Born on the Fourth of July (film)

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Born on the Fourth of July
Born On The 4th Of July.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Oliver Stone
Produced by A. Kitman Ho
Oliver Stone
Screenplay by Ron Kovic
Oliver Stone
Based on Born on the Fourth of July
by Ron Kovic
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Edited by Joe Hutshing
David Brenner
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • December 20, 1989 (1989-12-20)
Running time
145 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14 million
Box office $161 million[1]

Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 American biographical war drama film based on the best-selling autobiography of the same name by Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic.[2]

Tom Cruise plays Ron Kovic, in a performance that earned him his first Academy Award nomination. Oliver Stone (himself a Vietnam veteran) co-wrote the screenplay with Kovic, and also produced and directed the film. Stone wanted to film the movie in Vietnam, but because relations between the United States and Vietnam had not yet been normalized, it was instead filmed in the Philippines. The film is considered part of Stone's "trilogy" of films about the Vietnam War—following Platoon (1986) and preceding Heaven & Earth (1993).

Born on the Fourth of July was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, for Best Director and Best Film Editing; it also won four Golden Globe Awards and a Directors Guild of America Award. The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing $161,001,698 worldwide.[1]


In the summer of 1956 in Massapequa, Long Island, New York, 10-year-old Ron Kovic plays soldier in the woods and attends a Fourth of July parade. After watching the Inaugural address of John F. Kennedy, he is inspired to enlist in the Marines. Later, Kovic attends an impassioned lecture about the United States Marine Corps. He decides to enlist and misses his prom because he is unable to secure a date with his love interest, Donna. He confronts her at the prom and has a dance with her on his last night before leaving.

Now a Marine sergeant and on patrol during his second Vietnam tour of duty in October 1967, Kovic's unit kills a number of Vietnamese civilians in a village, believing them to be enemy combatants. During the retreat, Kovic accidentally kills one of the new arrivals to his platoon, a younger private named Wilson. During a firefight in January 1968, Kovic is critically wounded, but a fellow Marine rescues him. Paralyzed from the mid-chest down, he spends several months recovering at the Bronx VA hospital, where the hospital conditions are poor, with rats roaming the floors; the doctors and nurses ignore patients and abuse drugs, and the equipment is too old to be useful. Kovic desperately tries to walk again with the use of crutches and braces, despite repeated warnings from his doctors.

In 1969, Kovic returns home, permanently needing the use of a wheelchair. Kovic gradually becomes disillusioned and resorts to alcohol. In Kovic's absence, his younger brother Tommy has already become staunchly anti-war, remarking to Kovic what the war had done to him. During an Independence Day parade, Kovic shows signs of Post-traumatic stress disorder when firecrackers explode. When he is asked to give a speech, a baby in the crowd starts crying. After being unable to finish the speech and wheeled off stage, he reunites with his old high school friend Timmy Burns, who is also a wounded veteran, and the two spend Kovic's birthday sharing war stories. Later, Kovic goes to visit Donna in Syracuse, New York, where the two reminisce and she asks him to attend a vigil for the victims of the Kent State shootings. He and Donna are separated when she and her fellow students are taken away by the police for demonstrating against the Vietnam War. Ron goes to a bar, almost gets into a fight with a fellow Marine. After Ron has a heated argument with his mother, his father decides to send him to Mexico.

He arrives in The Village of the Sun, which seems to be a haven for paralyzed Vietnam veterans. He has his first sexual intercourse with a prostitute, whom he believes he loves, until he sees her with another customer. He meets with another veteran who uses a wheelchair, Charlie, and the two travel to what they believe will be a friendlier village. After annoying their taxicab driver, they end up stranded on the side of the road and arguing with each other. They are picked up by a man with a truck and driven back to the "Village of the Sun." Going back to Long Island, Kovic travels to Georgia to visit Wilson's parents and family. He tells them the true story about their son's death and confesses his guilt.

