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Films >> Born on the Fourth of July (1989) >>

0:00:00 Introduction
Ron Kovic narrates while the scene pans down from the sky into "Sally's woods." He lists the names of his childhood friends.
0:00:58 Young soldiers
"We turned the woods into a battlefield." Young Kovic and friends are mocking soldiers as they play against one another in the woods in Massapequa, Long Island. The year is 1956. When all the boys find one another, they imitate a war with fake props and costumes—the sound of machine guns and hand grenades are played over the screaming of the kids. At one point, Kovic is on his back and another child, gun in hand, yells "You're dead, you're dead."
0:02:16 4th of July Parade
A band plays as firecrackers ignite along the sides of the town's Fourth of July parade. Ron is watching the parade from his father's shoulders. Everyone from the town is out for the occasion.
0:03:26 Scrambling through the crowd
Donna makes her first appearance in the film and chases after her friends. The song, "Rock around the clock" is played by a high school band on a float.
0:04:26 “Look Daddy, the soldiers!”
Veterans and current soldiers march in the parade. Many of the vets are missing limbs and shudder when firecrackers go off in the background. The musical score, heavy strings, begins to play and all dialogue ends. Ron looks at the Veterans with wonder.
0:05:13 Summer love
Donna runs up to Ron with a birthday gift because his birthday is the 4th. It's a Yankees baseball hat. She looks at him with loving eyes and asks him to join her in the woods that evening to watch the fireworks. All of the kids run off and try to steal Ronnie's hat.
0:06:14 Fireworks
While watching the evening fireworks, the young couple shares a romantic but juvenile kiss. Immediately after, Ronnie does push-ups, and Donna stands alongside a fence; she's not interested.
0:06:43 Minor leagues
Ronnie is up to bat during a summer baseball game. He hits a home run and the fans go wild. Donna is watching and cheering him on, though she's there with another boy.
0:08:51 John Kennedy’s message
Young Ron is running in his yard, while President Kennedy's voice is heard during a televised address to the country. The whole family gathers around the T.V. Young Ron seems personally affected by Kennedy's speech. Mrs. Kovic turns to Ron and tells him that in a recent dream, he was speaking to a large group of people and saying "great things," like President Kennedy.
0:09:26 Wrestling practice
Kovic and his wrestling teammates are at practice. The coach is yelling at them as they perform very militaristic exercises. He wants them to kill, sacrifice, and win the championships.
0:10:23 At home with the Kovics
Ron returns from practice while his family eats dinner. He mother reminds all of his siblings that "as long as you do your best, that's what matters to God."
0:11:28 Bedtime
Mrs. Kovic finds Ronnie's Playboy magazine and beats him with it. It's apparent that she is beyond a devout Catholic.
0:11:56 Wrestling championships
Ronnie is at his championship match. Donna and the rest of the school are cheering from the bleachers. His opponent eventually pins Ronnie to claim the title. Lying on the mat and crying, Ronnie is heartbroken by the loss.
0:14:09 “We want the best”
Two representatives from the military come to speak in front of Massapequa students in their auditorium. The soldiers explain that there is nothing finer than the Marines, especially not the other branches of the armed forces. Ronnie seems very interested by their speech because it calls for real, brave men.
0:16:27 Afternoon stroll
Donna and two other girls walk through the commons of their high school in the sunshine.
0:16:47 Vietnam over burgers
Ronnie and his friends discuss the Marines' speech at a local diner. A big war, "Vietnam," is going to begin, and Ronnie and Timmy want to be the first ones in it. Stevie, on the other hand, wants to go to college and live in Massapequa. He explains that he doesn't see the Communists in their town, so he's not going to put himself in danger.
0:18:15 Boy talk
The boys discuss whom they're taking to prom. Ronnie says he's taking a girl from out of town, none of the guys would know her anyway.
