Whether you’re in a major American city, out in the suburbs or in a small town this Independence Day, chances are you’ll be watching a fireworks display of some sort. To get the party started before the big show, we at Indiewire have compiled a list of great fireworks scenes (or fireworks-related scenes…) in indie film.
“Adventureland” (Greg Mottola, 2009)
Greg Mottola’s “Adventureland” was a pretty superb follow-up to his hilarious and much-beloved “Superbad.” The film follows James (Jesse Eisenberg), a recent college grad (in the late 1980s) who works at a theme park the summer before he’s supposed to go to grad school. There, he meets a series of interesting characters, including “Em,” a troubled girl (and eventual love interest). In the “Adventureland” firework scene, we get a break from the twosome, who fail to explore their awkward, but inevitable relationship and get a nice view of the 4th of July treat.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)
In Benh Zeitlin’s breakout Sundance hit, six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) sees the beauty in the world — even as she confronts her father’s ailing health and an impending storm. In one of the film’s most colorful and joyous sequences, Hushpuppy runs around with sparklers until fireworks explode above her and her friends and family. It’s a celebratory moment that occurs just before the flood waters rise and threaten their home.
“Blue Valentine” (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
Over its two-hour running time, Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” takes you an emotional roller-coaster that doesn’t let up. That’s what makes the beautiful end credits sequence such a relief. Set to a swooning song by the indie rock band Grizzly Bear, the sequence (which you can view in full below) shows the film’s couple (played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) in much happier times with exploding fireworks framing their silhouettes (a fitting metaphor for the power of young love).
“Bottle Rocket” (Wes Anderson, 1996)
The film itself is named after a firework, so it’s only fair to include Wes Anderson’s debut on this list. Though Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Dignan (Owen Wilson) buy fireworks from a roadside stand, they never actually set any off in the film. Instead, they toss them out the window of their car when they’re on the lam and speeding down the highway. In that way, fireworks are used as a metaphor for something that is out-of-control — a life lived unpredictably and carelessly. As Anderson has said, “Bottle rockets are these dinky, cheap fireworks that explode but are illegal because they’re so hard to control and are so poorly made. They are the kind of thing that could catch a garage on fire but a neighbor with a garden hose could put it out.”
“Brokeback Mountain” (Ang Lee, 2005)
There’s nothing harder than hitting a low point in your life while others celebrate around you. When Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and his family settle in for a 4th of July fireworks display, the peace is interrupted by drunks in search of “pussy” — and it doesn’t take much before Ennis decides to use his fists to shut them up. However, as lights explode overhead, Ennis goes just a bit too far. It’s a visual punch of a moment, and also a key scene in the relationship between Ennis and Alma (Michelle Williams), showing how Ennis’s suppressed rage, as well as all the other emotions he’s suppressing, are what will ultimately drive him to a sad and lonely end.
“Goodbye, Lenin!” (Wolfgang Becker, 2004)
This meticulously crafted
look at a family that is uniquely effected by the union of East and West Germany features fireworks in a unique way. Reflecting both the nostalgia protagonist Alex feels when fireworks are
featured in his childhood, as well as when Germany wins the World Cup, [Spoilers follow] they are an outlet for honoring the wishes of
his deceased mother. Her request to have her ashes spread into the
wind is granted by launching her into fireworks during a celebration of
“The Sandlot” (David M. Evans, 1993)
Possibly the most quintessentially American moment to have ever graced the big screen, the Fourth of July sequence in this camp classic brings to life the ideal the movie represents. Benny knocks on his new friend’s door, “Night game, let’s go.” Scottie’s proclamation, “Mom, I’m going out.” Nine kids playing ball in the park under a colorful sky, their game lit by fireworks, all set to Ray Charles’ rendition of “America, The Beautiful.” No matter where you are from, this is a powerful, sentimental moment. In a film that celebrates growing up in a simple time and place, where summers are spent playing baseball, the Fourth of July scene is the most rewarding for all.
Those are ours — what are some of your favorites?