Taglines: A story of innocence lost and courage found.
The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.
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 President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, it inspires him to enlist in the Marines. Later, Kovic attends an impassioned lecture about the 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 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 first class 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 Veterans Administration 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 in a wheelchair, with his leg intact. Though he tries to maintain his dignity as a United States Marine, Kovic gradually becomes disillusioned, despite being paralyzed, and resorts to alcohol. In Kovic’s absence, his younger brother Tommy (Josh Evans) 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 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 at her college 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 at her college 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 experience with a prostitute, whom he believes he loves, until he sees her with another customer. He hooks up with another wheelchair-bound veteran, 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.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Tom Cruise, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava, Josh Evans, Jamie Talisman, Anne Bobby, Samantha Larkin, Anne Bobby, Frank Whaley, Stephen Baldwin
Screenplay by: Oliver Stone
Production Design by: Bruno Rubeo
Cinematography by: Robert Richardson
Film Editing by: David Brenner, Joe Hutshing
Costume Design by: Judy L. Ruskin
Set Decoration by: Derek R. Hill
Art Direction by: Richard L. Johnson, Victor Kempster
Music by: John Williams
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: December 20, 1989