0:18:49 Prom date, aisle 3
At work in his father's grocery store, Ronnie sees Donna and her friends. He works up the courage to speak with her, and she congratulates him on the Marines. He asks her if she already has a date to the prom, and Donna answers with an unenthusiastic, yes. She tells him that she heard from his friends, that he already had a date. Ronnie explains that he doesn't have time for that kind of stuff. They both walk away frustrated.
0:21:25 The magical prom
Teens are dancing with one another at the prom. Donna looks unhappy with her date. Outside, rain is pouring down.
0:22:03 Preparing for duty
Ronnie is packing his bags for the Marines. The Yankees' game is on his radio, and he puts his old baseball hat on.
0:23:00 It’s a long way to go to fight a war
Ronnie's father is sitting in the living room, watching reports from Vietnam. He wishes that his son could go to Europe instead. Ronnie explains that he has always wanted to serve his country and that Communism has to be stopped, and he'll die there if he has to.
0:24:46 Holy Ghost
After the living room conversation with his parents, Ronnie returns to his room and prays to the crucifix on his wall. He's so confused with his future, but he has to go. He asks Jesus to help him make the right decision.
0:25:30 Running down a dream
In the pouring rain, Ronnie runs to the prom to find Donna. Everyone stares at his soaked body as he walks up to Donna and asks for a dance. The song "Moon River" plays while the couple dance, and Ronnie kisses Donna—this time he appreciates it.
0:27:36 War at sunrise
Ronnie and other soldiers prepare for an attack on the beach near the Cua Viet River, in Vietnam. It's October of 1967. Ronnie is talking to a new soldier named Wilson. We find out that this is Ronnie's second tour in Vietnam.
0:28:42 Can you see the rifles?
Ron and a higher-ranking soldier are talking to one another. The other man repeatedly asks Ron if he can see the enemies' rifles (the camera pans to locals running in and out of their homes, unarmed) and finally Ron says, "yes," even though he never sees the rifles. The other men begin to fire, but Ron orders them to cease-fire. Ron takes a team into the huts to investigate the scene, but he finds civilians who are dead and severely wounded. There are no rifles, and the soldiers try to provide medical assistance.
0:32:03 Bomb shower
The enemy forces begin to fire on the troops as they help the wounded. They are forced to move out. The high-ranking soldier reminds them all that it wasn't their faults; the villagers just got in the way of the fire.
0:33:23 Wilson’s hit!
Ron and others run for their lives and try to take cover from the fire. Ron begins to fire back; the scene pans back and forth to emphasize the confusion. From the side, a person runs towards Ron with a gun in his hand and screams. All that Ron can see is the silhouette, so he fires on the person. Immediately the voices of his friends yell, "Wilson's hit," and Ron goes numb. The time and music slow down as he tries to get to his feet and asks the other soldiers what happened. Wilson has been shot in the neck and dies within a few minutes. Ron sits alone on the sand and tries to process what he's just done.
0:35:12 Tent confessions
Kovic speaks with an executive officer and tries to explain the confusing events of the day. They discuss Wilson's death, and Ron finally says, "I think I might have killed him." The officer doesn't think so and reminds Kovic that it's very hard to tell out there. Ron tries again and again to confess his mistake, but the officer gets angry and doesn't want this s*** and says that he'll take his head off.
0:37:21 “This must be hell”
Ron and his unit walk through a quiet, open field in terrible heat. It's January of 1968. Suddenly a soldier is shot in the head, and everyone hits the ground. Bullets and explosions fly while men fall down everywhere.
0:39:26 Shot
While he is firing on the Vietnamese soldiers, Ron takes a shot to the foot and trips. He curses and writhes in pain but still tries to fight. The attack worsens but helicopters can't help them. Ron's gun jams, and he receives more bullets in his neck. A fellow soldier retrieves his body, but Ron is barely conscious.
0:42:19 Night at the base
In the midst of helicopters, medics, and screaming patients, Ron lies on a cot and waits for a doctor to see him. The harsh realities of war emerge from the conversations between the staff—they don't bother sugarcoating the fatal situations for the wounded. A priest reads Ron his last rights, but he seems determined to stay alert. The religious reference is quite ironic, considering that Ron was from a very religious family and prayed before he left for basic training.
