A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 Oliver Stone movie based on the nonfiction book written by Ron Kovic, a gung-ho Marine whose hellish experiences during and after Vietnam transformed him into an anti-war activist. This mature drama contains extreme and disturbing verbal and physical violence and graphic scenes depicting the Vietnam War and the protests against it. Women and children are shown lying dead in pools of their own blood. Soldiers are shown falling to the ground after being hit in the head by bullets; gory injuries are shown. They should also know that the film includes scenes of sexual impotence and prostitution, with bare breasts shown. Profanity is frequent -- especially "f--k" and its variations. Alcoholism, PTSD, and the myriad frustrations of veterans are addressed. Unlike so many other movies that glamorize and romanticize war, this movie does not flinch from the horrors of battle and what so many soldiers try to live with after coming home from tours of duty.
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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, 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 that 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 anti-war 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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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 people can use their rights to peacefully express contradictory opinions.
Why do you think this movie showed the blood, death, and gory wounds so often not shown in other war-themed movies?
The 1960s are so often portrayed in media as a kind of "golden age" of "Summer of Love" hippiedom, timeless rock-'n'-roll music, and "groovy" fashion. How does this movie call into question such romanticizing of that decade?
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