Born on the Fourth of July

  • Review Date: August 29, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 145 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Unflinching story of Vietnam vet turned activist.
  • Review Date: August 29, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 145 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film includes various types of social intolerance and undue violence on the part of soldiers and the police, but it also revolves around the brave story of a Vietnam veteran who pulls himself up from depression and bodily injury to fight the system.


Graphic acts and results of physical violence are shown during the Vietnam scenes. Violence at the hands of police is shown during moments of protest, and drunken acts of violence are shown between injured Vietnam veterans. The film also includes various acts of verbal violence, both between the main character and his family and members of society at large.


The film includes discussion of impotence (due to injury), nudity, and sex with prostitutes.


Profanity used throughout the film to express the frustration, pain, and chaos of various moments (war, injury, social unrest, etc.)


None, except for a recurring New York Yankees motif.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Excessive drinking and drug use, often to heal the mental and physical pains of the main character (or at least make him forget them). The film also shows the drug use usually associated with the 60s and 70s.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this mature drama contains extreme and disturbing verbal and physical violence and graphic scenes depicting the Vietnam war and the protests against it. They should also know that the film includes scenes of sexual impotence and prostitution.

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What's the story?

Oliver Stone's BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY is based on the true story of Vietnam veteran turned antiwar activist, Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise). Eighteen year-old Kovic, inspired by John F. Kennedy, and encouraged by his mother, and a marine recruiter, joins the United States Marines in 1964 with hopes of serving his country in Vietnam. The film examines his ultimate disillusionment while "in country" and the debilitating injury which ends his tour of duty. His postwar treatment at the hands of his family, an understaffed and under-funded veteran's administration, and a changing society, lead Ron into veteran-driven antiwar activism. Filled with violence, social and personal turmoil, and religious struggle, the film depicts a painful view of a complex time in American history.

Is it any good?


Born on the Fourth of July garnered Oliver Stone a Best Director Oscar and marked one of Tom Cruise's first forays into serious adult acting. This film garnered Cruise's first of three Academy Award nominations for best actor, followed by Jerry Maguire (1996) and Magnolia (1999).

There are also fine cameo performances by Willem Dafoe and Lili Taylor, and riveting footage and reenactments of the 1972 Republican and 1976 Democratic National Conventions. (The real Kovic had protested at the former and spoken at the latter.) The film also boasts an excellent soundtrack.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about issues surrounding what happens in war, including collateral damage, and perceptions and definitions of patriotism. Other possible explorations include how people can reject a war without betraying those who fight and how can people use their rights to peacefully express contradictory opinions.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 20, 1989
DVD release date:April 28, 1998
Cast:Caroline Kava, Stephen Baldwin, Tom Cruise
Director:Oliver Stone
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:145 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence

This review of Born on the Fourth of July was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 10 and 12 year old Written bymarierm April 19, 2013

Moving, heartbreaking vet's tale

This is an important movie for mature teens to see. Our veterans frequently return from traumatic tours of duty with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and consequently turn to drugs and alcohol. Many are not will to undergo counseling, and all suffer. This movie depicts this suffering without holding anything back, very disturbing and beautifully crafted.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byChuck Reid March 15, 2012

Edgy for kids under 8,but still good.

This movie was cool! The voice acting and jokes were AWESOME Recommend highly!
Parent of a 2 year old Written byRad4u September 5, 2010

'Moving and often disturbing portrayal of an era in American History

This is a powerful, truthful re-enactment of what it was like to be an American growing up in the 60's, with ambivalent feelings of patriotism and the downward-spiraling sense that something just wasn't right with our country and it's leaders--and with this un-ending War hanging over the heads of every graduating senior in high school. The movie passionately displays one man's shift in ideologies, from a "love-it-or-leave it" patriot to antiwar activist. Having lived through that era, this cinematic portrayal is accurate and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it for telling the truth about a difficult time in our Nation's history.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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