Birdy (1984)

R  |   |  Drama, War  |  21 December 1984 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 16,746 users  
Reviews: 60 user | 29 critic

After two friends return home from the Vietnam War one becomes mentally unstable and obsesses with becoming a bird.



(based on the novel by), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Harkins ...
Sandy Baron ...
Dolores Sage ...
Pat Ryan ...
Joe Sagessa (as Robert L. Ryan)
James Santini ...
Maud Winchester ...
Doris Robinson (as Maude Winchester)
Marshall Bell ...
Elizabeth Whitcraft ...
Sandra Beall ...


Philly boys Al and Birdy became friends in high school despite the extreme difference in their personalities, Al being the popular and athletic extrovert, Birdy the antisocial "weird" introvert. Al gave Birdy his nickname because of his fascination - obsession really - with birds, especially with flight. Al and Birdy have just completed their service of duty in the Vietnam War and have returned to the States. Al sustained some serious physical injuries, which required major reconstructive surgery to his face. Birdy, however, returned from Vietnam seemingly emotionally scarred. He was missing in action for one month. He has not spoken since he was found. Despite his own medical issues, Al travels to the institution where Birdy is being kept to see if he can assist in getting Birdy out of his near comatose state. Having always had issues with authority, Al is less than forthright with the doctors about Birdy's mental state prior to the war. As Al tries whatever he can to help Birdy ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A soaring experience unlike anything you've ever seen before.


Drama | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

21 December 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alas de libertad  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Star Billing: Matthew Modine (1st) and Nicolas Cage (2nd). See more »


Al calls Birdy "Al" (11:08) See more »


[about his psychiatrist]
Sergeant Al Columbato: I don't trust the guy. Everything's too interesting to him.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Animals: Perta ... Bird No. 9 Perta's Stunts ... Queepers Alfonso ... AS HIMSELF Cat ... Hobbie Dogs ... Sneaky, Willey, Ace, Prince, Tiger, Bo, Rudah, Chiggar, Tyko, Kelly, Red, Fantasy, Scooter. Seagull ... Jonathan Snake ... Monty Jungle Bird ... Horatio Pigeons ... No's. 1 to 84 See more »


References Gone with the Wind (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

An Outstanding Film About Friendship and Adversity
9 September 1999 | by (Tacoma, Washington) – See all my reviews

A friend of mine has been after me to watch "Birdy" for several months now. Yesterday we finally had a chance and much to my delight, I found the film to be everything she said it was and more.

"Birdy", directed by Alan Parker, is a story of friendship between Al (Nicholas Cage) and Birdy (Matthew Modine), two Philadelphia, Pa high schoolers who end up being sent to Vietnam. It is the early 1960's and Al could very easily be the street hood, but we can see he has a heart. He is tough (and will not back down from a fight) but plays ball with the neighborhood kids in the field which ajoins Birdy's house. Everytime a home run is hit, the ball flies over the fence and is scooped up by Birdy's mother, never to be seen again. Birdy's mother is uncompromising with his father and the neighborhood kids, a source of embarrassment and guilt which burdens Birdy, causing him to feel like an outsider. He is interested in birds and flight, which becomes a metaphor for Birdy's developing obsession with the idea of flying away from his increasingly unbearable family situation.

As a result of a misunderstanding regarding a stolen knife, Al warms to Birdy and sees there is more to this clumsy kid than meets the eye. Al is experiencing his own troubles with his father but deals with the situation in a different way than Birdy. The birds begin to fascinate Al and the two develop a close friendship which strengthens in troubled times and blooms in good times.

In Vietnam, Birdy finally faces a situation which he can't physically fly away from, which is a hundred times more horrible than his home life. And Al, although also in Vietnam, is not with him for support. Here is where Birdy's final breakdown occurs and it's up to Al, who now is dealing with his own physical scars, to bring Birdy back.

Alan Parker directed this film (from the novel "Birdy" by William Whorton, who also wrote the source novel for "A Midnight Clear") with a flashback narrative which works beautifully. Al and Birdy's friendship is fully developed and realistic. Both characters have depth and are engaging. Never has Nicholas Cage done as fine a work as his role as Al (his performance in "Guarding Tess" was close). His performance as Al made me wish he would choose more roles like this instead of "Face/Off" and "Con Air". Matthew Modine is excellent as Birdy. We can feel the emotional pain of a youth who didn't ask for any of this but uses his inner strength of character to stave off mental defeat.

Thankfully, the Vietnam sequences, although very well done, are short and few. This is not a film about Vietnam but a film about Al and Birdy. Birdy went to Vietnam with a pre-existing problem. Vietnam made it worse. There is some commentary concerning the military and the VA but it does not criticize. Although not always on the right track, the Army Major who brings Al (a wounded sergeant by this time) from Fort Dix to the VA psychiatric hospital to speak with Birdy made the right choice.

"Birdy" is one of those films which haunts the mind. I'm sure other elements and ideas from the film will become more apparent to me long after this writing. This is an outstanding character study which has been overlooked for too long.

37 of 40 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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