Born on the Fourth of July (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)



Critic Consensus: 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.

Born on the Fourth of July Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

The second of three films by co-writer/director Oliver Stone to explore the effects of the Vietnam War (Platoon and Heaven and Earth are the others), Born On The Fourth Of July tells the true story of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), a patriotic, All-American small town athlete who shocks his family by enlisting with the Marines to fight in the Vietnam War. Once he is overseas, however, Kovic's gung-ho enthusiasm turns to horror and confusion when he accidentally kills one of his own men in a firefight. His downfall is furthered by a bullet wound that leaves him paralyzed from the chest down. He returns home, spends an appalling, nightmarish stint in a veterans' hospital, and follows an increasingly disillusioned and fragmented path that ultimately leaves him drunk and dissolute in Mexico. However, Kovic somehow turns himself around and pulls his life together, becoming an outspoken anti-war activist in the process. The film is long but emotionally powerful; many consider it Stone's best work and Cruise's best performance. Both were nominated for Oscars, as was the film itself, but only Stone, who co-wrote the film with Kovic from the latter's book, won for Best Director. ~ Don Kaye, Rovimore
Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic, Dave Freeman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 28, 1998
Universal Pictures


Tom Cruise
as Ron Kovic
Caroline Kava
as Mrs. Kovic
Willem Dafoe
as Charlie
Brian Larkin
as Young Ron
Bryan Larkin
as Young Ron
Josh Evans
as Tommy Kovic
Stephen Baldwin
as Billy Vorsovich
Seth Allen
as Young Tommy
Jamie Talisman
as Jimmy Kovic
Sean Stone
as Young Jimmy
Anne Bobby
as Susanne Kovic
Jenna von Oÿ
as Young Susanne
Samantha Larkin
as Patty Kovic
Erika Geminder
as Young Patty
Tom Berenger
as Recruiting Sergeant
Amanda Davis
as Baby Patty
Kevin Harvey Morse
as Jackie Kovic
Jessica Prunell
as Young Donna
Jason Klein
as Young Timmy
Lane R. Davis
as Young Steve
John Pinto
as Young Joey
Robert Camilletti
as Tommy Finnelli
J.R. Nutt
as Young Tommy
Philip Amelio
as Young Billy
Michael McTighe
as Danny Fantozzi
Cody Beard
as Young Danny
Ryan Beadle
as Ballplayer
Mel Allen
as Mel Allen
Ed Lauter
as Legion Commander
Liz Moore
as Fat Lady at Parade
Sean McGraw
as Young Donna's Father
Oliver Stone
as News Reporter
Dale Dye
as Infantry Colonel
Norma Moore
as Massapequa Mom
Stacey Moseley
as Young Donna's Friend
Bob Tillotson
as Truck Driver
John Getz
as Marine Major
David Warshofsky
as Lieutenant
Jason Gedrick
as Martinez
R.D. Call
as Chaplain
Melvin Allen
as Himself
Billie Neal
as Nurse Washington
Richard Poe
as Frankie
Abbie Hoffman
as Strike Organizer
Jake Weber
as Donna's Boy Friend
Edie Brickell
as Folksinger
Keri Roebuck
as Loudspeaker
Geoff Garza
as Young Radical
Joseph Reidy
as Student Organizer
Cordelia González
as Maria Elena
Anthony Pena
as Bartender
Eduardo Ricardo
as Cab Driver
Tony Frank
as Mr. Wilson
Jayne Haynes
as Mrs. Wilson
Lili Taylor
as Jamie Wilson
Elbert Lewis
as Cab Driver
Peter Crombie
as Undercover Vet
Chuck Preiffer
as Secret Service Agent
Chip Moody
as TV Anchor
William Knight
as Chief Cop
Begonia Plaza
as Charlie's Whore [Vil...
David Carriere
as Miami Hippie
John William Galt
as Fat Republican
Jack McGee
as Democratic Delegate
Ron Kovic
as Veteran at Parade (u...
Richard Haus
as Recruiting Sgt. Bowe...
Mike Miller
as Neighbor
Joy Zapata
as Neighbor
Paul Abbott
as Platoon - Vietnam
Bill Allen
as Platoon - Vietnam
Bill Baldwin
as Platoon - Vietnam
Claudio Brook
as Platoon - Vietnam
Michael Smith Guess
as Platoon - Vietnam
James LeGros
as Platoon - Vietnam
William Mapother
as Platoon - Vietnam
Christopher W. Mills
as Platoon - Vietnam
Byron Minns
as Platoon - Vietnam
Ben Wright
as Platoon - Vietnam
John Falch
as Corpsman - Vietnam
Dan Furnad
as Corpsman - Vietnam
Fred Geise
as Corpsman - Vietnam
Greg Hackbarth
as Corpsman - Vietnam
Don Wilson
as Corpsman - Vietnam
Sami Chester
as Aide #2 - VA Hospita...
Chris Pedersen
as Aide #3 - VA Hospita...
Chris Walker
as Aide #4 - VA Hospita...
David Herman
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Bruce MacVittie
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Damien Leake
as Patient - VA Hospita...
David Neidorf
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Paul Sanchez
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Richard Lubin
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Norm Wilson
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Peter Benson
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Sergio Scognamiglio
as Patient - VA Hospita...
Bob Gunton
as Doctor #1 - VA Hospi...
Mark Moses
as Optimistic Doctor - ...
Beau Starr
as Man #2 - Arthur's Ba...
John Del Regno
as Friend #1 - Arthur's...
Gale Mayron
as Friend #2 - Arthur's...
Lisa Barnes
as Friend #3 - Arthur's...
Tom Sizemore
as Vet - Villa Dulce
Ivan Kane
as Villa Vet
Ed Jupp Jr.
as Villa Vet
Michael Sulsona
as Villa Vet
Kevin McGuire
as Paraplegic
Ken Osborne
as Paraplegic
Alan Toy
as Paraplegic
Jodi Long
as Jane the Reporter
Wayne Knight
as Official
Annie McEnroe
as Passerby
Joseph P. Reidy
as Student Organizer
Corky Ford
as Marvin
John Galt
as Fat Republican
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Born on the Fourth of July

Critic Reviews for Born on the Fourth of July

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (8)

Tom Cruise, who takes Kovic from clean-cut eager teen to impassioned long-haired activist, is stunning.

