This weekend is historically the spot for the biggest blockbuster of the year. Here are some of the best movies that have been released over the Fourth of July.
Over the past few decades, July 4th has built a reputation as the weekend when the biggest summer blockbuster is released. But looking at the list of movies that opened historically on July 4th weekend, that reputation isn’t totally earned.
There have been some real loads released on July 4th; or, at the very least, movies that had all the trappings of a blockbuster but weren’t any good. From Transformers: Dark of the Moon to War of the Worlds to Hancock to Superman Returns to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines to Wild Wild West to The Last Airbender to Phenomenon to Terminator 3 and Karate Kid Part III — July 4th weekend isn’t always a bastion of cinematic brilliance.
(I also personally thought July 4th’s Armageddon was mediocre, especially compared to Deep Impact (as discussed here), although I know that’s not a universally accepted position.)
But we’re not focusing on those 11 bad ones. Instead, with the spirit of Independence Day and Hacksaw Jim Duggan inspiring me to be American and positive, I put together this list of the best movies that have opened July 4th weekend. Have at it…
11 | Spider-Man 2 (2004)
I once ripped on Spider-Man 2 a little bit (in my 11 Most Disappointing Movies of the 2000s list) — but in retrospect, I think it’s the best of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Mans. I nerdily re-watched all three in advance of the new reboot (featured later in this list) and this is the best of the three. Mainly thanks to Alfred Molina and J.K. Simmons. And partially because hey, it least it’s not Spider-Man 3.
10 | The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
This was July 4th counterprogramming to Superman Returns. It’s kind of ridiculous there hasn’t been a good Superman movie franchise in an entire generation. All we’ve gotten is one of the worst video games ever. And Soulja Boy turning Superman’s name into a vulgar euphemism.
Oh right. Not supposed to be ranting about Superman, supposed to be talking about The Devil Wears Prada. It was not bad.
9 | Apollo 13 (1995)
I always thought this was somewhat overrated, which is why it’s 9th on this list even though it won Best Picture. Also, it always leads me to make the same joke: The movie’s just lucky it wasn’t knocked out by Rocky 13. HI-YO!
(Feel free to use that one. But remember, proper attribution is next to godliness.)
8 | Men in Black (1997)
I felt bad not having at least one Will Smith movie on the list since he’s known as the “July 4th Guy” and I strongly prefer this to Independence Day (which doesn’t hold up). That Will Smith sure does love fighting aliens on the Fourth of July, huh? He’s just like your uncle in Arizona.
7 | Transformers (2007)
It was only five years ago but so, so much has changed. The two subsequent sequels were so horrendous they’ve tarnished the memory of the first one. And Megan Fox’s fall from universal sex symbol to grating, shrew-ish universal sex symbol hasn’t helped. But the first Transformers was actually an entertaining, pure summer blockbuster.
If you haven’t seen it, picture Battleship on land with Megan Fox in the Rihanna role and Shia LeBeouf in the Tim Riggins role. Yeah, I don’t know how it worked either.
6 | Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
If it wasn’t for this movie, “hasta la vista, baby” would just have been something Arnold said to his illegitimate son.
(Too harsh? At least he didn’t try to have him terminated!)
(TOO too harsh? Um… at least he didn’t have Twins? That’s gentler, right?)
5 | A League of Their Own (1992)
Sad note: Doris Sams, the woman who inspired A League of Their Own, just died at age 82. Think Tom Hanks is going to show up at her funeral to yell at people for crying?
4 | Adventures In Babysitting (1987)
I’m almost embarrassed to admit how long I debated this movie’s position on the list. On one hand, it’s hilarious. On the other hand, it’s outstanding. I decided to watch it (for some reason, I own two copies) to make sure my love isn’t just nostalgia-based. Not even close. This movie was good when it came out and is still good 25 years later. The only downside: Start singing the blues. No one leaves the Adventures In Babysitting point without singing the blues.
3 | The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Went to the midnight opening for this on Monday and I’m glad I did. Like everyone else, I was skeptical of the reboot. The original is only 10 years old; and this wasn’t a Batman Begins-reboot, this was just a straight retelling of the origin story. But I’m really glad I saw it, because this movie is really good. In fact, it made me feel naive and gullible that I once thought the Tobey Maguire version was good. Eduardo Saverin really plays the character well — brooding, introverted, really like an actual teenager. I recommend it unless you’re suffering from Spider-Man burnout.
2 | South Park – Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999)
It kills me not to make this number one — I adore everything about this movie, even the dated celebrity jokes and the messy climax — but I just couldn’t rank it ahead of my top pick. And I always forget they picked the subtitle from a porn film until I type it out.
1 | Back to the Future (1985)
It’s the only true classic ever to open on a July 4th weekend. And I say that with all due respect to July 2, 2003’s Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde.
You can see the full list of movies that opened July 4th weekend here.