Fourth of July Movie Guide: American Landscapes Onscreen – American Film Institute
A blog post image featuring the title of the Fourth of July Movie Guide. The title is placed over a film still from NOMADLAND: Fern (Frances McDormand) is walking across an open field holding a lantern. The clouds, set against a blue-ish gray sky, are a tinged dark orange from the setting sun.


Fourth of July Movie Guide: American Landscapes Onscreen

To mark the Fourth of July holiday, AFI is celebrating the urban and rural iconography representing the vast diversity of landscapes across the United States. We recognize the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage from sea to shining sea, captured in the following powerful films that have been named to our AFI lists, honored with AFI AWARDS or selected for AFI Movie Club.


On the right corner is the AFI 100 YEARS...1000 MOVIES logo. Film still from DO THE RIGHT THING: On a blistering hot summer day in Brooklyn, residents of a brownstone-lined street play in the water shooting our from a fire hydrant.

Set in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood during a sweltering summer day, Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING (1989) explores the racial strife exacerbated by a heat wave in the melting pot that is New York City. Appearing on AFI’s list of the greatest American films, the film uses NYC as a colorful backdrop from the start with its iconic opening of Rosie Perez dancing in front of a brownstone backdrop to “Fight the Power” – ranked #40 on AFI’s list of the greatest movie songs of all time. A microcosm of America at large, the film underscores the escalating tension with its searing color palette and street art as social criticism. Watch Production Designer Wynn Thomas talk about the film and read more about DO THE RIGHT THING in the AFI Catalog.


In the right corner, there is an AFI Movie Club logo. The film still is from EVE'S BAYOU: On the left side of the image are a cluster of the trees. Just off-center to the right, one majestic tall tree grows out of the bayou. A deep yellow sun peeks out through its branches, standing out against hazy pink sky.

Centered on the Creole-American community of 1960s rural Louisiana, EVE’S BAYOU (1997) uses its Southern Gothic setting to full effect, blending mystery, memory, family lore and voodoo to tell the story of a precocious young girl who witnesses her adoring father’s infidelity on her mother and must navigate the consequences of his actions. The film marked the directorial debut of Kasi Lemmons and features the cinematography by AFI Conservatory Alum Amy Vincent (AFI Class of 1991). Read more about AFI Movie Club selection EVE’S BAYOU.


On the right corner is the AFI 100 YEARS...100 MOVIES logo. The film still is from FARGO: The image -- a wide shot taken from high above the ground) shows a Paul Bunyan statue on the side of a road. Snow covers the ground on either side of a road. A lone car drives toward the camera.

Set against the snowy, frozen plains of North Dakota, the dark neo-noir FARGO (1996) follows a tenacious, peppy pregnant police chief who is tasked with tracking down some very inept criminals whose attempts to extort a ransom go terribly awry. Ranked by AFI as one of the top 100 funniest films of all time, the Coen brothers’ snowbound, screwball comedy was also honored with two Academy Awards® for Best Actress (Frances McDormand) and Best Original Screenplay. Read more about FARGO in the AFI Catalog.


In the right corner is the AFI's 100 YEARS...100 MOVIES logo. The film still is the famous beach kissing scene from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) transported audiences to the beautiful shores of Oahu, following the trials and tribulations of three U.S. soldiers, played by Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra, who are stationed on Hawaii in the months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Named by AFI as one of the greatest love stories ever, the scene filmed at Halona Beach Cove in which Sgt. Milton Warden (Lancaster) and Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr) kiss in the sand as waves crash over them has become one of the most recognizable moments in cinematic history. The film ultimately went on to win eight Oscars® including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra) and Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed). Read more about the making of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY in the AFI Catalog.


In the corner is the AFI AWARDS logo. The film still is from LA LA LAND and shows Mia and Sebastian (played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) dancing with a purple sky and the lights of Los Angeles in the background.

“City of stars, are you shining just for me?” In this love letter to Los Angeles and beloved classic musicals, Mia and Sebastian, played with wit and charm to spare by Academy Award® winner Emma Stone and Academy Award® nominee Ryan Gosling, use the city as their own personal playground to showcase some of LA’s most iconic landmarks and vistas, from Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood Hills. The film, which provides plenty of nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood, won six Academy Awards® and was honored with a 2016 AFI AWARD. Read more about LA LA LAND (2016).


In the corner, the AFI AWARDS logo. A film still from MOONLIGHT. The main character as a young boy, CHIRON, stands on the edge of a beach and looks into the water. He is in profile silhouette against the sky.

From the lush tropical palm trees and bright blue sky to the sweltering sun and breathtaking water, MOONLIGHT (2016) explores the color and light of Miami in writer/director Barry Jenkins’ poetic tour de force. Across three chapters set in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, Chiron wrestles with societal expectations about identity, sexuality, family and masculinity as he journeys to self-realization. The film was honored with a 2005 AFI AWARD and three Academy Awards®, including Best Picture. Watch this exclusive AFI video of Barry Jenkins talk about the swimming scene. Read more about MOONLIGHT in the AFI Catalog.


In the righthand lower corner is the AFI AWARDS logo. The image is a film still from NOMADLAND: Fern (Frances McDormand) is walking across an open field holding a lantern. The clouds, set against a blue-ish gray sky, are a tinged dark orange from the setting sun.

Now widowed and traveling in a modified van that doubles as her home, Fern’s odyssey across America takes her from Arizona and Nevada to the Badlands and California, finding community among her fellow nomads of all ages. The beauty of the landscapes is captured in all its glory by cinematographer Joshua James Richards with direction from Academy Award® winner Chloé Zhao. NOMADLAND (2020) was honored with a 2020 AFI AWARD and three Academy Awards®, including Best Picture. Read more about NOMADLAND in the AFI Catalog.


In the lower righthand corner is the AFI Movie Club Logo. The image is from SMOKE SIGNALS and shows a character walking alongside a road. A car has passed the person on the road. Nearby is flat land covered in grass. There are mountains in the distance.

The theatrical debut of director Chris Eyre – a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Nations, SMOKE SIGNALS (1998) centers on two Native American friends who set off on an epic road trip to pay tribute to one of their fathers who has recently passed away and retrieve his ashes. Traveling from Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation to Phoenix, AZ, the pair must come to terms with their divergent memories of their departed elder with whom they have a complicated history. Showcasing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the complexity and nuance of two descendants of the original stewards of these lands, the film is widely regarded as the first movie to be written, directed and co-produced by Native Americans. Read more about the AFI Movie Club selection SMOKE SIGNALS.


There is and AFI 100 Years...100 Movies logo in the lower righthand corner. The film still is from THELMA & LOUISE and shows the two main characters driving in their iconic convertible with red rock landscapes in the background.

Featuring sweeping, panoramic views of the American southwest, THELMA & LOUISE (1991) stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon as two best friends who embark on a weekend getaway, only for a tragic incident to propel them into a brave, new world as accidental outlaws on the run. With the hope of taking refuge in Mexico on their minds, the duo flees across the country in their iconic Ford Thunderbird, taking in the scope and splendor of the desert plains and rust-red canyons of the southwest. AFI ranked the feature as one of the most thrilling and inspiring films in cinematic history, and Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer were also jointly named to AFI’s list of film’s greatest heroes. For more about THELMA & LOUISE, visit the AFI Catalog.

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