My father used to say, “I don’t know why you have a color television set. You never watch anything in color!” Which has simultaneously been a source of humor and ridicule in my family. Yet, who do the little dears rely on to entertainment them every 4th once they’re suitably pruned from swimming, stuffed with BBQ, and between board games? You’re talking to her.

In fact, I’m expected to be prepared with assorted options on all manner of music, movies, TV, podcasts, and books. This means selections designed to entertain ages 8 to 80+ among our ever-growing consortium. It’s when I’m flanked with this mob I discover some of my greatest inspiration, and feed my imagination with elements inadvertently offered by my favorite people on the planet: my family.

And while it’s true, I am an old movie fanatic, I’ve been humbled to the level of a rank amateur compared to many I’ve met over the past year after joining TCM Backlot.

Nevertheless, downtime with the people you like the best allows you the opportunity to share a collective experience. So, with that in mind, should you find yourself surrounded by family and friends, or even if you’re all by yourself—if you suddenly find you have a little time, even if the fireworks aren’t rained out… I strongly recommend the following to get you into the spirit of summer and Independence Day.


  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) Musical, mock-historical, family fun!
  • Jaws (1975) Suspenseful, scary. Classic! 12 yrs or older.
  • Head Above Water (1996) Black comedy I think you’ll love if you’re 8 or older.
  • You Can’t Take It With You (1938) Frank Capra directed before “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Full of fireworks. FEEL good. You’ll be surprised how much everything old is new again.
  • Sergeant York (1941) This one will surprise you… in the best way possible! It won Academy Awards for Best Actor & Picture!
  • Holiday Inn (1942) Irving Berlin wrote the music. Fred Astaire makes my 4th with his scene stealing! Great stuff!
  • Dead Calm (1989) Chilling, suspenseful. Hope you can swim.
  • Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Democracy, overcoming the bureaucrats and crooked politicians, Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra well before Christmas. What’s not to love?
  • Stand By Me (1986) Summer, friends, nostalgia, and a missing kid equal adventure, suspense, and fun!
  • Annie Get Your Gun (1950) Any thing you can do, she can do better. Yes she can, yes she can, yes she can!
  • Bottle Rocket (1996) Comedy, Wes Andersen’s debut feature. Hilarious!
  • Captains’ Courageous (1937) Won Best Picture, best actor AND best young actor! This is my favorite film of all time. (Perfect for a rainy day. Or any other time, frankly.) It leaves you wanting to watch more movies like this!


  • The Handmaid’s Tale (HULU)
  • Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • The Twilight Zone (NETFLIX)
  • Better Call Saul (AMC)
  • Orphan Black (BBC America)
  • Seinfeld (HULU)
  • The Americans (FXX)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO) (I know, I know. You’ve been meaning to, but…)

GO to the Movies:

  • The Incredibles 2 Simply amazing! Fun for all, whether you saw the first one or not! SEE IT! Worth every second!
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? The Mr. Rogers documentary you may have heard about… that’s a Must-See!
  • Ocean’s 8 Oh, yes, these skinny b****es rule! Pure entertainment! Guys like it too, Goils. Invite them!
  • RBG Yep, another documentary. Consider it ‘Info-tainment’! ‘Cuz it is!
  • Black Panther What do you mean you haven’t seen it yet? Get ye to the movies already! Game changer, pure and simple.
  • Love, Cecil Just go already. Something for everyone.
  • Hearts Beat Loud Nick Offerman and the rest… is a delightful surprise!
  • Boundaries Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga star. Every summer deserves a good ROAD TRIP! ; )

What to READ:

  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote (short stories)
  • The Goldfinch By Donna Tartt
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Cider House Rules by John Irving
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Fire up your imagination and enjoy the holiday. Celebrate the summer! And be sure to feed your read.


Copyright © 2018 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.