawrence of Arabia and on and on.  I have never had more fun at one of these screenings then when I saw Back to the Future on the big screen again.  If it ever plays at theater near you, do yourself a favor and go see it.  You’ll appreciate every single moment and of the experience.

Happy Independence Day my fellow Americans.  For making it this far, here is John Wayne reciting the pledge of allegiance and what it means to him.

Matt Edwards

Matt Edwards is a filmmaker in his native Los Angeles. He is an alumnus of the 2011 Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop, a 2014 Liberty Lab Fellow and the current editor of SCC. Matt is also host of the The Rear View film podcast. Follow @TRVpodcast and @mattchrised on Twitter.