December 21st, 1984



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Still of Matthew Modine in BirdyStill of Matthew Modine in BirdyStill of Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine in Birdy

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)

Director: Alan Parker

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

Matthew Modine - Birdy
Nicolas Cage - Al Columbato
John Harkins - Doctor Weiss
Sandy Baron - Mr. Columbato
Karen Young - Hannah Rourke
Bruno Kirby - Renaldi
Nancy Fish - Mrs. Prevost
George Buck - Birdy's Father
Dolores Sage - Birdy's Mother
Pat Ryan - Joe Sagessa (as Robert L. Ryan)
James Santini - Mario Columbato
Maud Winchester - Doris Robinson (as Maude Winchester)
Marshall Bell - Ronsky
Elizabeth Whitcraft - Rosanne
Sandra Beall - Shirley

Taglines: 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 (USA) (25 December 1984) (1 Screen)

Gross: $1,455,045 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Nicolas Cage had two teeth removed (without anesthetic) for this role.

Continuity: The position of Birdy's arm and hands change between shots. (At 26:15).

[last lines]
Birdy: [to a surprised Al, who was expecting to see Birdy dead] What?

User Review

An Outstanding Film About Friendship and Adversity

Rating: 10/10

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 situation.

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 good times.

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 choice.

"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.


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