0:44:50 Bronx Veterans Hospital--1968
Wounded/drugged-out soldiers roam the halls and lie in beds in catatonic states. The hospital is filthy and most of the staff members couldn't care less about the patients. Ron is up early, and though he's in a wheelchair, he's managed to make his bed to military standards.
0:46:44 Brown-eyed girl
At the hospital, staff members bathe the patients and also have to clear the bowels of the paralyzed. One of the workers tells Ron that it's the Fourth of July.
0:47:42 Changing Times
The patients watch T.V. coverage of the 1968 riots in Chicago; it's also an election year. Some of the men suffer from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and scream at one another in the hospital. Ron curses at the protesters while they burn the flag. This is the beginning of a harsh realization for Ron; many Americans are not willing to support the troops in Vietnam even though they risked their lives for the cause.
0:48:40 Rehabilitation
Ron finds out from the hospital staff that he has a very low chance of ever walking again. Despite the odds, Ron is determined to prove everyone wrong. During his rehab, one of his nurses tells him that the real problem in this country is racism and Vietnam was a "White Man's War." People are joining together to make changes, and if Ron won't help, he will be part of the problem.
0:50:50 I’ve got sunshine
In the evenings at the Vet hospital, patients are taking drugs and have prostitutes come to visit them in their rooms. Most of the conversation is very cynical, and these veterans are trying to drown out their mental and physical pains with chemicals.
0:51:25 Walking tall
In another rehab session, Ron is walking with crutches and showing some improvement. His attitude is better, and other patients are cheering him on. Suddenly, Ron turns the wrong way and falls over, breaking his leg bone through his skin.
0:53:17 Dreams of grandeur
One morning during her usual rounds, the nurse discovers that one of the patients has died in his sleep. The staff seems used to this occurrence because hundreds of their patients can't survive their injuries. Ron is lost in a dream, during which he stands up from his wheelchair and eventually runs out of the hospital. His rapid heartbeat plays in the background.
0:54:20 Wake-up call
Ron is pressing his call button for one of the nurses to come help him sit upright. He is filthy and pleads for the doctor. He argues that he wants to keep his leg and be treated like a human being because he fought for his country. The male nurse reminds him that Vietnam doesn't mean anything to him or the other people in the hospital. One of his nurses notices that the pump for his leg has jammed, but the doctor can't fix it immediately because of the lack of government funding in the Vet hospital. Ron is beginning to understand that America has turned its back on the Veterans and the war.
0:57:54 The pump works
In the middle of the night, Ron's pump begins to work again and he screams at the top of his lungs.
0:58:21 Back in Massapequa--1969
Finally, Ron is healthy enough to return to his home in Massapequa. His family members are glad to see him, but it's a difficult reunion for everyone. His mother is last to see him, and she tries to hold back the tears. The neighbors slowly walk over to congratulate him.
1:01:43 Childhood memories
Inside of the Kovic home, Ron goes into his bedroom and sees that his father has fixed his bathroom to accommodate his needs. Ron looks at his old high school wrestling picture and begins to tear up. He and his father share an emotional embrace.
1:02:58 Boyer Burgers
Steve Boyer invites Ron to his restaurant, Boyer Burgers, that he opened after graduating from college. Times have changed in Massapequa, and the next generation is starting to run the community. Steve offers Ron a job because he deserves to have recognition as a war hero and benefit from his work in the Marines. They discuss the aftermath of the war, and Steve thinks that the entire effort was lies fed to the public by the government.
1:05:25 Another family dinner
At dinner, Ron vents about the apathy expressed by many Americans towards the war. His younger brother Tommy tries to leave the kitchen, but Ron questions him and accuses him of burning the flag and joining the protesters. Tommy doesn't agree with everything Ron says and doesn't want more people to come back like Ron.
1:07:21 Role reversals on the 4th
Ron is dressed in his uniform and rides with other veterans in the Massapequa Fourth of July parade. This brings Ron full-circle from his life as a child, watching the vets, to having children watch him.
