After two friends return home from the Vietnam War one becomes mentally unstable and obsesses with becoming a bird.
Release Year: 1984
Rating: 7.2/10 (10,303 voted)
Stars: Matthew Modine, Nicolas Cage, John Harkins
Two friends arrive back from Vietnam, scarred in different ways. One has physical injuries, the other has mental problems that make him yearn to be a bird, a subject he has always been fascinated with.
Writers: William Wharton, Sandy Kroopf
(as Robert L. Ryan)
(as Maude Winchester)
A soaring experience unlike anything you've ever seen before.
Release Date: 21 December 1984
Filming Locations: 46th Street Station, cnr Market & 46th Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Opening Weekend: $13,720
(25 December 1984)
Did You Know?
Nicolas Cage had two teeth removed (without anesthetic) for this role.
The position of Birdy's arm and hands change between shots. (At 26:15).
[to a surprised Al, who was expecting to see Birdy dead]
An Outstanding Film About Friendship and Adversity
A friend of mine has been after me to watch "Birdy" for several months now.
Yesterday we finally had a chance and much to my delight, I found the film
to be everything she said it was and more.
"Birdy", directed by Alan Parker, is a story of friendship between Al
(Nicholas Cage) and Birdy (Matthew Modine), two Philadelphia, Pa high
schoolers who end up being sent to Vietnam. It is the early 1960's and Al
could very easily be the street hood, but we can see he has a heart. He is
tough (and will not back down from a fight) but plays ball with the
neighborhood kids in the field which ajoins Birdy's house. Everytime a home
run is hit, the ball flies over the fence and is scooped up by Birdy's
mother, never to be seen again. Birdy's mother is uncompromising with his
father and the neighborhood kids, a source of embarrassment and guilt which
burdens Birdy, causing him to feel like an outsider. He is interested in
birds and flight, which becomes a metaphor for Birdy's developing obsession
with the idea of flying away from his increasingly unbearable family
As a result of a misunderstanding regarding a stolen knife, Al warms to
Birdy and sees there is more to this clumsy kid than meets the eye. Al is
experiencing his own troubles with his father but deals with the situation
in a different way than Birdy. The birds begin to fascinate Al and the two
develop a close friendship which strengthens in troubled times and blooms in
In Vietnam, Birdy finally faces a situation which he can't physically fly
away from, which is a hundred times more horrible than his home life. And
Al, although also in Vietnam, is not with him for support. Here is where
Birdy's final breakdown occurs and it's up to Al, who now is dealing with
his own physical scars, to bring Birdy back.
Alan Parker directed this film (from the novel "Birdy" by William Whorton,
who also wrote the source novel for "A Midnight Clear") with a flashback
narrative which works beautifully. Al and Birdy's friendship is fully
developed and realistic. Both characters have depth and are engaging.
Never has Nicholas Cage done as fine a work as his role as Al (his
performance in "Guarding Tess" was close). His performance as Al made me
wish he would choose more roles like this instead of "Face/Off" and "Con
Air". Matthew Modine is excellent as Birdy. We can feel the emotional pain
of a youth who didn't ask for any of this but uses his inner strength of
character to stave off mental defeat.
Thankfully, the Vietnam sequences, although very well done, are short and
few. This is not a film about Vietnam but a film about Al and Birdy. Birdy
went to Vietnam with a pre-existing problem. Vietnam made it worse. There
is some commentary concerning the military and the VA but it does not
criticize. Although not always on the right track, the Army Major who
brings Al (a wounded sergeant by this time) from Fort Dix to the VA
psychiatric hospital to speak with Birdy made the right
"Birdy" is one of those films which haunts the mind. I'm sure other elements
and ideas from the film will become more apparent to me long after this
writing. This is an outstanding character study which has been overlooked
for too long.