Parents have a unique opportunity to instill a sense of pride of country into our children beginning at a very young age. Teaching them the Pledge of Allegiance, the Star Spangled Banner, and other patriotic songs seems to be a lost art in the current school system.
Since we don’t have to subject our children to the politically correct apologist agendas of recent years, we can confidently teach them to love their country and encourage them to be passionate about wanting the best for America; to work hard to create a country which goes back to its founding principles.
Now, before we get to the recommendations please be aware that these are movies that I have enjoyed with my children, but everyone has different standards and viewing practices. If you are in doubt of my recommendations please preview the movie or ask someone whose judgment you really trust before firing it up. A great resource that I use, in addition to a few movie addicted friends, is Plugged In which is Focus on the Family’s movie review site. It’s extremely comprehensive and an excellent site to have in your arsenal. Another review site is the USCCB movie reviews. These are a little less comprehensive than the former site but still very useful.
So, to the lists. For the younger viewers in your home, thirteen and younger, these are my favorite patriotic movies:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Directed by Frank Capra, starring Jimmy Stewart
“When the idealistic young Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) winds up appointed to the United States Senate, he gains the mentorship of Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). However, Paine isn’t as noble as his reputation would indicate, and he becomes involved in a scheme to discredit Smith, who wants to build a boys’ campsite where a more lucrative project could go. Determined to stand up against Paine and his corrupt peers, Smith takes his case to the Senate floor.” (Source: IMDb)
This is a wonderful movie, mostly drama but with a dose here and there of Jimmy Stewart’s comedic flair. It is faithful to how the democratic process works and shows how a bill becomes a law. The movie is available for rent on Amazon Video and Google Play.
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Directed by Michael Curtiz, starring James Cagney
Brought to the White House to receive a Congressional Gold Medal from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Broadway legend George M. Cohan (James Cagney) reflects on his life. Flashbacks trace Cohan’s rise, from a childhood performing in his family’s vaudeville act to his early days as a struggling Tin Pan Alley songwriter to his overwhelming success as an actor, writer, director and producer known for patriotic songs like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There.” (Source: IMDb)
I love this movie. It is shamelessly patriotic and espouses many of the values we want our children to embrace; love of family, hard work and diligence, love of country and wholesome entertainment. No child should grow up not having seen this movie. It is available for rental on Amazon video.
Directed by Peter Hunt, starring Howard da Silva
“The nation’s fathers harmonize their way through the founding of America in this musical adapted from a popular Broadway show. Colonial representatives gather in Philadelphia with the aim of establishing a set of governmental rules for the burgeoning United States. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams charge Thomas Jefferson with the work of writing a statement announcing the new country’s emancipation from British rule.” (Source: IMDb)
This movie is a lot of fun, especially if you are a family that really enjoys musicals. The dialog is taken directly from some historical documents of the time and is accurate in terms of the events. The founding fathers are portrayed as flawed men but still inspirational in their commitment to putting country first. It’s available as a DVD (not streaming) from Netflix and for rent on Amazon video.
Directed by Robert Stevenson, starring Hal Starmaster
JOHNNY TREMAIN derives from a classic children’s novel by Esther Forbes, showing the beginnings of the American Revolution from the POV of a teenage lad in Boston. Johnny is an apprentice silversmith (Paul Revere is a competitor) circa 1775. When Johnny cripples his hand in a metal-pouring accident, however, he instead gets a subsistence job delivering copies of the Boston Observer newspaper—which fronts for the rebel colonists such as Revere and Samuel Adams. Drawn into the intrigues of the revolution against the British Empire, Johnny and his friends participate in the Boston Tea Party, facilitate Paul Revere’s legendary “midnight ride,” and help defeat Redcoats in one of the opening skirmishes of the war for American independence. (Source: Common Sense Media)
The screenplay of this movie was written by Esther Forbes, the author of the novel, so the movie is really true to the book. True confession, none of my kids have really liked the book, but they do enjoy the movie. The book is a little dry in parts and the movie is much faster paced. It was done by Disney Films back when they were making glorious family movies so you can be assured of the quality of the film, it’s a worthwhile watch. This movie is available for rent on Amazon Video, Google Play and is also on YouTube.
Other great patriotic movies for the younger kids:
Davy Crockett: King Of The Wild Frontier (1955 Disney version)
Felicity: An American Girl Movie
Liberty Kids (A PBS series)
Old Yeller (Warning, you are going to cry)
For the older kids, high school and above:
Directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Mel Gibson
“Benjamin Martin is an unassuming man who is forced to join the American Revolution when the British threaten to take his farm away from him. Together with his patriotic son, Gabriel, the pair faces the vicious Redcoats with a heroism that reflects the stubborn pride of a young country’s most dedicated supporters.” (Source: IMDb)
I put this movie in the high school category because there are some scenes of violence that could be disturbing to a younger or particularly sensitive child. The movie gives us a good sense of the struggle honest men endured when deciding to take up the cause of the patriots to fight the British. It makes a great point of the deep sacrifices involved and can really illustrate to teenagers what the freedom they are privileged to live with cost. The film is beautifully shot and has some lighter moments which are a relief from the tension and drama. This film is available to stream n Netflix, on Amazon Prime and to buy from Amazon video.
Directed by Edward Zwick, starring Matthew Broderick
“Following the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw is offered command of the United States’ first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. With junior officer Cabot Forbes, Shaw puts together a strong and proud unit, including the escaped slave Trip and the wise gravedigger John Rawlins. At first limited to menial manual tasks, the regiment fights to be placed in the heat of battle.” (Source: IMDb)
This movie accurately depicts the racism faced by the 54th Massachusetts and the heroic way in which they overcame that discrimination. There is a great deal of growth in each of the main characters as they learn to put aside everything to fight for their country. It’s an excellent movie but, again, I caution you, it’s a war movie and some scenes are graphic. Also the “N” word comes up which can be a little shocking in this day. I would counsel that the movie is for mature teens (seventeen and up). Glory is available as a DVD on Netflix, streaming via Amazon Prime and to buy on Amazon video.
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, starring George C. Scott
“Biography of controversial World War II hero General George S. Patton. The film covers his wartime activities and accomplishments, beginning with his entry into the North African campaign and ending with his removal from command after his outspoken criticism of US post-war military strategy.” (Source: IMBD)
I have seen this movie about forty times. To say my father was a fan is to understate the case radically. We watched it at least twice a year growing up and not viewing was not an option. Dad was a big fan of “Old Blood and Guts” and he was determined that my brother and I would be as well. Marriage did not deliver me from this movie as I married a man just as obsessed.
That being said, it’s a great movie. George C. Scott gives the performance of a lifetime and the egomaniacal, driven, bombastic, brilliant General who was his own worst enemy. Patton’s speech at the beginning of the movie is an edited and less profane version of his speech to the U.S. Third Army in 1944 and is rightly considered one of the best fighting speeches ever given. There is violence and Patton believed himself to be reincarnated which might trigger a discussion in your home (again the seventeen and older crowd would be my recommendation).
Some other patriotic movies you might consider for the older kids;
A Bridge Too Far
Gone With The Wind (not really patriotic but a good depiction of Sherman’s march through Georgia and also a really good movie).
This post has become epically long, but I hope that you find it helpful in planning a few movie nights with the children. We would love it if you would share your favorites with us in the comments section.