Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)

jonathan livingston seagull poster 1973 movie
3.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 2/10
Visuals: 7/10

Decent looking nature style shots

Paper thin story is too thin to be stretched out but still feels like it lost something

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama/Family

Release Date(s):  October 23, 1973

MPAA Rating:  G


Dammit…where’s the ocean? Or at least a Walmart parking lot?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a seagull who dreams beyond his flock.  Not content with living off scraps and flying simply for survival, Jonathan strives for more…and is banished as a result.  Now, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is out to push himself to the limits of a gull…and possibly even beyond.

Directed by Hall Bartlett, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is an big screen adaptation of the pop-philosophy classic by Richard Bach and published in 1970.  The book was a success but the movie floundered and was highly criticized (it makes many “Worst Of” lists and Roger Ebert claims it was one of the few movies he walked out of).  The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, and Neil Diamond’s soundtrack won him a Golden Globe for Best Original Score and a nomination for Best Original Song (“Lonely Looking Sky”).


That is one crazy-ass seagull!

We read Jonathan Livingston Seagull in school.  The short story was fine, and an easy Intro to Philosophy course for younger students.  While the film generally seems to follow the course of the book, it seems to really lose something in the translation.

The first problem with the movie is that though the overall message is good (always push yourself further and you can achieve more), the movie is way too simplistic to carry on for over an hour and a half.  You probably could have told this story in an hour or less and it still would have retained the message and even strengthened the film version of the message due to tightening it up.  Richard Bach was very upset by the film and sued for the changes to his story.


I’m totally tripping!

Though there are voice actors, the movie is primarily a visual movie.  James Franciscus provides the voice of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Richard Crenna nad Dorothy McGuire provide his parents voice.  David Ladd is the voice of Jonathan’s apprentice and you could almost give Neil Diamond an acting credit due to his constant music (Diamond also sued for having his songs cut).

The movie’s only saving grace is some decent visuals.  It combines real footage of seagulls (much like the novel) with some fake seagulls…for every nine good shots, there is one really bad one.  Though it is often shot nicely, you are still watching seagulls for an hour and a half, and it gets old fast.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull isn’t a very good movie and I can’t really recommend it…even for fans of the book.  If you want a real snoozer to tire the kids out, pop in this movie, however.  It is a long slow ride with a message but not enough message to save it.

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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