Dogfight (1991) - Rotten Tomatoes


Dogfight (1991)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Dogfight Photos

Movie Info

Set in San Francisco in 1963, this highly original and thought-provoking drama chronicles the brief relationship between a young Marine who is about to be shipped out to Vietnam and the rather plain aspiring folk singer who teaches him a few important lessons about life and the treatment of women. The lesson begins after the Marine (River Phoenix) and his buddies, wanting to celebrate their last night of freedom before sailing off to war, decide to rent a bar and hold a "dogfight," an odious contest in which the Marines compete to find the ugliest date. The winner will get all of the other soldier's money. Not pausing to think that the whole contest is cruel and degrading to the women, Eddie Birdlace sets off to find himself a pug-ugly girl. He comes up with waitress Rose Feeney (Lili Taylor) who is only plain. A sensitive girl who listens to folk music, writes poetry and herself aspires to sing, she isn't really that interested in Eddie, but out of pity agrees to be his date. Unfortunately, as they get to know each other, he begins to have a prick of conscience. Still they go to the party. When she learns the truth, she is angry and leaves. Now genuinely sorry, he takes off after her to try and make amends.

Watch it now


River Phoenix
as Eddie Birdlace
Holly Near
as Rose Sr.
E.G. Daily
as Marcie
Sue Morales
as Ruth Two Bears
Charles F. Vetter Jr.
as Truckstop Waitress
John Lacy
as Fector
Chris San Nicholas
as Dogfight Buddy
Brian Gotta
as Dogfight Marine
Peg Phillips
as Older Cafe Customer
Neal Allen
as Sergeant Judge
Ron Lynch
as Lance Corporal Judge
Dale Carman
as Restaurant Maitre d'
Angie Utt
as Thrift Shop Woman
Kenny Utt
as Thrift Shop Man
Julian Schembri
as Navy Bill
Brendan Fraser
as 1st Sailor
Brendon Fraser
as 1st Sailor
Matt Skerritt
as 2nd Sailor
Dion Williams
as Older Brother on Bus
Jason Moore
as Younger Brother on Bus
Denise Williams
as Mother on Bus
Kristie Gamer
as Pretty Girl
Dave MacIntyre
as Bartender
David MacIntyre
as Bartender
Art Cahn
as Bar Owner
Bob Munns
as 50s Drinker
Bonnie Fox
as Arcade Hooker
Joseph Franklin
as Crying Customer
Jacob Luft
as Neighborhood Boy
Constance McCord
as Dogfight Waitress
Laura Vetter
as Truckstop Waitress
Krisha Fairchild
as Truckstop Cook
George Evans
as Bus Driver
Jillian Armenante
as Girl on Street
Anne Elizabeth Washburn
as Friend of Girl on Street
John Fry
as Marine on Bus
Kenneth Utt
as Thrift Shop Man
Albert Farrar
as Corpsman
Raf Orozco
as Hippie
View All

Critic Reviews for Dogfight

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (3)

Dogfight isn't a love story so much as a story about how a young woman helps a confused teenage boy to discover his own better nature.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

While not a perfect film (its ending is touching but painfully abrupt and unresolved), Savoca's first movie since her breakthrough True Love reveals her as a director with more stories to tell in her feeling personal way.

May 31, 2018 | Full Review…

Savoca's second film also deals with sexual politics, centering on a type of woman seldom seen in American movies

July 1, 2011 | Rating: B | Full Review…

The great casting in this film is evident from the stars to the supporting actors and even to the bit players.

July 21, 2004 | Rating: 83/100 | Full Review…

Creatively deals with insecurity, group pressures, male machismo and loneliness

July 19, 2003 | Full Review…

A virtually unknown gem, and is one of the sweetest, most touching romances of the decade.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Dogfight


Dogfight is cruel, poignant, and yet played out. This is one of the more unique period pieces, an independent film made right at the peak of River Phoenix's fame and only several years before his subsequent death. The story is one that makes little sense in the way of meaning. The span of time is the early sixties, right as the folk scene was starting to gain momentum and the Vietnam War was turning from a conflict to a full scale war. Most of the plot relies heavily on the setting to compliment the storyline. Though this is supposed to be about what beauty really means I didn't see much in the way of Birdlace's (Phoenix) change in demeanor or values, only selfish behavior. Though he takes advantage of Rose (Lili Taylor) and you can tell he feels bad about it before going through with the demeaning act itself, he still demonizes himself by taking her in the first place and not standing up for her directly. He even lies to her while trying to apologize for the cruel way he treated her. The character is a severe detraction from what Marines were. It's not that his portrayal was unrealistic of what wartime soldiers were like, but the script undersells their intelligence at every turn and instead tries to sell us on brotherhood, and an entire side storyline about the folk music scene. Rose is a simplistic clod of a girl, who isn't unattractive, and shouldn't fall for his line of bullshit. Though the film is about changing yourself through acceptance and tolerance, Rose shouldn't have let him try to change himself by using her, and he sure shouldn't have started things with her the night before he was being shipped out. I accept many of these faults because the romance was actually quite sweet. It shouldn't have happened in the first place, but the endearing performance from Phoenix pushed me into liking this despite everything. This is a great performance for him, and Taylor who would go on to make the horrid version of The Haunting. Though this film drags (which is odd since it comes in at an hour and a half) it does plant the idea that what you're led to believe isn't always what's right, and any movie that promotes equality and understanding, no matter how clumsy a way they go about it, gets some kudos from me.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

A touching little gem of a piece as a new couple enjoy a night on the town before he ships overseas to be an advisor in Vietnam. Phoenix and Taylor are amazing. I'd never heard of it before! Did I give it 3 stars? Shoulda been 4.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Set San Francisco, California during the Vietnam War, Dogfight conceives the innocent and inexperienced relationship of an unsophisticated woman and a young United States Marine she met on the eve of his trip to Vietnam. Most hilarious. Most charming. Most romantic. My personal brand of romance. Lovely.

Jan Marc Macababayao
Jan Marc Macababayao

Super Reviewer

Dogfight Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features