When I was writing my top five lists for summer movies, I purposely left off a few, anticipating this list which is specifically curated for not only the Fourth of July, but further narrowed to contain only horror movies of the 1980s. That’s right, that means no Jaws, no Independence Day, and no I Know What You Did Last Summer. Can it even be done?
Well, probably not. Which is why I've knocked it down to only three movies and made one major ruling right at the start: the movies don’t have to be about the holiday. That may seem a bit like a cheat, but I’d argue that some of these picks are classic July 4th views despite the lack of specific mention. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest The Shining should be on this list just because of that creepy photo being labeled as the "July 4th Ball," but I do bend some rules, as you’ll see with my first pick.
#3: Blow Out
I’m starting off the list with one of those “wiggle room” movies because Blow Out is technically listed as a neo-noir mystery thriller film. Still, if giallo and Hitchcock movies (from which Brian De Palma drew inspiration) can be lumped into the horror genre, then Blow Out can too.
The movie is about a sound effects designer (John Travolta) who unwittingly catches the assassination of a presidential candidate on audio, throwing him headfirst into a political conspiracy. Although this film doesn’t take place on the Fourth of July, it does coincide with a fictional holiday called Liberty Day, and we get a fantastic firework-related finale to boot.
If you've never seen this one, I'd argue it's an apt addition to your Independence Day viewing. Apparently The Mahoning Drive-In agrees, as this is one of the three films they are showing this Fourth of July weekend, and they had this to say: "BLOW OUT (1981), De Palma’s take on Antonioni’s Blow Up '66. This thriller expertly mixes suspense, mystery and horror into gritty noir mix."
#2: Silver Bullet
Of my three choices for this list, I’d say Silver Bullet is probably the closest thing to an actual Fourth of July movie. This classic, based on Stephen King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf, is centered around a canceled Independence Day celebration, which ultimately leads to an intense fireworks scene (spoiler warning for the attached video).
Silver Bullet plays out like a mystery whodunit...with a werewolf. There are mysterious murders in town (which is what causes the canceled holiday), and like so many Stephen King stories, it’s up to a kid (Marty, played by Corey Haim) to investigate and discover who the killer is. In other words, it’s awesome. I find myself returning to this flick every year around the 4th, and it never fails to entertain.
#1: Return of the Living Dead
As much as I love Silver Bullet, I had to give the top spot to Return of the Living Dead. It’s not because it has a better connection to the holiday (it doesn't). Frankly there’s barely any mention of Independence Day, besides taking place July 3rd into July 4th. I chose it because this just happens to be a stellar horror movie, and the setting gives us a perfect excuse to watch it every year for the Fourth of July.
The horror comedy introduced the trope of zombies eating brains and also gave us talking zombies as well as another twist which I will not spoil here for the uninitiated. All you have to know is a gas called Trioxin is released into the atmosphere, causing zombies to rise and bloody hilarity to ensue.
If you’re willing to step outside the ‘80s by a couple years, there’s a whole slew of horror movies you can add to your viewing list like Jaws, Cape Fear, and Piranha. But if you want to stick solely to the wonderful ‘80s, I hope you enjoy these three picks for your upcoming Independence Day celebration.