The Vietnam War provided fertile land for films, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, we selected 10 of the best.
It has been 40 years since Saigon collapsed marking the end of the Vietnam War. The United States fought the Viet Cong (followed by the North Vietnamese Army) for more than a decade – along with South Vietnamese forces. The conflict has claimed the lives of more than a million Vietnamese and thousands of Americans.
War has had a profound impact on American society, and from the viewpoint of the United States as a nation. A large number of films based on this conflict have been released – especially in the 1980s and 1990s. We have chosen the Top 10 best Vietnam war movies here:
This is a classic war movie, released in 1986 with Charlie Sheen in the lead role as a young rookie sent to the frontline to fight against the Viet Cong.
Oliver Stone won his first Academy Award for Best Platoon Director (which won the Best Film Award himself). Charlie Sheen is a young employer who gives up his privileged position at the university to volunteer in Vietnam.
He quickly learned that he was just a key figure in the conflict and saw the worst of humanity – on both sides of the war – and suffered a psychological farewell after witnessing it. Massacre of a village. innocent by the members of his platoon.
Written and directed by Oliver Stone, this is considered one of the most successful Vietnam War films. It might have one of the most dramatic death scenes, when Willem Dafoe was hunted by the Viet Cong, raising his hand desperately before collapsing to the ground.
2.) Apocalypse Now
Released in 1979, this epic film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and a list of great movie stars like Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall. Francis Ford Coppola’s war epic is inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which changes the context of the Belgian Congo novel on the border between Vietnam and Cambodia.
Martin Sheen plays an unarmed captain of the army, tasked with secretly plunging into the jungle and attacking a green beret named Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The apocalypse now exposes the madness and absurdity of war and how it can spoil anyone.
Best known for Duvall’s famous “Love of Napalm in the morning” story, the film follows the central character, Captain Benjamin L. Willard (played by Sheen), who is sent to kill the crazy Colonel. Walter Walter. Special forces Kurtz (played by Brando).
3.) Hamburger Hill
Released in 1987, the film is based on an attack by the US 3rd Battalion, 187 Infantry Regiment, against the North Vietnamese Army on ‘Hill 937’ near the Lao border. Read Tet 1968 Attack to better understand the context of the film
The film’s title refers to the nickname given to the film by the US military after the bloody battle in May 1969. Directed by John Irvin and starred by Courtney B. Vance and Don Cheadle, the film has impressive fighting scenes when the unit tries to cross the thick mud to the Viet Cong front.
4.) Full Metal Jacket
This film, published in 1987, was directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. The first part of the film – with Matthew Modine – follows in the footsteps of a group of new recruits to be put into initial training.
This includes a worrying death of a suicide recruiter after shooting down his instructor. The battle of Hue city in the second half of the film was filmed at an abandoned gas factory in East London.
5.) Casualties of War
This film was based in 1989 on real events in an incident in 1966 in Vietnam when a military unit kidnapped, raped and murdered a Vietnamese girl.
Main actor Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn, the film describes a soldier’s mission to bring those responsible to justice, challenging big personal risks.
One of Penn and Fox’s best films
6.) L’échelle de Jacob (Jacob’s Ladder)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990) is a horror film starring Tim Robbins.
He talked about an American soldier Jacob Singer, a veteran of Vietnam, who had a strange hallucination, flashback and his experience of the war.
The title of the film refers to the biblical story of Jacob’s Ladder, taken from the Bible.
7.) A Bright Shining Lie
A brilliant lie was a movie in 1998, based on a true story about Jean-Paul Vann’s experience during the war.
Bill Paxton, who starred, was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his role in the film.
8.) The Deer Hunter
This film was made in 1978 about 3 Russian-American workers and their services during the Vietnam War. After being captured by the North Vietnamese army and imprisoned in a camp, they were forced to play Russian roulette to entertain their captors.
With a cast of stars including Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep, the story takes place in a small town south of Pittsburgh, then Vietnam.
The scenes that show the game of the deadly Russian roulette are very controversial at the time the film is produced.
Michael Cimino’s epic and monumental war epic has won five Oscars (including Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken).
The Deer Hunter is the greatest film about the Vietnam War, revealing not only the hell of battle, but also the means to break the psychology of those who live through conflicts.
9.) Good Morning Vietnam
This film, made in 1987, is vaguely based on the experiences of Adrian Cronauer, a radio DJ.
The film is about Saigon in 1965, the character Williams is loved by his teammates, but hated by his superiors.
Robin Williams was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Adrien Cronauer, a travel DJ to Vietnam to bring animation and entertainment inspired by the Armed Forces radio.
He naturally met high-ranking officials who saw his performance comics too unorthodox for such a serious environment.
But he also experienced real warfare in his relationship with the Vietnamese and slowly learned the facts that were not found in the program.
