We’re in the midst of July, the month in which Americans are supposed to be at their most patriotic! With barbecues, beach trips, and fireworks galore, this is the month where we celebrate our country. For Incluvie, that primarily means diving into the wonderful “melting pot” of the diversity of American film! In between celebrating and feasting, it’s important to remember the very basis this country is founded on: “liberty and justice for all.”
So, here are just a few films celebrating the lives and accomplishments of Americans of every race, gender, and ability.
1. Hidden Figures (2016)
Premise: This is the untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—brilliant African American women at NASA working on the launch of astronaut John Glenn.
Not only does this film bring women into the spotlight (who were just starting to truly break out and be acknowledged in the science industry) but specifically all of the African American women who helped advance America’s technology in space. Because of these real women (and the wonderful actresses who play them) we understand more about space.
2. Stand and Deliver (1988)
Premise: Jaime Escalante is a math teacher in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. Convinced that his students have potential, he uses unconventional teaching methods to try and turn gang members and underachievers into some of the country’s top algebra and calculus students.
This is an amazing story based on a real person who proved that hard work and determination can change the lives of kids that society writes off. It also dives into the off-campus struggles some teens face that are often the reason for their downfall in education such as finances, gangs, and more.
3. Minari (2021)
Premise: Set in the 1980s, David, a seven-year-old Korean American, is faced with a new way of life when his father moves their family from the West Coast to rural Arkansas. His mother is appalled at their mobile home in the middle of nowhere, and David and his sister are bored and aimless. When his grandmother arrives from Korea to live with them, her unfamiliar ways arouse David’s curiosity.
Titled after a staple herb in Korean cooking, Minari is a stunning tale about childhood, immigration, rural living, family, and so much more. It shows all of the struggle, the wonder, and the lessons that moving teaches us about ourselves.
4. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Premise: This film is based on the true story of Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran. He soon becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the very country he fought for.
This film not only gives representation to disabled people but critiques America as well. While we love to be proud, this July it’s important to recognize that every country has its faults and sometimes not everyone is treated as well as they should be… even war veterans.
5.The Big Sick (2017)
Premise: Pakistani comedian Kumail and grad student Emily fall in love but struggle as their cultures and families clash. When Emily becomes mysteriously ill, Kumail finds himself forced to face her parents, his family’s expectations, and his true feelings.
Interracial relationships have been on the continuous rise for decades now, and yet, not many movies have explored it as a topic. The Big Sick takes this subject and shows you the more difficult sides of relationships (i.e. cultural differences, parental clashing, illness, and much more.) It’s a wonderfully romantic piece that will leave your heart warm long after it’s over.
6. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Premise: African American police detective Virgil Tibbs is arrested on suspicion of murder by Bill Gillespie, the racist police chief. After Tibbs proves his own innocence, he joins forces with Gillespie to track down the real killer.
Perhaps not as impressive in modern-day, In the Heat of the Night was an amazing film on racism in the 60s. This detective film seeks to not only discuss racism in the South, but it is also a subtle commentary on the “Big City” versus “Rural Town.” It’s an entertaining movie while touching on topics positively that were still relatively new at the time.
7. Selena (1997)
Premise: Based on a true story, Texan Selena Quintanilla begins performing at a young age when her father realizes her talent for music. She finds success and falls for her guitarist, Chris Perez, who her father despises. Seeking mainstream stardom, Selena begins recording an English album.
This absolute classic celebrates the legend that was Selena and shows a beautiful story of fame, poverty, love, music, and more. Selena brought joy to the lives of many and this film just brings it to an even larger audience.
8. Smoke Signals (1998)
Premise: Thomas is a young Native American outcasted as a nerd in his reservation. His parents died in 1976, and Thomas was saved by Arnold and his son Victor. Ten years later, when Victor hears Arnold has died, Thomas offers to help with the trip to get his remains.
Written, directed, produced, and acted by Native Americans, this film is an essential. Not only is it hilarious, but it’s incredibly heartfelt at the same time.