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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.



(book), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2,415 ( 613)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 13 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »



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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


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


A story of innocence lost and courage found.


Biography | Drama | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

5 January 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Nacido el cuatro de julio  »


Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$172,021, 25 December 1989, Limited Release

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)


Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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Did You Know?


Oliver Stone's then wife Elizabeth is mentioned in the closing credit roll as Naijo No Ko. This Japanese term means "with the help of my wife" or, more colloquially, "I owe my success to my better half". See more »


When Ron and his friends walk out of Boyer's Ice Cream shop, you can see crew and equipment in the reflection on the cars. See more »


Steve Boyer: You probably think it's just a hamburger. A patty's just a piece of meat, but it can have character. See that doughnut hole? Gets 18 patties to the pound instead of 16. Saves me about $40,000 a year. That's serious money, Ron. I plug the hole with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, spices. I cover it with a pickle. They'll never miss a thing.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Cast credits are sorted by location. See more »


Edited into Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen (2012) See more »


Soldier Boy
Written by Luther Dixon and Florence Green
Performed by The Shirelles
Courtesy of Original Sound Record Co., Inc.
Published by ABKCO Music, Inc. Ludix Publishing Co., Inc.
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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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