Partly from my “what did you take the wrong thing from” thread where people were surprised that I thought 2/3 of Full Metal Jacket was a shitty movie (and Kubrick just lucked out for the other third that he had R. Lee Ermey hanging around, because if the first third is a great movie it is not Kubrick’s fault). And then tonight we watched The Deer Hunter and I am a destroyed hulk of a human being.
I probably missed a lot of great films, but poll (coming soon!) should hopefully list some of the great contenders.
Defend your pick and SHOW YOUR WORK. (Especially if you defend Full Metal Jacket based on its time frame, since it is AFTER The Deer Hunter and contemporaneous with Platoon.) (Psst - I have not seen Platoon in decades, but it’s our next movie assignment if I can face the world again.)
ETA - I came up with the options using my boyfriend and IMDB - I myself have not seen The Killing Fields, The Fog of War, Hamburger Hill, or Hearts and Minds. The one of those that I’d really like to watch is The Killing Fields.
By the way, past the edit mark - I voted for The Deer Hunter because I felt it was a truly great film, not just a great Vietnam film. The Vietnam bits are, what, maybe 45 minutes of the whole films? But for every second the movie spent in Vietnam I held on to my dog like he was the last ticket out of Saigon. The filmmaking was extraordinary (note the use of long shots and closeups when it counts, plus the color in Vietnam) and it held me for every second of a very long running time.
ETA - and if anything it reminded me of the sick feeling I had reading The Things They Carried, which of what I’ve read is the most evocative Vietnam book.
ETAA - again! I forgot to add Born of the Fouth of July to the poll. Sorry 'bout that.
I picked Platoon, but it hurt my brain that I couldn’t say Apocolypse Now, which meant more to me as a kid, since my friends and I used to dose and see that movie a lot. It was awesome. But platoon is more of a Vietnam movie.
I agree. Full Metal Jacket was the best BOOT CAMP movie ever made, but once the setting changes to Vietnam, it goes down hill faster than a machinegun. I usually turn it off as soon as I hear “These Boots Are Made For Walking”
It wasn’t on the list (since the movie dealt with many OTHER things unrelated to the war), but Forrest Gump was my favorite Vietnam movie. This is because it was shown from the point of view of a soldier who had NO IDEA what was going on around him, yet was put on the front lines and experienced pretty much everything the war had to offer, between the rainy jungle combat, watching his conrades get killed or mangled (and himself getting injured and sent home) and then seeing the protests once he returned to the United States.
I haven’t seen it recently enough to back it up, but Born On the Fourth Of July is also up there, for similar reasons.
I would disagree that 2/3 of Full Metal Jacket was not very good. FMJ was one of the few war films IMHO that does not glamorize war. Most war films inadvertantly end up glamorizing war simply through the sheer spectacle of battle. Sure it’s terrifying if you are actually there, but from the safety of your couch, airplanes dropping “snakes & nape” on a hapless VC village, Huey gunships landing an Air Cav company into a hot LZ, Marines defending their firebase and whatnot are pretty spectacular imagery.
Kubrick deconstructs the typical Nam film through Joker’s experiences after boot camp. He experiences the war first as a Rear Echelon MoFo where he and Rafterman might as well be on vacation. He gets his first taste of combat when his base is attacked during the Tet Offensive, but the combat is still distant and impersonal. Some mortar strikes and firing on distant shapes from the relative safety of their bunkers. As Joker and Rafterman enter “the shit”, Kubrick gives us a glipse of the scale and scope of the Battle of Hue, but we are mostly seeing the aftermath of battle at this point.
It’s really the last third of the film where Joker meets up with Cowboy and his squad that Kubrick gives us a true glipse into the gritty truth of war. There is no heroism or glory. They aren’t on some secret mission to take out an NVA general or anything. It’s a random patrol of such little importance their battalion can’t even justify sending a tank to support them. No one dies a heroes death taking out a squad of VC with a grenade in each hand. Each death is a result of carelessness or being in the wrong place at the wrong time - peering around the wrong corner, a missed boobytrap, walking past the wrong hole in a wall. Even their “victory” at the end offers little satisfaction or glory. They didn’t hold of a company of NVA or take a hill. They took out a teenage VC girl with an old rifle.
