Independence Day weekend is going to be pretty different this year (“unprecedented,” as they say). Although there will no doubt be plenty of amateur fireworks shows, large gatherings of people are a very bad idea, what with the spikes in COVID-19 around the country. Stay home and avoid the plague, and the sunburn, by firing up a July 4 movie marathon. This one’s a little different: It’s not just “America” movies like “The Patriot,” “Patriot’s Day” and “Team America: World Police.” Instead, conjure up Independence Day weekends of years past with a rundown of the best biggest box office earners that opened on the holiday weekend. Pop some corn, pour yourself a soda and settle in for this delightfully varied selection of flicks.
In 1985, Robert Zemeckis’s “Back to the Future” opened on July 3 and became the biggest movie of the weekend, thanks to Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and a time-traveling DeLorean. The perennial favorite is on Netflix and Showtime, or can be rented digitally for $3.99.
Fast-forward to 1991 when “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” dominated the box office, opening July 3 as well. James Cameron’s robot warfare sequel used cutting-edge CGI technology to create the liquid metal T-1000 robot (Robert Patrick) and made a star out of young discovery Edward Furlong. Plus, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton got to flex their muscles as the sinewy hero and heroine of the behemoth sequel. Watch it on Showtime or rent for $2.99.
There’s nothing more American than baseball, and nothing more likable than 1992’s “A League of Their Own,” Penny Marshall’s crowd-pleasing dramedy about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell. Watch it for free (with ads) on IMDB TV or rent it for $3.99.
Another incredible true story from American history is “Apollo 13,” which took the top spot July 4 weekend in 1995. Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning film about a dramatic NASA rescue mission stars Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Gary Sinise. It’s available for a $3.99 rental on most digital platforms or $1.99 on Redbox.
This list would not be complete without the winning Will Smith-punches-alien sci-fi blockbuster hit “Independence Day,” which owned moviegoing audiences in the summer of ‘96 (but feel free to skip the 2016 sequel). Rent it for $2.99-$3.99 on digital platforms.
“Independence Day” ushered in an era of huge action films dominating the July 4 weekend, like the other sci-fi Will Smith vehicle “Men in Black” in 1997 ($3.99 digital rental), Michael Bay’s “Armageddon” in 1998 (on HBO and $3.99 digital rental) and the Tom Cruise actioner based on the Orson Welles’ radio broadcast, “War of the Worlds,” in 2005 (HBO/$3.99 digital).
That should be more than enough action to keep you safe, happy and entertained at home through the holiday weekend. Happy Fourth!