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8 True Stories to Watch This Independence Day

The 4th of July is a perfect time to brush up on American history. And what better way to learn than through movies and TV?

July 4 is right around the corner, so start up your grill and enjoy some well-earned time off. While you’re munching on hot dogs and apple pie, why not celebrate your country by learning more about it?

Here’s a list of eight historical movies and TV shows that tell true stories, spanning almost 250 years of American history.

More of a current events person?

There’s more than one way to learn about your country. Check out our guide to watching the January 6 committee hearings.


1776 | 1770s | fuboTV

Experience the story of the nation’s birth as told through songs written in the late 1960s. 1776 follows the founding fathers as they craft the Declaration of Independence, although it disappointingly leaves out the part where they draw a treasure map on the back in invisible ink.

A reimagined revival of this musical is landing on Broadway sometime in the near future, so now’s the perfect time to get familiar with the songs before next year’s Tony Awards. If you don’t have fuboTV, the movie’s also airing on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) at 2:15 p.m. ET on July 4.

Drunk History | Assorted time periods | Hulu

From revolutionaries to whistleblowers, this show provides a boozy journey through American history. If you prefer your edutainment to not take itself too seriously, this one’s for you. It’s also a great place to catch cameos from your favorite actors, including Jack Black, Kristen Wiig, and Aubrey Plaza.

A League of Their Own | 1940s | Roku Channel

You can’t talk about American history through film without at least one sports movie.

Our pick this year is A League of Their Own, the classic ’90s film starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna. If you’re unfamiliar, the movie follows the players of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, created while many male baseball players were away fighting in World War II.

Amazon’s spin-off show is coming to Prime Video in August, so why not take some time to relive the original?


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | 1950s and 2000s | HBO Max

One sample of cervical cancer cells, nicknamed HeLa, revolutionized modern medicine in the 20th century. The only problem? The cells were harvested unethically from a Black woman named Henrietta Lacks, and neither she nor her family were asked permission or compensated for their use.

This movie follows journalist Rebecca Skloot’s journey to tell Lacks’ story—a story-within-a-story, if you will. Oprah Winfrey stars as Lacks’ daughter, Deborah.

Hidden Figures | 1960s | Hulu

Starring the talented trio of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures follows three Black women who played vital parts in NASA’s Space Race. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars—and for good reason. It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of computers and space travel.


The Janes | 1970s | HBO Max

This story is told in the form of interviews with the women who called themselves “The Janes”—a network of activists who connected around 11,000 people to low-cost abortions in pre–Roe v. Wade America. Calling this film timely feels like an understatement.

The Times of Harvey Milk | 1970s | HBO Max

The Times of Harvey Milk follows the life of Harvey Milk as he becomes San Francisco’s first openly gay public official, as well as his tragic assassination at the hands of his colleague. Narrated by Harvey Fierstein, this documentary premiered just six years after Milk’s death. In 2012, the Library of Congress selected it for the National Film Registry.

The G Word | 2020s | Netflix

Adam may have already ruined everything, but now he’s back to ruin the government, too. The G Word focuses on real US government workers, including those in healthcare, food production, and defense. It’s a fascinating look at how our country works. It also boasts an impressive cast, including James Austin Johnson from SNL, Raphael Chestang from College Humor, and Barack Obama from The Presidency of the United States of America.

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