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Movies to Watch about First Responders This Labor Day Weekend

If you’ve got a steady work schedule, chances are you’re able to spend a little chunk of your three-day weekend taking a breather from life realities. Lucky you!

The Best Movies to Watch about First Responders This Labor Day Weekend

Some of the most important people that keep society going are first responders. On a good day, their jobs are rewarding. On a bad day, however, lives are forever changed and people die. It’s a profession not for the faint of heart. We’ve made a short list of films to honor those who risk their lives and their mental well-being to keep us safe.

The Call (2013)

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Everyone loves a Halle Berry film, right? In The Call, her emotions are palpable. The viewer follows her character, Jordan Turner, a 911 dispatcher as she tragically fails a teenage murder victim, and then comes back to save another teen from a sick, twisted abduction. Convincing performances by Berry and Abigail Breslin as a kidnapped teen make this thriller directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Vanishing on 7th Street) a squirmy, difficult watch but it definitely reminds us of the value of thinking on your feet.

The Guilty (2021)

The original version of The Guilty is Danish. Around the end of 2018, it was announced that Jake Gyllenhall had bought the rights to the film. His remake of the intense thriller, by all accounts, stays pretty true to the original – a troubled police officer awaiting a disciplinary trial intercepts a 911 call that’s cut short before all the necessary information is given. What follows is a downward spiral of desperate pleas, attempts and revelations that remind the viewer about what could happen if you don’t stay in your lane. Filmed during COVID, this movie is pretty much all Gyllenhall alongside a talented, well-known cast giving voiced performances. Beware: this film comes with a huge trigger warning.

Ladder 49 (2004)

Told as a series of flashbacks, John Travolta and a fresh-faced Joaquin Phoenix star in this disaster thriller about fighting fires in Baltimore. Perhaps one of the more character-developed films on this list, the late Roger Ebert claimed it left him feeling “thoughtful and sad.” “It’s about character, and about the kind of man who risks his life for a living. And it’s about work, about what kind of a job it is to be a fireman,” Ebert wrote.

Reno 911!: The Hunt For QANON (2021)

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Perhaps you’re already familiar with the Comedy Central mockumentary about super incompetent cops that was cancelled in 2009 after a six-season run. And perhaps you’ve even seen 2007’s Reno 911!: Miami? But did you know there was a second feature film with all the same cast members and improvised dialogue? Dangle, Wiegel, Jones, Clementine, Williams and the rest reunite to breathe life back into their 22-year-old characters as they look for Q … the person. It’s silly and totally unrealistic but kind of crazy to see that these guys have still got it after all this time.

Backdraft (1991)

Backdraft was a huge movie when it came out 32 years ago. It had an all-star cast (Robert DeNiro, Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, and Jennifer Jason Leigh) and crazy, amazing special effects for the time. Filmed in Chicago, and directed by Ron Howard, the film was praised (three technical Oscar nominations) more for the spectacle than the storyline. But, hey, it was 1991 and we were in the middle of a war. The time was ripe for flawed heroes and mindless entertainment.

Black Flies (2023)

Fresh from the screens of the Cannes Film Festival, Tye Sheridan (Tree of Life, Ready Player One) and Sean Penn play Ollie and Gene “Rut” Rutovsky, a quintessential rookie-and-veteran team of paramedics in NYC. The film is based on an 2008 autobiographical novel of the same name by Shannon Burke. His experiences as a paramedic in the depths of the mid ’90s crack epidemic form the basis of this work that was a New York Times Notable Book in 2008.  It’s pretty dark – gang shootings. domestic violence, birth, death, and euthanasia – so maybe check this one out without the kids around.


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