Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

In Oliver Stone's anti-war message film:

  • the gung-ho patriotism of Marine enlistee Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise): ("Don't you know what it means to me to be a Marine, Dad? Ever since I was a kid I've wanted this - I've wanted to serve my country - and I want to go. I want to go to Vietnam - and I'll die there if I have to")
  • the moment in which Vietnam soldier Ron Kovic during his second tour of duty in early 1968, was shot during a patrol in a field when encountering a fierce fire-fight; although wounded in the foot, he continued to wildly fire at the enemy - and then was hit in the chest - with blood coming out of his mouth
Ron Kovic's Life-Changing Injury
  • the awful and nightmarish conditions during bedridden Kovic's recovery at the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital, where he suffered from poor and "indecent" treatment, unavailability of doctors, and a deplorable physical state; in a dramatic scene, he begged to be treated right with a black doctor and not to have his leg amputated: ("It's my leg! I want my leg, do you understand? Can't you understand that? All's I'm sayin' is I wanna be treated like a human being! I fought for my country! I am a Vietnam veteran! I fought for my country!...So I think I deserve to be treated decent, decent...")
  • the emotional home-coming scene in 1969 which father Mr. Kovic (Raymond J. Barry) hugged his newly paralyzed (from the mid-chest down), wheel-chair bound Vietnam veteran son Ron Kovic - a former star wrestler and all-American athlete with shattered illusions and ideals
  • Ron Kovic's emotional and ultra-patriotic homecoming speech on the 4th of July, his birthday: ("I just want to say, for all the guys, uh, in Vietnam, we're doing our best. It's not an easy situation, but the boys - the morale over there is real high. And you can feel confident that we are, we are gonna win that war. I served my country. And I don't want you to feel sorry for me. Do not shed a tear. I have my hand, my eyes, my ears, I have my heart, and I have what I feel - I have what I feel is an unquenchable --- "), but then he became overcome (during a war flashback when he heard a baby crying and an overhead helicopter) and had to end his speech short
  • the scene of Ron's revelation about his disillusionment about the war to his old high school friend Timmy (Frank Whaley), another wounded veteran, about wishing to have his whole body back: ("I failed, Timmy...because I-I killed some people. I made some terrible - mistakes!... Sometimes I wish, I wish I'd, the first time I got hit, I was shot in the foot. I could have laid down, I mean, who gives a f--k now if I was a hero or not? I was paralyzed, castrated that day. Why? It was all so stupid! I'd have my dick and my balls now, and I think, I think Timmy I'd give everything I believe in, everything I got, all my values, just to have my body back again, just to be whole again. But I'm not whole. I never will be, and that's, that's the way it is, isn't it?"); Timmy replied optimistically: ("For Christ's sake, Ronnie, it's your birthday. You're alive. You made it! Smile!")
  • the blunt dialogue that an angry, anguished, and helpless Kovic screamed at his distressed mother (Caroline Kava) about his complete disillusionment with life: ("We went to Vietnam to stop Communism! We shell women and children!...That was the war. Communism, the insidious evil! They, they told us to go....Thou shalt not kill, Mom. Thou shalt not kill women and children! Thou shalt not kill! Remember? Isn't that what you taught us? Isn't that what they taught us?...And it's all falling apart! King, Kennedy, Kent State! We all lost the f--king war! F--king Communism won. It's all for nothing....You tell her, Dad! Tell her it's a lie! It's a f--king lie! There's no God! God is as dead as my legs! There's no God! There's no country! It's just me and this f--king wheelchair for the rest of my life - for nothing. Me and this, this, this dead penis, Mom"); then in the most devastating moment during his breakdown, he pulled out his catheter and referred to his biggest casualty or loss: ("In church, they say it's a sin if you play with your penis. I just wish I could... Penis!...Penis! Big f--king erect penis, Mom!...Penis! Penis!")
  • the sequence of Kovic's visit in Georgia with the understanding, consoling parents of private-first-class soldier Wilson (Michael Compotaro), when he confessed the true story of their son's death (his fellow soldier was killed by Kovic's own friendly-fire) and his own guilt: ("I remember the day he was killed. Uh, it was a strange day... we got scattered in the dunes. People were yelling at anything, firing at anything. And that was when it happened. I was, uh, confused, scared. I raised my rifle three times and shots - the body fell in the dunes. God, this is, this is very difficult for me to say... But, Mr. Wilson, I think I was the one that killed your son that night. I was the one. I was the one. I was the one"); Wilson's widowed wife Jamie (Lili Taylor) responded: "What's done is done, sir. I can't ever forgive you, but maybe the Lord can"; and then Wilson's mother (Jayne Haynes) replied: "We understand, Ron. We understand the pain you've been goin' through"
  • the scene of anti-war veterans, including political activist and paraplegic Kovic, attempting to storm and disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami during Nixon's acceptance speech, and Ron's tumultuous, televised (grainy) speech to reporters, that soon turned into a "scuffle" and riotous "commotion": ("I'm a Vietnam veteran. I'm here tonight to say that this war is wrong, that this society lied to me, and lied to my brothers. The people in this country tricked him into going 13,000 miles to fight a war against the poor peasant people who have a proud history of resistance, who have been struggling for their own, for their own independence for one thousand years - the Vietnamese people. I can't, I can't find the words to express how the leadership of this government sickens me. Now, people say, people say: 'If you don't love America, then get the hell out.' Well, I love America. We love the people of America very much, but when it comes to the government, it stops right there. The government is a bunch of corrupt thieves, they are rapists and robbers, and we are here to say that 'We don't have to take it anymore.' We are here to say, we are here to tell the truth. They are killing our brothers in Vietnam. We want them to hear the truth tonight... (a Republican delegate shouted out 'traitor' and spit in his face) Is this what we get? Spit in the face! We're never, never gonna let the people of the United States forget that war. It happened, and you're not gonna sweep it under the rug because you didn't like the ratings, like some television show. This wheelchair, our wheelchairs, this steel, our steel, is your Memorial Day on wheels. We are your Yankee Doodle Dandy coming home..."); as the disabled vets were wheeled away, Ron kept screaming: "Stop the bombing! Stop the war!"
  • the film's concluding scene, when Ron Kovic was being wheeled into the 1976 Democratic National Convention to deliver a speech, now hailed and honored as a real hero after the publication of his autobiography (Born on the Fourth of July): ("Just lately, I felt like I'm home, you know, like, uh, maybe we're home")

Aborted 4th of July Homecoming Speech After War Flashback

Ron's Revelation to HS Friend Timmy

Screaming at his Mother: Tormented and Disillusioned - Pulling out His Catheter

Ron's Confession to the Disconsolate Wilson Family About Friendly-Fire

The 1972 Convention in Miami: "We are your Yankee Doodle Dandy coming home..."

The 1976 Convention


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