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Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

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The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.

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Writers:

(book), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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978 ( 2,070)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 13 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Ron Kovic
... Mr. Kovic
... Mrs. Kovic
Josh Evans ... Tommy Kovic
Jamie Talisman ... Jimmy Kovic
... Suzanne Kovic
Samantha Larkin ... Patty Kovic
... Recruiting Gunnery Sgt. Hayes
... Timmy
... Steve Boyer
Richard Panebianco ... Joey Walsh
Rob Camilletti ... Tommy Finnelli
... Billy Vorsovich
Michael McTighe ... Danny Fantozzi
Richard Haus ... Recruiting Sgt. Bowers
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Storyline

The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A story of innocence lost and courage found.

Genres:

Biography | Drama | War

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

5 January 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Nacido el cuatro de julio  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$172,021, 25 December 1989, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$70,001,698

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$161,001,698
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Oliver Stone and Tom Cruise both expressed interest in using a nerve agent to cause genuine paralysis in Cruise's legs, but they were unable to find a substance that was safe enough to guarantee no permanent damage. See more »

Goofs

In the movie, Ron is visiting a leader of the 1970 Syracuse University strike. As students listen to speakers (among them the late Abbie Hoffman) an army of Syracuse policemen, identifiable by their shoulder patches, mass on campus. Wearing full riot gear, they rap their shields with their nightsticks, and, unprovoked, attack the student assembly. One even cracks wheelchair-bound Ron over the head. New York State Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, a Democrat, was a Syracuse student in 1970 who participated in that strike. "It was totally unlike the characterization in the movie," she says, describing the peaceful week-long strike. "There was no police presence even within sight. At no time was there any show of force, or any attempt to disperse students listening to speakers. It troubles me to see police officers maligned for Hollywood sensationalism." See more »

Quotes

Ron Kovic: When I was in the hospital, I thought, yeah - yeah, this makes sense.
Timmy Burns: What makes sense?
Ron Kovic: Because I failed, Timmy.
Timmy Burns: What are you talking about?
Ron Kovic: Because I - I killed some - people; I made some terrible - mistakes!
Timmy Burns: Oh, for Christ's sake, Ronnie, we all made mistakes. I mean, you - you had no choice. That's something that those goddamn pansy demonstrators ain't never gonna understand! Now, you don't even have to talk about it, Ronnie; I mean, it was insane over there! It was crazy!
Ron Kovic: Sometimes I wish, ...
[...]
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Crazy Credits

Cast credits are sorted by location. See more »


Soundtracks

Venus
Written by Ed Marshall (as Ed Marshall)
Performed by Frankie Avalon
Courtesy of Chancellor Records
c/o Celebrity Licensing
Published by SBK April Music Inc. and Welbeck Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Undeniably great filmmaking ... but too manipulative for total comfort.
18 February 2002 | by See all my reviews

This is without doubt a very good, well-made film, exploring the effect the Vietnam War had on America and its values.

The film is based on the true-life experiences of Ron Kovic, and is scripted from his book by director Oliver Stone and Kovic himself. Tom Cruise, continuing his move away from teenage heart-throb, plays the lead character whom we follow from fresh-faced youth, to frontline soldier in Vietnam, to hospitalised patient, right through to embittered wheelchair bound protestor.

'Born on the 4th of July' revolves around Kovic to such a degree that any flaws in the characterisation would be fatal. It is some achievement that Cruise more than pulls off the part and, despite the straggly stuck-on moustache, never fails to convince. Supporting performances are universally good, without the story or script requiring them to particularly stand out.

Praise aside, the film doesn't achieve the epic status it strives for and it was no real surprise that it lost out on the Best Picture Oscar to 'Driving Miss Daisy' - in similar circumstances 'Apocalypse Now' was beaten by 'Kramer vs Kramer' 19 years earlier.

Comparisons with Coppola's masterpiece are a mismatch however - 'Apocalypse Now' is clearly the superior effort. To be fair 'Born on the 4th of July' doesn't try and cover similar ground, but herein lies the problem. I'm not sure what ground Stone and Kovic were hoping to cover and whether the methods employed played strictly by the rules.

It appears to be a hard-hitting anti-war film, criticising the very fabric of America in the late 60's. The audience is lulled into this premise, the effect heightened with disturbing scenes to make sure the point is rammed home - Vietnamese women and children are accidentally killed by US soldiers; Cruise is left lying wounded on a stretcher, given his last rites; the hospital back in America is a sordid, filthy hell-hole etc. These images are in our face, so we unwittingly embrace the film as being highly critical of the circumstances behind the story it is telling.

The problem is that 'Born on the 4th of July' isn't an anti-war film, it is a propaganda film. The story takes the angle of naive youth being drawn into horrific events because of a blind adoration for the Stars & Stripes and Mom's Apple Pie. Despite the pain which then had to be endured, by the end we are celebrating the resilience of the all-American boy who has come through with his personal values intact. The system may have been rotten around the time of Vietnam, but the people and their beliefs were to be celebrated. The concluding atmosphere is of hope and light, with a stronger America emerging from the dark in a new blaze of glory and jingoism. After seeing the film, spotty teenagers are more likely to grab those Marine enrollment applications again - this is why the film is very subtle and clever in its underlying message.

'Born on the 4th of July' hits all the right notes and is rightly acclaimed for this - I'm just not sure that the notes it aims for are as wholesome as they first appear. The excellent music by John Williams is perhaps the final giveaway - its just a little too rousing at every key scene, trying to make us react like Pavlovian dogs whenever the high notes are struck. Like everyone else I salivated at all the right times, but afterwards I found a sour taste in my mouth.


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