To Our Independence: The Best 4th of July Openings Ever!
by Alex Billington
June 26, 2007
The 4th of July, also known as Independence Day, yes, that day we celebrate our country's independence from British control back in 1776 by setting off massive explosives on our streets and in the skies. But what would the 4th of July be without a great movie (full of explosions) to kick back and enjoy after a hard day's work of eating BBQ and relaxing with friends? In the past 20 years, the 4th of July has brought some of the biggest blockbusters that rocked our summers. From Back to the Future to an actual movie titled Independence Day, the movies that have opened on this national holiday have been some of the most unforgettable, albeit not the greatest, films of our time.
In preparation for Transformers hitting this year, let's take a look back at the many great films that opened in theaters on (or the weekend of) July 4th. I'm sure you'll smile as you sit back and remember each of them and how good, or how bad, they were.
Still one of the best spoof comedies ever made back when Leslie Nielsen was just getting into his prime years. One of the first and most memorable 4th of July movies that still has a prominent place in many people's DVD collections today. I can't say much for the experience in Hollywood with 4th of July releases back in 1980, but it's certainly worth mentioning.
Back to the Future (1985)
For those of you who, like me, didn't see this in theaters first, you'll be glad to know that one of the greatest science fiction films of all time was originally a 4th of July weekend release. I don't need to speak on this film as everyone knows how amazing it is and it's one of the first big movies that kicked off the current trend of epic scale blockbusters opening on the 4th of July.
Coming to America (1988)
Although nothing special, it's worth pointing out. The patriotism theme gets more and more evident as time goes on, and this another one that you'll delightfully find had its initial opening slated around July 4th. One of the most classic Eddie Murphy movies, it didn't have as much of an impact on the eventual trend but was still another worthwhile opening.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
This time around for the sequel, Fox decided to open it earlier on July 4th instead of a few weeks later like the first Die Hard, sticking with the patriotism and American hero trend that would soon begin to build in later years for the 4th of July. Interestingly they decided to go with an early May release five years later for Die Hard 3.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Who can forget Terminator 2 - but a better question, who remembers actually going to see it in theaters 4th of July weekend? This is the first time in history that I really started to enjoy the releases they put on the 4th of July, as they'd turn out to be some of the best action films in history.
Apollo 13 (1995)
From this point forward, every 4th of July opening has been truly monumental, and what better way to kick off that trend than with one of the most American and unforgettable films ever made. I can still watch Apollo 13 today and remember all the emotions I felt when I first saw it and still feel them all again - it's just that great of a movie.
Independence Day (1996)
The award for single greatest 4th of July opening ever goes to Independence Day. Nothing in my life has compared to the experience I had seeing Independence Day in theaters on July 4th. It is the quintessential 4th of July movie that has set the precedence for every one after 1996. And beyond that it's one of the best blockbuster big-budget action flicks ever made and so damn entertaining!
Men in Black (1997)
After Independence Day it was hard to live up to the level of excellence that it delivered the year before, but Men in Black came close. Another one of my own personal favorite films in general, Men in Black was a perfect July 4th release that turned into an incredible box office success once everyone saw how good it actually was.
Could this movie be any more patriotic?! I think Michael Bay has packed in more patriotism into this movie than even in Pearl Harbor! But I will say, I think almost all of Michael Bay's movies are perfect 4th of July releases that make you feel good and enjoy yourself all in the name of independence and patriotism! And honestly, Armageddon is still a pretty damn fun flick even with quite a few big flaws.
Wild Wild West (1999)
Although one of my own least favorite (and probably many people's) 4th of July movies ever, at the time of its release it was another perfect fit. After the fact it quickly becomes forgettable, but I have vivid memories of seeing this (multiples times) in theaters and really enjoying myself every time.
The Patriot / The Perfect Storm (2000)
Two for one, because both of these were my favorites from 2000. One being one of the most patriotic films ever that focused around our actual fight for independence, and the other being about just simple American heroes. Both of these films were great summer blockbusters that are still enjoyable even today.
Men in Black II (2002)
Only because this was such a hyped follow up to the incredible first Men in Black, was this as memorable as it was. It's not the greatest sequel and there's not much to still look for in it, especially over the first movie, but in 2002 there was nothing that came close in size and scale in early July to this sequel. Only if it were as good as the first one maybe this would've been a better year.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Following the initial success of the aforementioned Terminator 2 on July 4th, they set this one to open the same weekend again 12 years later. Not the best movie ever, but I still love it and have a great time watching it. Although there is hardly any patriotism in the Terminator movies, they're still a great fit for Independence Day.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Did you already forget (with the wash out from Spider-Man 3) that the greatest comic book movie to ever hit the big screen opened in theaters on July 4th weekend?! Although the other two were released in early May, this one hit at the right weekend and boy did it hit big. Still the highest grossing 4th of July release ever, it was a perfect movie that deserved this prime summer spot instead of early May.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Although at first thought you wouldn't imagine it'd be the right movie for the 4th, it truly is. It's all about a simple American family and hero who battles his way around invading aliens and manages to survive. And what story would be better to entertain you and your family on 4th of July weekend than a movie about invading aliens starring Tom Cruise? Still one of my own favorite films, it was another big hit from recent years.
Superman Returns (2006)
Our favorite quintessential American superhero - Superman - finally returned to the big screen and marked another succesful July 4th opening! By now you should realize that the choice for which big summer blockbuster gets the Independence Day (yes, I mean the movie as well) slot is something that is both entertaining and uniquely American. And of course, that's Superman!
Are you ready? There's nothing uniquely American about this really (in comparison to the other films mentioned), but I will guarantee this movie will rock our nation. It may even compete with Independence Day and replace my best 4th of July opening ever. The hype has been building so immensely for Transformers, which again is a perfect choice for July 4th and I know it will hit huge. I've seen it and I know it'll be worth it and when compared to the other 16 big-budget massive-scale releases found on here so far, it's one of the best - and that says a lot!
There's one thing that's true about all of these movies, they're all some of the best big-budget all-out action movies ever. Anyone could make the argument that some mediocre releases have come along on the 4th of July, but then you take a look at this list again and you'll easily be reminded that there have been some of the greatest movies ever hitting on that patriotic weekend.
For now, kick back, relax, enjoy your BBQ and fireworks, and get ready for one hell of an unforgettable 4th of July.