Full Review… | June 6, 2008
Top Critic

A compelling, elegiac film, particularly encouraging after the simplified morality of Platoon.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Born on the Fourth of July is...the most ambitious nondocumentary film yet made about the entire Vietnam experience.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Stone has found in Cruise the ideal actor to anchor the movie with simplicity and strength.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Not counting his iconic themes for such blockbusters as Star Wars and Jaws, this might feature John Williams' best music score to date.

Full Review… | August 8, 2012
Creative Loafing

An exceptional feature on every level of execution, also displaying a rare sensitivity to Stone that he would spend the rest of his career trying to bury in violence and experimentation.

Full Review… | July 4, 2012

Audience Reviews for Born on the Fourth of July


Born on the Fourth of July is a solid, well acted and brilliantly directed Anti war film. Based on the true story of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, who due to a wound, became paralyzed. Through years of struggle, Kovic finally was able to get his life back on track and become an anti war activist along the way. Tom Cruise gives a great performance as Kovic. This is a stunning film that is an eye opening viewing, and Oliver Stone did a great job here. This is one of his finest films, and this is a great departure from his previous Vietnam War film, Platoon, which is hands down Stone's greatest work. However with this film, he crafts a masterful film yet again, and captures a totally different side of the Vietnam War struggle, in part the struggle that many Vietnam War veterans had to endure when coming home from the war. This is a great film with a powerful story, and you see it through Ron Kovic's eyes as he became disillusioned afterwards, and how he dealt with it, and ultimately redeemed himself by becoming a voice for the anti war movement. The performances are great and the story is enthralling and this is a must see for even war film fans. This is a superb film that is among Stone's strongest directorial efforts. Tom Cruise is terrific in the part, and this is actually one of many of his best performances. This is a superb film that is powerful and thought provoking. With a great cast and a captivating story, Born on the Fourth of July is a must see for film fans.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer


This is the second film in Oliver Stone's trilogy about the Vietnam War, and for this one, he decided to adapt (along with Ron Kovic), Kovic's autobiography about his life, and how he went from proud and patriotic all-American to crippled war veteran who became a fervent anti-war protestor. And you know what? This film really is terrific. Yes, it has IMPORTANT stamped all over it, and sure, it is emotionally manipulative and takes a very "damned if you do, damned if you don't" stance towards the experiences of veterans, but we need stuff like this, and it is a very welcome voice in the debate about the experiences of Vietnam veterans and how one's whole life can be shattered and changed once they experience unimaginable horrors and return home to a country that changed so drastically in just a short amount of time.

This is all very fascinating stuff, and, despite the polemic nature of things, it is well done, and even though a bias is present, all sides do get some sort of representation, so the film isn't quite on the same level as something by Michael Moore for example.

Kovic was and is a very proud American, and yes, the film proves you can still be very patriotic even if you're anti-war. It's really a good blend of character study and philosophy, and that wasn't something I was expecting. It's also not nearly as heavy handed as I was expecting, though it is very heavy with the sentimentality, especially where John Williams's (solid) score and the cinematography (everything is shot in filters of either red, white, or blue depending on the emotional level or context of things) are concerned.

The cast that Stone rounded up is quite notable too. There's tons of recognizable names present, even if many of them have no more than just a few moments or even a couple of lines of dialogue. The big roles are cast wonderfully though, featuring the likes of Kyra Sedgwick, Willem Dafoe, Raymond J. Barry, and Tom Cruise in the lead as Kovic. This was the first time Cruise tried for something dramatic, serious, and very challenging. Not only did he pull it off, but this is still one of his all time best performances. You know, the kind which prove he really can act.

There's lots of great moments throughout, and they all are at different emotional levels. Two that really stick out for me however, are scenes that are dramatic (and are supposed to be), but still managed to unintentionally be hilarious as well. Those two scenes are the argument/breakdown where Ron screams profanities and the word penis loudly at his mother while drunk, and the wheelchair fight between Cruise and Dafoe. I felt kinda bad laughing, but I really just couldn't help it.

No matter your opinions on Cruise, Stone, or the subject matter, you really should give this one a watch. It is designed to provoke all sorts of reactions, and though it is unapologetic in its presentation, it is a worthy and remarkable film.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


This is some fine directing right here from Mr. Political Subject himself. This movie uses one of the oldest tricks in the book for dramatic effect....Slowmotion....and it does it really well. Tom does possibly his best role here? And it's a very interesting story. Willem Dafoe makes a brief but oscar worthy apperence. There are a lot of very beautiful shoots in this movie. Escpecially that first shoot after we cut to the war. That is just iconic. This movies story draws many similarities to The Deer Hunter but it's still very diffrent and uniqe. A really good movie and a great work by Tom Cruise

Martin Sahlin

Super Reviewer

Born on the Fourth of July Quotes

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