1:08:32 All shook up
While sitting in the back of a convertible, Ron hears the sound of firecrackers and shudders. Some people wave back at him, while protesters give him the finger and fight with the other soldiers marching. Ron sees a little boy with a Yankee baseball hat, sitting on his father's shoulders and shoots an imaginary gun in his direction--it's like a childhood ghost from the past.
1:09:55 Dedication ceremony
After the parade, people gather around a stage to commemorate the Veterans. The speaker reminds everyone of the local kids who sacrificed their lives so that other people could keep their rights, even those protesting the war.
1:11:57 Ron’s speech
Ron reassures the crowd that the morale of the boys in Vietnam is high and they are going to win the war. He doesn't want them to feel sorry for him because his still has many things in his life. Suddenly, Ron goes numb at the sound of a baby's cry in the background. He hears helicopters, planes, and bombs. The other vets take him off the stage.
1:13:46 Reunion
While his parents escort him to the car, Timmy, an old friend who also went to Vietnam comes up to Ron and takes him for a walk.
1:14:34 Catching up
That night, Timmy and Ron share war stories in the Kovic's backyard. Timmy tells Ron that he got hit on September 18th, and that there are many things that he can't really talk about. Ron also shares his story about getting hit on January 20th. They both hated the hospital. Timmy gets terrible headaches, and he says, "it doesn't feel like me," but doing drugs helps the pain. Ron says that what happened to him made sense because of his mistakes with killing the civilians. He is very jaded by the concept of heroism and that he would give everything he believed in just to have his body back again.
1:20:17 Train to Syracuse
Ron takes a trip to Syracuse, New York to visit his childhood friend, Donna. It's been many years, but they are excited to see one another in the train station.
1:21:20 Bar
At dinner, Ron and Donna talk about the letters that he sent to her while he was at war. Donna is deeply sorry for what happened to him, but she didn't know how to help him. Donna is part of a protest committee because, to her, war is so wrong.
1:23:30 Evening protests
Students sing and chant against the war in the commons of Syracuse. Donna asks Ron to talk about the war if he doesn't agree with it. He starts to sing "Moon River" and remembers their night at the prom. Donna has to leave for a protest, and Ron leaves for the night.
1:25:23 Protesting in the quad
The next day, Ron watches the Syracuse students protest against the war. The riot patrol warns everyone that they have five minutes to stop the speeches. The police eventually move in with smoke bombs and begin to hit the crowd members. Donna and Ron are separated in the chaos while injured students fall to the ground.
1:28:48 Arthur’s Bar
Timmy and Ron are drinking and playing pool at a bar. A wasted Ron is sharing his war stories with people and yelling about Vietnam. Another Marine veteran tells Ron to stop complaining, and a fight breaks out. Ron continues to drink and dances with a young girl named Jenny. Eventually, Ron is so drunk that he falls out of his wheelchair, and his friends drive him home.
1:33:22 “He’s drunk again”
Ron comes back to his parent's house completely wasted and yells to his mother's crucifix. He wishes that he was dead instead of thinking about Vietnam every day, while nobody else understands. He curses and screams at his mother because he thinks that she's ashamed of him. He confesses that he killed women and children, but his mother doesn't want to hear it, and she wants him out of the house. Ron is crying and screaming that his efforts were for nothing.
1:37:44 Bedtime
Ron's father tells him that he should go on a trip. He asks his son what he can do for him, but Ron replies that no one will ever love him.
1:39:15 Villa Dulce, Mexico -1970
Ron takes a vacation to Mexico where many other Veterans are drinking and gambling. Prostitutes are flirting with the men because they--unlike the women in the States--are not judgmental, and the money is good. He meets Charlie, a veteran from Chicago who never wants to go back to the United States.
1:41:42 The brothel
Ron goes into town and visits a brothel. A woman named Maria invites him into her room, and he eventually agrees.
