Born & Bred Movie Heroes


By Molly Freeman

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There are many long-standing traditions to uphold during the United States of America’s Independence Day. One common way to spend the day is at a typical barbecue party, which involves getting together with friends, grilling standard foods like burgers and hot dogs, drinking beer or whiskey, and eating pie before setting off some sparklers.

However, another way to celebrate the Fourth of July–or how to spend the day after the holiday while nursing a hangover–is with a good old fashion movie marathon. There are plenty of films that feature America’s birthday, like Born on the Fourth of July, or others that follow important moments in the country’s history, such as Glory. Indeed, the summer season is also a time for blockbusters.

In that vein, America has produced a lengthy list of action movie stars who have become major celebrities by saving the country–or the entire world–on the big screen. Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris, Wesley Snipes, and Steven Seagal are all known for their heroic performances in classic action films.

But, what of the characters on screen? Who are America’s homegrown fictional heroes? In honor of Made in the USA Week on BTR we’ve named our four favorite fictional film heroes who hail from the Land of the Free.

Captain Steve Hiller (Will Smith), Independence Day

There are multiple heroes in Independence Day since it, arguably, follows at least five different characters as they prepare for and deal with the consequences of the alien invasion. However, Steve Hiller is arguably the main hero of Independence Day, without whom the entire Earth would have succumbed to the extraterrestrial invaders.

Engaging his piloting skills to not only be the first to take down one of the alien ships, but help eliminate the entire fleet, Hiller is integral to the US’s attack on the antagonistic aliens. Although David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) designs the virus that demolishes the aliens’ defenses, he would have never been able to deliver the program to the mothership without Hiller, who proved himself to be a hero to not simply America but all of Earth.

John McClane (Bruce Willis), Die Hard series

Is there a more quintessential American hero than John McClane? He takes down whole terrorist groups (almost entirely) by himself on a fairly regular basis. He has quippy one-liners that have been so ingrained in pop culture that they’ll never be forgotten.

Although, if you truly think about it, Die Hard is more of a Christmas movie than a film for the Fourth of July. McClane still embodies enough of the American spirit to make up for the Christmas lights. Of course, McClane isn’t perfect, but his success at being a hero anyway is why he makes the list.

President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), Independence Day

In honor of Independence Day, Independence Day is on our list twice, so we’re giving a distinguishable honor to the film’s US President, Thomas Whitmore. Though he spends much of the movie fighting the alien invaders using his leadership and diplomatic skills, Whitmore flies a fighter plane in the final battle.

That being said, the reason Whitmore is on this list is his classic–dare we say, historic–speech rallying his fellow Americans: “Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist.”

It is a moving speech that every respectable American film fan should know by heart, and Whitmore is a true hero for delivering it with such passion.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America himself, Steve Rogers, is of course a part of our list of fictional American heroes. Though Rogers has appeared in other films, including The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, his transition from a scrawny Brooklyn kid to a brave leader best exemplifies his status as a hero.

There are plenty of scenes throughout the film that illustrate what makes Captain America a hero, like skydiving into Nazi territory to rescue his best friend or jumping on a (fake) grenade to save his fellow soldiers. However, Abraham Erskine sums Rogers up best: “not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

Besides, how could we write a list of our favorite fictional American heroes without including the “Star Spangled Man with a Plan.”