Kovic joins Vietnam Veterans Against the War and travels to the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami. He tells a reporter about his negative experiences in Vietnam and the VA hospital, that the Vietnam War is wrong, all of which fuels rage from the Nixon supporters. His interview is cut short when guards eject him and his fellow vets from the hall and attempt to turn them over to the police. They manage to break free from the police, regroup, and charge the hall again, though not successfully. Kovic speaks at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, shortly after the publication of his autobiography.



Oliver Stone, also a Vietnam veteran, read Ron Kovic's best-selling autobiography Born on the Fourth of July and was stunned to learn what Kovic had suffered after the war. Wanting to make it into a film, he bought the rights to the autobiography, and then had to find a distributor. Stone offered the project to Universal Pictures and they accepted. He then had to find a producer for the film, and eventually became producer himself, along with A. Kitman Ho. Tom Cruise was cast as Ron Kovic while Stone directed. Stone met with Ron Kovic and they discussed their experiences in Vietnam. Kovic wrote the screenplay with Stone, and appears in the film himself during the opening parade sequence as a soldier who flinches at the sound of exploding firecrackers—a reflex Cruise's Kovic will adopt himself later in the film.

Stone wanted to film the movie in Vietnam, but since the relationship between Vietnam and the United States had not been resolved, Stone decided instead to film it in the Philippines (where Stone had previously filmed Platoon). Other scenes which do not include combat were filmed in the U.S., particularly Dallas, Texas. The film was cinematographer Robert Richardson's first experience shooting in the anamorphic format.[3] Of the stars he worked with in this film, Stone worked again with both Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe, who originally starred in Platoon. Another star, Frank Whaley, would join Stone for the 1991 films The Doors and JFK.


Music used in the film includes "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, "Born on the Bayou" by The Broken Homes, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, "American Pie" by Don McLean, "My Girl" by The Temptations, "Soldier Boy" by The Shirelles, "Venus" by Frankie Avalon, and "Moon River" by Henry Mancini.

The soundtrack, Born On The Fourth Of July — Motion Picture Soundtrack Album, includes music by John Williams, for which in 1990 he was nominated for a Academy Award for Best Original Score, a Golden Globe Award for Best Music, Original Score, and a BMI Film Music Award (the latter of which he won).


Box office

The film was released on December 20, 1989, grossing $766,942 during its opening week, in limited release. Over the course of its second week, the film grossed $1,464,345. At its third week of release, now in wide release, it grossed $5,343,453, ranking #1 at the box office. The film remained in the number one position up until its sixth week of release. The film stayed in the #11 position of the top ten grossing films of 1990 until its last week of release. The film grossed $70,001,698 domestically and $161,001,698 worldwide,[1] significantly surpassing its $14 million budget.

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Led by an unforgettable performance from Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July finds director Oliver Stone tackling thought-provoking subject matter with ambitious élan."[4] Metacritic reported that the film had an average weighted score of 75 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars.[7] The New York Times said: "It is a film of enormous visceral power with, in the central role, a performance by Tom Cruise that defines everything that is best about the movie." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone says: "Stone has found Cruise the ideal actor to anchor the movie with simplicity and strength. Together they do more than show what happened to Kovic. Their fervent, consistently gripping film shows why it still urgently matters." Many critics also praised Tom Cruise's performance and Oliver Stone's direction of the film. Stone would later be awarded with an Oscar and a Golden Globe for directing while Tom Cruise received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

Notable critics who gave the film negative reviews include Jonathan Rosenbaum, who said: "[T]he movie's conventional showbiz finale, brimming with false uplift, implies that the traumas of other mutilated and disillusioned Vietnam veterans can easily be overcome if they write books and turn themselves into celebrities." Hal Hinson of the Washington Post called the film "hysterical and overbearing and alienating." Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "[T]he director has lost the specificity that made Platoon so electrifying. In its place he uses bombast, overkill, bullying."

