You may not be ready to return to the theater or join the crowds for a front-row fireworks display this 4th of July weekend, but streaming has you covered. From blockbuster movies to musical civics lessons to big-name performances and big-city pyrotechnics, here are some recommendations for what to stream over the holiday—and where to find all that content.
No Sudden Move
A fresh spin on the Ocean’s Eleven heist movie, Stephen Soderbergh’s latest all-star caper is set in a less splashy time and place: racially divided 1950’s Detroit, headquarters to a corrupt auto industry and equally corrupt police precincts. The Fourth of July blockbuster — created for the big screen but will settle for your big screen TV — is a taut, twisty tale about small-time criminals trying to figure out who hired them and why as their mission goes off the rails.
Much like the Ocean’s franchise, its biggest appeal lies in the unlikely ensemble of Gen-X male leads: Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Kieran Culkin, Brendan Fraser, and Ray Liotta. While some critics have taken issue with its lack of Oceans-level flare, others have embraced the film’s tension, shifting points of view, and unexpected moments. As for racially torn 1950s Detroit, it’s left up to you, the viewer, to draw any substantive conclusions.
Where to stream No Sudden Move: HBOMax
A gritty, lower-budget sci-fi film that subverts the superhero genre, Archenemy stars Joe Manganiello as a drunk claiming he was dropped to earth through a time portal — somehow losing his super powers en route. One person believes him: a teenager named Hamster. When Hamster gets into hot water with a violent drug syndicate, Max becomes a hellfire vigilante determined to prove his story and save the day. Muddled and bleak in parts, it has its proponents: “It’s a spry and inventive take on storytelling as something genetic and mutable, the way that cultures adapt, and how perspective can be a bridge and/or a weapon.” — Nashville Scene’s Jason Shawhan (Full Review)
Where to stream Archenemy: On demand at Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Prime—or on AMC+
Summer of Soul (or … When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)
It won the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries and the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and just in time for the big holiday weekend, it’s dropping on Hulu—a powerful history lesson and transporting concert experience all in one. Directed by Questlove, the film brings to life six historic weeks during the summer of 1969, when thousands came together to attend the Harlem Cultural Festival to celebrate Black history, culture, and music. It captures performances from Nina Simone, B.B. King, Mavis Staples, Sly & The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln, and Max Roach. These musicians, who would define the next three decades, came together during a watershed moment. “The most astounding discovery I had doing this film was that all these great talents gathered and gave their time and their energy and their creativity to this festival,” Questlove explains in a video that aired before its Sundance debut. “This is three months before Woodstock happened. And it was recorded and documented and when it was over, just like that; it was done in a flash. Nobody cared.” They will now.
Where to stream Summer of Soul: Hulu
A group of time travelers arrive in the present from the year 2051–and they’re here with an urgent call to action: the future mankind is losing a war against an alien species. Their only hope is to recruit and transport soldiers and civilians from 2021 to future to join the fight. It’s up to unlikely high-school teacher Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) to team up with gorgeous scientist (Yvonne Strahovski, Handmaid’s Tale) and his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) to save the future for his young daughter. Another intended 4th of July blockbuster, this one is limited to Prime Video, and the reviews are mixed. From the AP: “The Tomorrow War spends most of its time in the future, but its central theme is timeless: the replayed tragedy that sometimes you don’t come home the same from war.” (Full review) On the other hand, here’s Uproxx: “A big, dumb, blockbuster starring Chris Pratt as a ripped science teacher who punches giant lice to death.” (Full review)
Where to stream Tomorrow War: Prime Video
We the People
From the Obamas comes this well-timed, fresh take on Schoolhouse Rock, a creatively animated series that mixes R&B and hip-hop music with civics lessons that range from civil rights to the electoral system to taxes. Each short delivers a catchy, simple takeaway, explained in song by musicians including Janelle Monáe, H.E.R., Adam Lambert, and Brandi Carlile. The ideal edu-tainment to settle the kids after an over-stimulating weekend.
