Oliver Stone

5 Patriotic Films to Commemorate Memorial Day

This upcoming Monday marks Memorial Day, a holiday honoring the brave veteran men and women who have served our nation. For many of us the day involves BBQs and gatherings with friends and families, but for some of us the bonus day off is a time to unwind, relax and catch up on some classic films. If you’re in that boat, we thought we’d highlight some of the films that best commemorate this special day.

Independence Day

Nothing screams American Hollywood blockbuster more than a Roland Emmerich action-packed film, involving the White House getting blown up by a giant spaceship and Will Smith actually punching a space alien in the face. When the common enemy comes from outside this world, it’s up to Bill Pullman, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, and the American military to fight off the invading aliens. Together with its inspirational speeches, explosions, romance, and 90’s special effects, this modern classic has everything you could want in a Memorial Day flick. If you still haven’t seen this, be sure to check it out before its long-awaited sequel is releases this upcoming Fourth of July.


If you’re still paying for cable and just so happen to be flicking through the channels, chances are you’ll land on a Rocky marathon this Memorial Day weekend. Nobody stands the test of time more than the iconic hero, Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone. With his underdog, South Philly charm and American flag boxer trunks, Rocky can win over any crowd and any generation—even the Cold War Russians as we saw in Rocky 4. With Bill Conti’s unforgettable original score and Burgess Meredith’s rousing speeches, there’s nothing that’ll get you more motivated this holiday weekend than a healthy dose of the Italian Stallion.


Earning George C. Scott an Oscar for Best Actor, this 1970 biopic of American General George S. Patton showcases its patriotism from the very beginning of the film as Patton delivers an inspirational speech to his soldiers in front of a giant U.S. flag. Few may know that the screenplay was written by The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Franklin Schaffner, who was behind the original Planet of the Apes. Coming in on close to three hours in length, this WWII epic chronicles the battles led by the controversial figure, Patton, a man who stops at nothing to defeat his enemies. Not without his flaws, the General exemplifies America’s military strength and confidence during its ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany.

The Hunt for Red October

New York Film Academy founder, Jerry Sherlock, produced this 1990 hit, based on Tom Clancy’s best-selling novel. Starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, the film is set during the late Cold War era and involves a rogue Soviet naval captain who wishes to defect to the United States with his officers and the Soviet Navy’s newest and most advanced nuclear missile submarine. The question is: is he really trying to defect or is he out to start war with the US? For a “war” that involved no real battles, this thriller creates a scenario in which the Cold War could ultimately erupt in an underwater confrontation. That is unless Jack Ryan can save the day.

Born on the Fourth of July

Considered one of Tom Cruise’s most memorable performances and earning him his first Oscar nomination, this captivating Oliver Stone film surrounds the life of Ron Kovic, who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War. Kovic, played by Cruise, becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. Battling obstacles both with his own mind and body, as well as against the country he once fought for, the film captures the tragedy and difficulties many of our armed servicemembers face when returning home.

Oliver Stone

Oliver StoneName: William Oliver Stone

Essential DVDs: Salvador (1986); Platoon (1986); Wall Street (1987); Born On The Fourth Of July (1989); JFK (1991); Natural Born Killers (1994); Nixon (1995)

Oscars: Best Director (Born On The Fourth Of July, 1990); Best Director, Best Picture (Platoon, 1987); Best Adapted Screenplay (Midnight Express, 1978)

In His Own Words: “I consider my films first and foremost to be dramas about individuals in personal struggles and I consider myself to be a dramatist before I am a political filmmaker. I’m interested in alternative points of view. I also like anarchy in films.”

Where do you start with a problem like Oliver? He is Hollywood’s coruscating conscience, part madman, part genius, entirely troublemaker. He just can’t help himself. JFK had critics fired and death threats landing across his desk, Natural Born Killers appalled and aggravated the liberals and hard-liners alike, and with Alexander he sprawled in every direction picking up hoots of derision for his trouble. Inconsistent he maybe, but Stone continues to scratch away at boundaries while the likes of Scorsese or Coppola, are either clutching for the mainstream or dozing on their veranda somewhere in the Napa Valley. If he’s going to falter, he’s going to do it in the full glare of the limelight. Stone is so public a persona, his stars tend to feel like second billing.

His vision, sharpened by the frenetic lash of his edits and the full arsenal of camera tricks he uses to powerhouse his intrepid ideas, was born from his three tours of duty in Vietnam. It fed directly into his art, the modern, curdled history of America becoming the backbone of his muse. He is driven by a furious passion to deliver the truth, a fury that can be felt in every frame of every film. “People are suckers for the truth,” harries Donald Sutherland’s deep-throated X in JFK. “And the truth is on your side, Bubba.”

Ultimately, and beautifully, he refuses to be confined by ideology. He is both politico and bohemian (hell, why else make a film about The Doors?). As a filmmaker it is a unique voice, hectoring and heartfelt, and when they come to write his epitaph it should be quite simple: “Never bland.”