Parents' Guide to

Born on the Fourth of July

By Kelly Kessler, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Unflinching, violent story of Vietnam vet turned activist.

Movie R 1989 145 minutes
Born on the Fourth of July Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 17+

Oliver "Over the Top" Stone with a strong film and stronger message

A film that is poignant in it's message if not a bit overdone, but come on! It's Oliver "NO I'm not gonna be subtle" Stone. So you know what you're getting if you know Stone's work. I think he hits all the markers. How is a "radical" made? How do you film a change of heart? A change of mind? A change of spirit? I understand the criticism that characters are revealed and then abruptly dropped, but I see it less a criticism and more a casualty of storytelling that is taken on purpose in order to maintain focus on Kovic's story. It is a layered and complex story that demands to be heard.
age 18+

Way too loud, but with a strong performance from Cruise

Cruise plays the role of a stereotypical all-American boy, born straight out of an idyllic nuclear suburbia. Nonetheless, he is swept up in the (somewhat justified) anti-Communist sentiment at the time of the Cold War... And voluntarily signs up to be sent to a hostile alien tropical jungle, far from, frankly, where he belongs. His naivety is quickly shattered upon emergence of war's ugly head, and most of all: the tragic consequences of physical disfigurement. Back at home, he is neglected to a slum for veterans, full of disenfranchised coloured staff who berate him for his alleged white privilege... Meanwhile Cruise's character doesn't even have the privilege of being able to jack-off due to his permanent spinal injury from war. The conditions are abhorrent and are enough to gradually disillusion him about the war and his country. Later, he joins the anti-war movement against the Vietnam War and is met with scorn and ostracism by the silver-spooned political class. His family tries their best to support him, but nonetheless is helpless to treat his underlying injury. They are not able to reconcile their differences with their son's newfound connection with the anti-government drug-addicted promiscuous hordes of "peace-loving" hippies... The recent past's version of the perpetually offended social justice chip-shouldered hair-dyed bohemians of today. He ends up fleeing to Mexico, where he discovers a wasteland of downcast prostitution and empty debauchery, which leads him back to the United States. Interestingly, Cruise had also starred in Top Gun a few years prior, which is arguably the total opposite in tone to Born on the Fourth of July. In the end, the movie accomplishes its bleak portrayal of the treatment of disabled veterans by both American society and its government. However, it is an incredibly loud film... Literally and figuratively. It need not be, for the visuals, acting, and background alone is more than sufficient. The deafening tone thus detracts from an otherwise well-performed and directed war film. Cruise is both a wonderful choice for the character (of whom is loosely based off the real world Ron Kovic, with considerable artistic liberties) and executes his role perfectly. Cruise is really what makes this film work, and with the well-selected supporting cast!

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4 ):
Kids say (2 ):

This gritty drama garnered Oliver Stone a Best Director Oscar and marked one of Tom Cruise's first forays into serious adult acting, with impressive results. There also are 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 protested at the former and spoke at the latter.) The film also boasts an excellent soundtrack.

Movie Details

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