Ten greatest Films about America

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1)Nashville (1975)
Robert Altman’s Masterpiece captured America in the 70s like one else: All its confusion, disappointment, and uncertainty. The film follows 24 different characters over a period of as few days in Nashville just before a political fundraising concert. We take a peak in the lives of country music superstars, hippies, aspiring singers, mothers, producers, liberals, conservatives, radicals, Christians. We see how America has changed and how our moral system had been skewed by Vietnam, Watergate, the Kennedy assassinations and the sexual revolution. Illustrates perfectly what john Lennon sang “Strange Days Indeed.”

2)Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
There are few scenes in movie history more powerful than Jimmy Stewart’s impassioned speech on the house floor. He says what every American wanted to say. These politicians are more loyal to their parties and think of people as numbers they need to get reelected. Frank Capera’s idealistic film has not lost one bit of its relevance and should be required viewing for all children.

3)Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Was there anyone who was more patriotic than George M. Cohen? It’s easier to say that no one was perkier about it more than Cohen. This film is chock full of patriotic musical numbers that will make your heart beat with pride. And one cannot miss James Cagney’s iconic performance as Cohen. Just to watch him dance is astonishment in itself.

4)The New World (2005)
Terrance Malik’s film is a lot more than a history lesson. It’s a spiritual journey of a woman torn between two worlds. We see the story of Pocahontas (whose name is never said in the film) and her connection with these strange men who have entered her tribe’s world. She is banished from the tribe and is forced to live with the colonists on john smiths orders. Smith leaves fearing imprisonment but she finds love and marries John Ralph. We see her leave to England and she enters her own new world. What the film shows us how this woman bridged the gap between natives and the west, at least for a brief moment. She saw and understood both sides and what a tragedy it was that one else did.

5)Sullivan’s Travels (1942)
When a big Hollywood writer goes out on the road in disguise as a hobo to find what real suffering is like in America he gets a rude awakening. The common man he so desperately wants to represent doesn’t care the least bit if they are represented or not. The film is a tribute to the power of movies and their importance in bringing joy in the American people even in the depths of the great depression.

6)The Searchers (1956)
In what may be John Ford’s greatest film is the most iconic of John Wane performances. He has been obsessively searching for his “kidnapped” niece not to rescue her but to kill her because she has become ”the leavin’s of a Comanche buck.” Wayne’s Ethan Edwards is the prototype for the American loner driven to violent extremes. Taxi Driver and countless other films were directly inspired by this dark western. The film’s sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans and the atrocities committed towards them may have been muted for the 1950’s audience but it is certainly there and remains powerful to this day.

7)Citizen Kane (1941)
Only a story like Kane’s could be told in America. Like many real life comparisons (Michael Jackson, William Randolph Hearst, and Elvis Presley) seem to follow the same formula (Hearst’s story inspired the film). There is success than unbelievable ambition, and then come the personal demons and the isolation from society (Zanideu, Never land, san simian, Graceland). The personal stories may be tragic but the legacies are great and uniquely American.

8)1776 (1972)
Oh the genius that came up with this musical. Trumps School House Rock any day (in my opinion).

9)JFK (1991)
Sometimes the most patriotic thing you can do is question American authority. Oliver Stone’s film captures the America’s paranoia and anger over the Kennedy assassination and the missing pieces of its investigation. It illustrates the absurd and unjust claims of the Warren Commission using New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as a vessel.

10)Harlan County USA (1976)
Barbra Koppel’s landmark documentary follows the mine strikes in Harlan County in 1973. The images and monuments the film captures linger in the find for a long time.

  1. Andy says

    JFK? Yes, it’s a great film, but it’s not about the real U.S.A. It’s about the U.S.A. that exists in the minds of the paranoid. Virtually every moment of the film is a lie, exaggeration, embellishment, or fantasy. It’s even self-contradictory. (Senator Long tells Garrison the first shot would be the most accurate and not miss like the WC said; Stone’s re-construction has the first shot miss.) Stone’s re-creation has no less than 3 shooters firing 7 or 8 shots; but 90+% of witnesses said they heard 3 shots…and 2 was the next most common report. Stone has people see gunsmoke coming from the grassy knoll; quite a feat considering smokeless powder had been ubiquitous for many decades in 1963. Questions that should be asked by skeptical viewers but aren’t: How many workers were missing from the School Book Depository after the shooting? (ans.: 1, Oswald) Who fit the description of the murderer of a cop killed just a few blocks from Oswald’s boarding house when Oswald was KNOWN to be in the area minutes earlier? (ans.: Oswald) Who decided to go to a movie theater in the middle of a workday with a gun in his jacket? (ans.: Oswald) Don’t get me started on the magic bullet (nothing magic when you align the victims correctly and consider bullet velocities reduced by passing through soft tissue) or “back and to the right” (a movement which means nothing other than a violent neurological spasm in reaction to the brain being destroyed). People, get a clue: the story mommy and daddy tell you about JFK (i.e., the Warren Commission version) is true.

  2. Enrique says

    Goodness, ANTHONY!….please SPELLCHECK THIS!!!!!!!!!!!! Anthony you lose all credibility when you spell Xanadu and San Simeon incorrectly! And while you are at it, check some of those sentences and the grammar! OMG!

    Good list, by the way!

    1. Tally says

      also COHAN not cohen.

  3. David says

    How about Wall Street with Michael Douglas (1987) and Grapes of Wrath with Henry Fonda (1940). I was called an Okie when I moved to California in 1939.

  4. Anonymous says

    spell check

  5. PlanBFromOuterSpace says

    “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is actually one of my two favorite films of all time. The other? “Boogie Nights”. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum…

    1. Al says

      You missed a great opportunity for a lame late-night comedy-show joke about how politics, like porn, is all about getting fucked in the ass. If you don’t mind, I’m going to use it for my audition as a Daily Show writer.

      1. Ricky says

        Sorry guys but Anthony asked me to post this for him and I forgot to change the writers name back to him. Sorry Anthony. Anyhow he wrote this list. Great job by the way!

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