Not to mention it was the source of “Me love you long time!”
You also left The Boys in Company C, Bat 21, Tigerland, Flight of the Intruder, Operation: Dumbo Drop and Rescue Dawn off the list. Just for completeness.
I couldn’t decide between Full Metal Jacket over Good Morning Vietnam. I voted for Full Metal Jacket because it had more memorable characters in it. The Vietnam war was only in the second half of the film. I have to put my vote in for R. Lee Ermey though.
I went to Vietnam. I stood on top of the old American embassy and yelled out in my loudest, Robin Williams like voice…
“Good Morning Vietnammmmm!”
Bruno Kirby, J.T. Walsh and Noble Willingham are no longer with us.
Like I said, I went to Vietnam and had a blast. Lovely country, I could understand why France, the USA and China have fought over it. Nice people, lovely landscape, fantastic food. Good beaches. Not a lot of overt poverty. No one was starving. I did see a KFC in Saigon, which made me think about the 58,000 people who were killed trying to prevent the government that they have now. Sad.
It was hard to pick between Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter. I opted for Apocalypse - but not an easy decision as both were really great films. BTW, I normally hate war films, but those two are classics in American film.
England. Kubrick was an American but he lived in England and filmed his movies there whenever possible.
Definitely not true. Look at Beetle Bailey. They introduced the character of Lt Flap as a Vietnam vet in 1970 because Mort Walker felt a strip about the military couldn’t ignore the fact that a war was going on. And while Flap occasionally was used to make some point about race, he “had his shit together” more than most of the other characters in the strip.
If you want to go with TV, Det. Stan Wojciehowicz on Barney Miller was portrayed as a Vietnam vet five years before Magnum, PI premiered.
I picked Apocalypse Now for the best Vietnam war film because it was lushly filmed and drew out the evil and stupidity of the war over and over. And it was the best version of Heart of Darkness put to film. It had so many great actors in it doing great acting.
I think it was filmed in an abandoned industrial park in England.
It had a different feel because it portrayed events during the Battle of Hue, one of the relatively few actions that happened in and around a built up urban area. Most of our feel of the 'nam typically comes from seeing endless scenes of small infantry units air-assulting into an LZ in their Hueys, patrolling the jungle, burning hooches, defending their Khe-sahn-like firebase from enimy seige, calling in the “snake & nape” (250-lb. Mk-81 Snakeye bombs and 500-lb. M-47 napalm canisters). The traditional Vietnam “feel” has almost become cliche.
Speaking of which -Tropic Thunder .
Went with Apocalypse Now, but for something more literally about the war, I give the nod to Killing Fields.
I share the OPs disdain for Full Metal Jacket, but didn’t even like the boot camp sequences.
The Deer Hunter I’ve only seen in bits and pieces.
Platoon, I stopped watching after about an hour, and it left me with a permanent distaste for Oliver Stone. It’s been a long time, but my recollection is that a young soldier is influenced by two veteran soldiers and torn between the two opposing paths they represent.
–One guy is easy-going, pot-smoking, and anti-authoritarian.
–The other guy is a war monger.
The war monger guy drops the easy-going guy into a trap and coldly watches him flee desperately from dozens of enemy soldiers for five minutes before meeting inevitable death.
Well gee Ollie, I guess we can figure out which symbolic character is the good one, or can you give us some more hints?
I’m surprised to see The Killing Fields considered a Vietnam War movie. The events of the movie took place after the war in a civil war in another country. Yes, said events were undoubtedly driven by the Vietnam War, but there are a lot of other things that were driven by that war that we wouldn’t call parts of the Vietnam War – it strikes me as a bit like considering Easy Rider a Vietnam War movie.