Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)


Have you ever wondered what seagulls dream?

This is a movie dedicated completely to a seagull’s spiritual pursuit of himself and the meaning of his seagull life. No joke. The film is made up entirely of beach and seagull footage, but the seagulls speak via gentle, whispery voice-overs from the film’s unseen human actors. The tender, pensive music of Neil Diamond makes up the entire soundtrack. It is absurd and I can only assume we have psychedelic drugs to thank for it.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull isn’t like the other seagulls. He is unsatisfied with life on the garbage barge and wants to fly higher and faster than any other seagull ever has. He’s trying to think outside the seagull box, you see. He attempts to blow all the other seagulls’ minds with his reckless fly-diving technique, but they are afraid to try new things so they kick him out of the flock. In his lonely wanderings he sees many new places and creatures: the desert, a farm with horses, a snow-covered forest (a seagull in the snow is one of the saddest and funniest things I’ve seen in awhile). He eventually makes it back to the coast where he once again tries his fly-diving, only to suffer a serious crash that leaves him grappling with the concept of his own mortality. Rather than let his failure defeat him, however, Jonathan is spurred into a majestic and inspirational recovery.

At this point the movie gets a bit abstract (ha). The colors of the scenery are inverted, Jonathan’s seagull Spirit Guide appears to him in a cave, he apparently transcends time and space and is elevated to a higher plane of consciousness where he meets a lady seagull who speaks in a fine cultured english accent, and he discovers his amazing power to heal…

The movie is breathtaking, triumphant, ridiculous, and ultimately rather absurdly uplifting. Who knew I could be so deeply moved by a seagull? Now when I go to the beach I’m going to look at every seagull and wonder, “What’s he REALLY thinking?”


  • Ambition – 9

I can’t believe this movie got made. Who did they think would watch it? How did the actor’s keep their voices steady? I’d have been rolling. It’s absolutely preposterous.

  • Presentability – 6

Seagull souvenirs are hard to come by unless you live in a coastal town, and you can’t very well serve garbage to eat. But, we had a seafoood salad, a cooked bird (game hen) and a drink called the Queasy Seagull. So, it was challenging, but not impossible and well worth it.

  • Sex/Violence – 4

There was never a disclaimer about no animals having been harmed during filming, which is disturbing because of the very real-looking high speed seagull crash into a cliff face and slo-motion rag-doll tumble down to the bottom. Also there were several scenes of seagulls fighting over garbage, and one mid-air seagull vs hawk fight. Unfortunately no freaky seagull sex.

  • Performances – 7

I have to give high marks here first because, again, I can’t believe the actors were able to deliver their lines at all, and without laughing? That’s impressive. And second because the seagulls were so believable….

  • Datability – 6

The music and the whole idea of the film were very, very 70s. It was like a movie bible for aging hippies.

  • Script – 5

“Life is more than just fighting for some fish heads somewhere.”
A lot of lofty metaphysical seagull dialogue, and they even worked in a pretty hilarious seagull Jesus metaphor. “He is the son of the Great Gull!!”

  • Relevance – 8

I don’t even know where to begin as far as listing all the amazing epiphanies about life this movie contains. It is fairly dripping with deep, poignant life lessons. Believe in Yourself. Reach for the Stars. Follow Your Heart. Cut up the Plastic from Your Six Pack Before You Throw it Away.

  • Originality – 9

I have never seen anything like it.

  • Cinematography   8

So much beautiful ocean scenery, the rolling waves, the pounding surf, all shot from a flying seagull’s perspective. Also a lot of really wonderful shots of seagulls with a sunset backdrop. And who doesn’t love to watch seagulls flying in slow motion?

  • Production Design – 5

I can’t really give a lot of credit to the movie makers for this one because, with the exception of the soundtrack, mother nature did all the work.


Changing a baby’s diaper. But you’re an aging hippy in the 70s so you’re using hippy cloth diapers that need to be hand washed. And when the child gets older it rejects your hippy values and refuses to eat the disgusting tempeh and soy cheese on whole wheat bread sandwiches you make for it in favor of a nice juicy BLT.

There once was a pensive young seagull
who found his life on the beach to be dull
so he flew from his nest
went on a great quest
and now he is gay and quite gleeful.


~ by mgjk on January 3, 2010.

2 Responses to “Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)”

  1. This was a book.

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