Picnics with hot dogs, fireworks with sparklers, miniature American flags with parades. They’re all fine and dandy, but don’t you want to catch some of the explosively entertaining options available at area movie theaters this long holiday weekend? There are plenty of classics in limited and/or repertory release. Check out my picks for your July 4th (or July 4th adjacent) best bets:


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Wednesday, July 2 through Thursday, July 10: Snowpiercer (St. Anthony Main Theater)

Most who saw it felt Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho’s creature feature The Host bested just about anything comparable Hollywood’s managed to come up with lately, thanks to its unpredictable tone, it’s attention to character details, and its constantly off-kilter visuals. Well, now Bong has come about as close to Hollywood as he’s likely to get with his apocalyptic Snowpiercer, yet another environmentally-aware science fiction epic. Starring The Host cast members Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung along with the likes of Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, and Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer applies Bong’s dazzling sensibility to a climate change parable.


Thursday, July 3: The Return of the Living Dead (Theatres at Mall of America)

“Send more paramedics!” While there can be no equal to George A. Romero’s original zombie trilogy, Dan O’Bannon (Alien) directed what is unquestionably the strongest contender for the alternative crown. With unmistakable whiffs of punk subculture pulsing through its jaundiced, blackly comedic veins, The Return of the Living Dead is an absolute riot. Because it takes place on July 3, the Mall of America is presenting a special screening of the film as part of its “Horror for the Holidays” series. See it, and then pretend you’re one of Dawn of the Dead‘s zombies stumbling around the Monroeville Mall.


Thursday, July 3: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Nicollet Island)

Marion wielding a frying pan. Melting Nazi heads. “I hate snakes!” In other words, a film that needs no introduction. My heart remains with the absolutely bonkers Temple of Doom as the best Indiana Jones movie, but I’m big enough to admit that history is not going to be on my side regarding that personal preference. There can be no other.

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Friday, July 4 and Saturday, July 5: Back to the Future (Uptown Theater)

It’s a good week for screenings of the biggest and best summer blockbusters from years gone by. In fact, I rank this one among the 10 best ever. To wit: “Just as critics were starting to tire of the hegemony of summer action movies, along came the miraculous Back to the Future, which managed to radiate charm (Michael J. Fox said the movie turned him into ‘Mickey Mouse’) and craft in equal measure. Oh, and intelligence. In stark contrast to, say, every single action blockbuster in the last 15 years, Back to the Future‘s secret weapon is its ingenious, Rube Goldbergian screenplay, which juggles multiple time periods and temporal paradoxes so deftly, it makes Christopher Nolan (Inception) look hopelessly clumsy.”


Friday, July 4 through Thursday, July 1: A Hard Days Night (Trylon Microcinema)

The sort of movie you may as well sell like those old Time-Life music collection infomercials. “Can’t Buy Me Love.” “Tell Me Why.” “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.” “And I Love Her.” “A Hard Day’s Night.” The Beatles’ first film, and their best. The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul presents a brand new remaster of the film in honor of its 50th anniversary.


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Eric Henderson