Where to stream We the People: Netflix
A Capitol Fourth (8:00 – 10:00 p.m. ET)
Washington DC’s Independence Day celebration, in its 41st year, aims to give the PBS audience their own version of the talent, performances, and pyrotechnics of New York’s splashier show. Hosted by Vanessa Williams, this year’s performances include Gladys Knight, appearing 52 years after her appearance at the Harlem Cultural Festival, captured in Hulu’s Summer of Soul, along with Jimmy Buffett, Renée Fleming, Cynthia Erivo, Mickey Guyton, Alan Jackson, Pentatonix, and, for the younger set, Train.
Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show (8:00 – 10:00 p.m. ET)
A drone light show, a tribute to the Tokyo-bound Team USA Olympians, and an all-star lineup of musical performances will set the stage for the 45th anniversary of the Macy’s 4th of July show, historically the highest wattage display of the pyrotechnics. Musical acts include the Jonas Brothers, Blake Shelton and Marshmello, Coldplay, the Black Pumas, One Republic, and Reba McEntire—setting the stage for the live half-hour fireworks spectacular that will light up the Manhattan skyline.
Where to stream Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show: NBC
Boston Pops Spectacular Concert (8:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET)
As the lore goes, it was the Boston Tea Party that set off the events of the American Revolution, so watching the fireworks over Boston harbor has always had a special significance. After cancelling last year’s tradition, the Boston Pops July 4th Spectacular returns to their home at Tanglewood, led by conductor Keith Lockhart and the Pops, with performers including Jon Batiste and Mavis Staples. A fireworks finale will occur on Boston Common at 10:30 p.m. ET. Where to stream 2021 Boston Pops Spectacular Concert: Live TV – Bloomberg
And Don’t Forget…
There’s no better time than July 4th week to watch or re-watch this dazzling, rousing, and revolutionary cultural phenomenon, which will captivate the entire family (11+). Hamilton makes American history fresh, relevant, and exciting with its modern musical tribute to the man who played the biggest role in shaping the constitution and our economic foundations.
Weaving together hip hop, show tunes, jazz and R&B, the Broadway show managed to unify politicians on both sides of the aisle (“It’s the one thing Dick Cheney and I can agree on,” then-President Barack Obama said in 2016.)
Most relevant for our current moment, Hamilton has inspired a new generation, earning a tribute in this final line of Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem in January: “History has its eyes on us.” Read our full recommendation here.
Where to stream Hamilton: Disney+
For those who remember the bicentennial era (and even those who don’t) this series has some powerful insights into when our political divides started widening. Mrs. America will challenge you to see current events in a whole new light. With an all-star cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Sarah Paulson, Elizabeth Banks, and James Marsden, among many others, it tackles the 1970s fight over the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, peeling back the layers to explore the personal lives and ideological beliefs of the women leading the movements both for and against it.
Sex is a thematic element in both senses of the word, so this is not for the younger audiences (15+ is recommended). The series raises questions about the pros and cons of “family values” as a political football, and asks how much of our modern-day #MeToo lens we should use in viewing recent history. Binge-worthy and thought provoking, you will want to talk about this one. Read our full recommendation here.
Where to stream Mrs. America: Hulu
Did you cut the cord? Here are the best ways to stream live TV right now:
For $65 per month, YouTube TV delivers over 85 news, entertainment, and sports channels on the video platform’s live streaming service, as well as unlimited recording storage and access for six accounts. In addition to on-demand streaming, Hulu offers a Live TV service at the same $65 per month price point, with all major cable news, entertainment, and sports channels and networks–and the ability to record content. Add in Disney+ and ESPN+ (starting at $20 per month) and premium channels including HBO Max, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and many others. Sign up for YouTube TV
In addition to on-demand streaming, Hulu offers a Live TV service at the same $65 per month price point with all major cable news, entertainment, and sports channels and networks—and the ability to record content as well. Add in Disney+ and ESPN+ (starting at $20 per month) and premium channels including HBO Max, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and many others. Sign up for Hulu Live
Also starting at $65 per month, Fubo offers a range of plans with a minimum of 115 channels, including most of the popular news, entertainment, lifestyle, and sports networks. Sign up for Fubo
If you’re looking for a lower price point, Philo offers live and on-demand TV from over 60 entertainment and lifestyle channels starting at $25 per month. The services is weak on news and sports however, with the exception of Bloomberg TV and Cheddar News. But you can add in premium channels like Epix and Starz for an extra $6 to $9 per month. Sign up for Philo