1:43:24 Maria’s bedroom
Maria tries to have sex with Ron, but he explains that there is "no movement." Despite his reluctant attitude, Maria kisses him, and Ron cries.
1:45:53 Back at Villa Dulce
Charlie and the other veterans ask Ron how his night went with Maria. They remind him to keep an eye on his wallet.
1:46:51 A gift for Maria
Ron buys a present for Maria at a local marketplace. When he sees her again at the brothel, she is walking another customer out of her room.
1:48:48 Prostitutes
Women are offering sexual favors to Ron as he passes through the halls in Villa Dulce. He decides to take a woman back to his room for 60 pesos.
1:49:22 Bad dreams
In his sleep at Villa Dulce, Ron is having a terrible dream about the civilian deaths at Cua Viet River in Vietnam. He sees Wilson fall after he fires on him.
1:50:15 Letter to the Wilsons
Ron attempts to write a letter to Wilson's parents, but he's too frustrated to complete one.
1:50:53 Tensions flare at Villa Dulce
Charlie hits a woman and starts a fight at the brothel. Ron tries to join in, but the owner kicks them both out to the street.
1:51:55 On the road to Villa Rosa
Ron and Charlie are stranded after they fight with a cab driver on their way to a new villa. Charlie begins to tell Ron about the horrible things he had to do in Vietnam, like kill babies. He doesn't believe that Ron ever had to kill a baby because he "never put his soul on the line." Ron doesn't think he has to talk about it. They scream at one another and begin to fight on the ground.
1:55:48 “Do you remember the things that made sense?”
Lying in the sand, Ron asks Charlie what they are supposed to do now. How do they get back to things in their lives that made sense?
1:57:17 Paying his respects
Ron returns to the United States and takes a trip to Billy Wilson's grave. As he stares at the lonely grave site, he recalls his conversation that day with Wilson and then the Executive Officer who ignored Ron's confession.
1:59:10 The Wilson home
Ron finally meets the Wilsons and Billy's widow and son at their home. In their living room, Mr. Wilson recalls his Billy's funeral and his own experience with war. Their family has a tradition of fighting in wars. Mrs. Wilson mentions the letter from Colonel Moore that explained the ambush in which Billy died, and he was glad that his son died quickly.
2:01:53 In his own words
An emotional Ron begins his account of that day--he explains that he was the squad leader and didn't know Wilson very well. Eventually, Ron confesses that they killed babies by mistake and things got crazy. The scene switches to a black and white flashback of that day while Ron's voice narrates. He says that he raised his rifle and shot a body that fell in the dunes. While crying, Ron tells them all that he was the one who killed Billy. The Wilsons tell him that they understand his pain, and Billy's widow hopes that the Lord will forgive Ron even though she won't.
2:05:46 Veterans’ march
Ron and thousands of other veterans protest the Vietnam War at the Miami Beach Republican National Convention. Richard Nixon is speaking in front of many supporters. The veterans enter the arena, but security and the press approach them immediately.
2:09:05 TV coverage
Ron speaks on television and explains his disgust with the government and tries to defend the Vietnamese people. He wants to stop the violence from continuing. The veterans chant while Nixon's voice is overhead–-he's actually explaining that the veterans deserve respect. Despite the confusion and angry Republicans, Ron continues to protest to the press.
2:13:05 Under arrest
Ron is thrown out of his wheelchair and brutally handcuffed. A riot breaks out between the police and the protesters. Someone finds Ron on the ground and carries him away on his shoulders, just like the day that Ron was shot in Vietnam. Many people are injured, but Ron tries to lead the group with a new strategy. They all move out as though they're back in Vietnam.
2:16:14 Democratic National Convention -1976
Ron is backstage of the convention in Arizona. As he wheels his way to the stage to make a speech, several flashbacks from his childhood appear. We find out that he has written a book about his experiences. A reporter asks Ron how it feels to address the entire country, and he says, "Just lately, I felt like I'm home, like maybe we're home." The scene fades out as Ron wheels into the convention hall, and the song "You're a Grand Old Flag" plays loudly.