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient Outcome
1989 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Director Oliver Stone (2nd place) Won
Best Cinematography Robert Richardson (2nd place)
National Board of Review Top Ten Films Born on the Fourth of July
National Society of Film Critics Best Actor Tom Cruise (3rd place)
New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor Tom Cruise (2nd place)
1990 Academy Awards[8] Best Picture A. Kitman Ho and Oliver Stone Nominated
Best Actor Tom Cruise
Best Director Oliver Stone Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Ron Kovic and Oliver Stone Nominated
Best Cinematography Robert Richardson
Best Sound Mixing Michael Minkler, Gregory H. Watkins, Wylie Stateman, and Tod A. Maitland
Best Film Editing David Brenner and Joe Hutshing Won
Best Original Score John Williams Nominated
American Cinema Editors Guild Best Edited Feature Film David Brenner and Joe Hutshing
Winner was Steven Rosenblum for Glory
American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Robert Richardson
Winner was Haskell Wexler for Blaze
BAFTA Film Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Tom Cruise
Winner was Philippe Noiret for Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso)
Best Screenplay – Adapted Ron Kovic and Oliver Stone
Winners were Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese for Goodfellas
BMI Film & TV Awards BMI Film Music Award John Williams Won
Berlin International Film Festival[9] Golden Bear Oliver Stone
Winners were Larks on a String and Music Box
Casting Society of America Best Casting for Feature Film, Drama Risa Bramon Garcia and Billy Hopkins
Winner was Howard Feuer for Dead Poets Society
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Born on the Fourth of July
Winner was Do the Right Thing
Best Actor Tom Cruise Won
David di Donatello Best Foreign Actor (Migliore Attore Straniero) Tom Cruise
Winner was Philippe Noiret for Life and Nothing But
Best Foreign Director (Migliore Regista Straniero) Oliver Stone
Winner was Louis Malle for May Fools
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Oliver Stone Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Born on the Fourth of July
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Tom Cruise
Best Director Oliver Stone
Best Screenplay Ron Kovic and Oliver Stone
Best Music, Original Score John Williams
Winner was Alan Menken for The Little Mermaid
Motion Picture Sound Editors Best Sound Editing – ADR Born on the Fourth of July Won
Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects Wylie Stateman and Michael Minkler
Tied with Dody Dorn and Blake Leyh for The Abyss
Political Film Society Democracy Born on the Fourth of July
Writers Guild of America Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Ron Kovic and Oliver Stone
Winner was Alfred Uhry for Driving Miss Daisy

American Film Institute Lists

Home media

The film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1990 and on DVD in 1998. The DVD contains commentary by director Oliver Stone. The special edition DVD was released on October 19, 2004. The DVD contains commentary with Director Oliver Stone and the original NBC documentary of the making of Born on the Fourth of July. In 2007, the film was released on the HD DVD format. On September 1, 2011, Universal Australia released the film on Blu-ray Disc. It was released in the US on July 3, 2012.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Born on the Fourth of July (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  2. ^ Vincent Canby (1989-12-20). "How an All-American Boy Went to War and Lost His Faith". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Bob Fisher (February 1, 1990). "Born on the Fourth of July". American Cinematographer. Los Angeles, United States: American Society of Cinematographers. 71 (2): 27. ISSN 0002-7928. 
  4. ^ Born on the Fourth of July on Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Born on the Fourth of July". CinemaScore. Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Born on the Fourth of July Movie Review (1989) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  8. ^ "The 62nd Academy Awards (1990) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  9. ^ "Berlinale: 1990 Programme". Retrieved 2011-03-17. 
  10. ^ Katz, Josh (April 5, 2012). "Born on the Fourth of July Blu-ray". Retrieved April 12, 2012. 

External links

  • Born on the Fourth of July on IMDb
  • Born on the Fourth of July at AllMovie
  • Born on the Fourth of July at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Born on the Fourth of July at
  • Movie stills
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