Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Tom Cruise, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava
There are two things any moviegoer should know about Oliver Stone: 1) He loves to tell stories based on true events, and 2) He has a tendency to rewrite history, sometimes egregiously (see JFK). The one subject where he leans more toward the realistic side is the Vietnam War. Stone’s own tour of duty is explored in the semi-autobiographical Platoon, with Charlie Sheen assuming the director’s identity (a privileged white kid who volunteers to go to war).
In Born on the Fourth of July, Stone tells the story of Ron Kovic, who joined the Marines as an enthusiastic young patriot and came home a paralyzed anti-war activist. Tom Cruise earned his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Kovic, which required him to play against Movie Star type for much of the movie, in which the wheelchair-bound and newly politicized Kovic leads a series of anti-Vietnam War protests to bring attention to the young men who were ripped from the comforts of home—voluntarily or otherwise—and literally dropped into a jungle to defend their country. So moved was even Kovic by Cruise’s portrayal of him that he gifted the actor with his Bronze Star on the final day of filming.