Pop Culture Intervention

12 Movies And TV Shows About American History To Stream This Independence Day

Learn about presidents, athletes, and activists.

At A Plus, we're addicted to pop culture, and Pop Culture Intervention brings that obsession to the soapbox. Through this series, we'll recommend what you should be watching, reading or listening to; explore how arts and entertainment affect us; and interpret the important messages contained within various works.

This Fourth of July, if you're not interested in outdoor barbecues or summer blockbusters, you might prefer to stay inside and stream a few movies or TV shows. So why not theme your Independence Day viewing to titles about American history?


Whether you're subscribed to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, there's something to watch that will teach you a thing or two about the United States' most significant people, events, and ideals. From biographical films about America's most admired presidents to stories about activists fighting for equal rights, A Plus has enough recommendations to last you the whole day.

So grab a hot dog and a slice of pie (or whatever you like to eat on the Fourth), and queue up one of these quintessentially American titles. 

1. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis won an Academy Award for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's account of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, and more great actors co-star.

Where to Watch: Netflix

2. Milk

Speaking of Academy Awards, Sean Penn earned one of his own with his performance as politician and activist Harvey Milk, who fought for gay rights and became the first openly gay person elected to public office in the state of California.

Where to Watch: Netflix

3. Good Girls Revolt

This original Amazon series only had one season, but it made an impact with its depiction of the women who fought for equal pay and recognition in American newsrooms in the late 1960s. The show stars Anna Camp, Jim Belushi, and Joy Bryant, among others.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

4. Amistad

Another Spielberg film, this one from 1997, tells the true story of an 1839 mutiny on the slave ship La Amistad, and the United States Supreme Court case which followed. The film stars Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey, and Morgan Freeman.

Where to Watch: Hulu (Showtime)

5. World Trade Center

Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña star in this 2006 Oliver Stone drama about the 9/11 attacks, and the real-life police officers (John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno) who survived being trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center during an evacuation attempt.

Where to Watch: Hulu | Amazon Prime

6. The Tuskegee Airmen

This 1995 television movie tells the true story of the first Black combat pilots in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., and more great actors star as the pilots who were also known as "Red Tails."

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

7. John Adams

Paul Giamatti stars as founding father John Adams in this seven-part miniseries, with Laura Linney co-starring as his wife Abigail. The series covers his life from the American Revolution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, through his presidency, to his death.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

8. 42

Before he was Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman starred as Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers player who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. The title comes from Robinson's number, 42, which was retired in 1997.

Where to Watch: Netflix

9. Hyde Park on Hudson

Another U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt, gets the Hollywood treatment in this film starring Bill Murray, about the 1939 visit of the King and Queen of England to FDR's estate. Laura Linney co-stars as Roosevelt's friend Margaret "Daisy" Suckley.

Where to Watch: Netflix

10. Turn

It just wouldn't be a list of Independence Day titles without at least one about the Revolutionary War. This AMC series dramatizes the formation of the Culper Ring, a group of spies in British-occupied New York during the Revolution.

Where to Watch: Netflix

11. Gangs of New York

Martin Scorsese's 2002 film, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio, examines topics such as immigration in a fictional story leading up to the real New York City draft riots of 1863. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

Where to Watch: Netflix

12. Southside With You

Why not add a little romance to your Fourth of July with this film starring Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter as future President Barack Obama and future First Lady Michelle Obama (then Robinson), getting to know each other on their first date in 1989 Chicago?

Where to Watch: Netflix


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