AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Summary View of Movie
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Director: Milos Forman (Dir)
Release Date:   14 Mar 1979
Duration (in mins):  120
Print this page
Display Movie Detail

Cast: John Savage  (Claude [Hooper Bukowski])
  Treat Williams  ([George] Berger)
  Beverly D'Angelo  (Sheila [Franklin])

Summary: During the late 1960s, naïve Oklahoma farm boy Claude Hooper Bukowski arrives in New York City to sightsee for a couple of days before enlisting in the Army and fighting in Vietnam. In Central Park, he notices three stylish women on horseback, who are being taunted by a group of frolicking hippies. Claude makes eye contact with one of the women, Sheila Franklin, and is immediately entranced. Meanwhile, George Berger, the impulsive, charismatic leader of the hippies, and his three friends, Jeannie Ryan, Lafayette “Hud” Johnson and Woof Daschund, rent a horse and attempt to ride alongside the prim socialites. When the rental horse bolts away, Claude comes to the rescue and reins in the animal. He then gallops past Sheila, showing off his rodeo skills, but she and her friends ride off in another direction. Afterward, Berger invites Claude to smoke marijuana and hang out in the park. Claude is amazed to learn that pregnant Jeannie is unconcerned whether the father of her baby is Woof or Hud. The next morning, as Claude prepares to leave the group, Berger finds a photograph of Sheila in the newspaper, announcing her debutante party. He suggests they attend so Claude can meet the girl. The hippies appear at the formal gathering in their Bohemian attire and mingle as if they were invited. At the dinner table, they are asked to leave, but Berger refuses. As Sheila’s father contacts the police, Berger announces to the astonished guests that Claude is in love with Sheila and wanted to see her one more time before leaving for Vietnam. Meanwhile, Sheila, who has been smoking marijuana with her girl friends, is quietly amused and flattered by the intruders. In court, Claude and the hippies are each sentenced to thirty days in jail unless they can pay the $50 fine. Although Claude has enough money to meet his bail, he reluctantly gives the cash to Berger, who promises to collect bail for everyone once he is released. After an unsuccessful attempt to hustle Sheila and her preppy boyfriend, Steve, Berger approaches his parents. Although his father tells him to get a job, his mother takes him aside and gives him $250. Meanwhile, in jail, Woof refuses to let the barber cut his long blonde hair. Upon release, the group joins a large crowd of counterculture tribes and anti-war protestors in Central Park. There, Claude takes the psychedelic drug LSD and hallucinates about his marriage to Sheila in a Hare Krishna wedding ceremony. When he becomes clearheaded and reunites with Berger and the group later that evening, Sheila is with them. She initially appears shy and indifferent, then summons the courage to swim naked with Claude. However, she runs away angry when Berger sneaks off with their clothes. Although Berger is amused by the prank, Claude reminds him that he is leaving the following day for the army and will not have another chance to see Sheila. A draft dodger, Berger cannot understand why Claude is enlisting, but Claude criticizes Berger for his lack of responsibility. Disappointed, Claude walks away from his new friends. The next day, Claude reports to the Army’s induction center and is transferred to a training base in Nevada. Sometime later, he writes to Sheila. When she shares the letter with Berger, he suggests that the friends should drive to Nevada for a visit. After stealing Steve’s car, Berger, Sheila, Woof, Hud, and Jeannie crowd into the vehicle for the cross-country journey. They are also joined by Hud’s fiancée, who is the mother of Hud’s young son, Lafayette, Jr. Unlike the free-spirited hippies, the young mother worries that Hud has fathered Jeannie’s baby. When the group arrives in Nevada, they are immediately turned away from the base by military police. Determined to see their friend, they devise an alternative plan. At a nearby bar, Sheila flirts with a base officer named Fenton and steals his uniform, while Hud confiscates the man’s car. With a new short haircut, Berger dons the uniform, drives to the gate in Fenton’s car, and is waved past security. Locating Claude in one of the barracks, Berger tries to coax his friend into hiding in the trunk and sneaking off base for a few hours. Although Claude is thrilled about the surprise visit and desperate to reunite with Sheila, he says the plan is too risky, since the base is on alert and recruits are subject to frequent head counts. Berger and Claude then agree to switch places, and Claude drives off base disguised as Officer Fenton. While Claude visits Sheila and the group in the desert, his unit is suddenly deployed overseas. Frightened, Berger is forced to march onto a plane bound for Vietnam. Claude panics when he returns to the base and realizes his friend is gone. Sometime later, at a military cemetery in Washington D.C., the friends mourn Berger’s death, and the peace movement gains momentum. 

Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.
Director: Milos Forman (Dir)
  Michael Hausman (Asst dir/1st asst dir)
  Robert Greenhut (Unit prod mgr)
  Joe Ray (2d asst dir)
  Joel Tuber (2d asst dir)
Producer: Lester Persky (Prod)
  Michael Butler (Prod)
  Robert Greenhut (Assoc prod)
Writer: Michael Weller (Scr)

Subject Major: Friendship
  Military service, Compulsory
  New York City--Central Park
  United States--History--Vietnam War, 1964--1973
Subject Minor: Adolescence
  Draft dodgers
  Free love
  Generation gap
  Hallucinogenic drugs
  Impersonation and imposture
  Interracial relationships
  Military bases
  New York City
  Officers (Military)
  Peace symbols
  Protest songs
  Race relations

Display Movie Detail
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.