10.) Née le 4 Juillet
One of Oliver Stone’s views on the Vietnam War (which he won the Academy Award for Best Second Director), Born on July 4 based on the memoirs of anti-war activist Ron Kovic (described described by Tom Cruise) and tells the story of the earnest mission of a man serving his country in Vietnam.
Once paralyzed by the war, he returned home in a country, in his opinion, betrayed him and put his anger into the service of the operation by saying against him.
Since most of these films were filmed in the 1980s, it was inevitable, a movie with Tom Cruise
Cruise plays Ron Kovic – shown early in life, through his experiences in Vietnam by eventually becoming a anti-war protester.
Thanks to this role, Tom Cruise received his first Oscar.
Film on the Vietnam War
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The films on the Vietnam war constitute a large film genre, a sub-genre of war films, which developed in the United States of America from the late sixties and ended in the mid-nineties; the vast majority of productions have gained positive feedback and have often been funded by major Hollywood film studios.
History of cinematographic representations
The Vietnam War was brought to the screen for the first time by the French film 317th Assault Battalion (La 317eme section), directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer in 1965, which tells of the vicissitudes of a French platoon lost in the Indochinese jungle in recent days of the French war in Indochina, ended in 1954 with the defeat of Dien Bien Phu.
As for American filmography, the first major American film that brings Vietnam to cinema screens is Berretti verdi (The Green Berets), strongly backed by American star John Wayne, who is also the protagonist.
The film was born from a “militant” ideological perspective alien to Hollywood cinema: the majors were in fact reluctant to tackle politically burning issues and uncertain financial returns.
Only since the second half of the seventies, Hollywood will take over the Viet-movie and make it a success story. The Viet-movies can be divided into three categories : the first is a fusion between classic war movies and action films, in which the achievement of a higher goal is at stake.
To this typology belong Berretti verde, Lost Victories (Go Tell the Spartans) (1978, Ted Post), Hamburger Hill: hill 937 (Hamburger Hill) (1987, John Irvin), the Rambo and Rombo di tuono series (Missing in Action) , played respectively by Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris.
Berretti verde uses the entire rhetorical arsenal of films from the forties and fifties on the Second World War. Placed in a completely different context, this rhetoric is inevitably anachronistic. The wound of the first military defeat of the United States still burns in American public opinion.
Lost victories is set in Vietnam in 1964 and touches on the ideological difference between the “right” second world war and the “dirty” Vietnamese conflict. During the war, Hollywood avoided taking a stand, contrary to what had happened during the world war or even during the recent Korean war.
Vietnam was however mentioned indirectly in some independent productions, mostly related to youth countercultures. For example, in Alice’s Restaurant the young hippies devise a thousand tricks to avoid being recruited (the same theme will then be repeated in other productions such as Un Wednesday da leoni or Hair).
In Ciao America !, a still unknown Robert De Niro is the protagonist of a “politically incorrect” scene, forcing a young Viet Cong prisoner to undress in front of the cameras.
In the same period, the most radical directors inaugurate the revisionist Western trend, seen from the perspective of the vanquished: the massacres of defenseless people in Indian villages in films such as Piccolo Grande Uomo or Soldato Blu can be seen as metaphors for the systematic destruction of Vietnamese villages by American troops. In the period of the Reagan presidency American cinema is now ripe for a reflection on the recent past.
The eighties sanctioned for Hollywood the recovery of some principles of classical cinema: rigid industrial organization, transparent writing and strong narration. The American revanchist spirit is embodied in the first two films of the Rambo series (1982 and 1985).
The second category focuses on the effects generated by the war and on the characters’ attempts to react: the line of veterans opens with a dead soldier returning home as a vampire in Death behind the door of Bob Clark, but the series is very long.
The most significant examples in this regard are Tornando a casa (1978, Hal Ashby), Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese) and Il cacciatore (1978, Michael Cimino).
The difficulties of social reintegration of veterans had been explored early by Hi, Mom! (1969, Brian De Palma), a black comedy in which Robert De Niro fails his attempts to find the daily rhythms of civil life.
After provoking a bomb attack, De Niro presented himself as an eyewitness to a local television crew and greeted his mother, like the soldiers interviewed on the Indochinese front.
Also isolated is the comedy tone of The Friends of Georgia in which Arthur Penn shows us a veteran who returns with his Vietnamese wife and two children in tow. Always Robert De Niro embodies the figure of the veteran in Taxi Driver, which tells the story of the alienated and paranoid Travis Bickle.
The references to Vietnam are limited and indirect, but «Travis […] has remained the signs of past experience: military discipline, action in battle, the sense of precariousness that is typical of the soldier in war, have left some inner traces and insomnia is somehow its visible aspect “.
The rough realism of Taxi Driver is one of the most disturbing and successful interpretations of the figure of the veteran: the difficulties of social adaptation of Travis are picarescamente resolved with a violent action, as he learned from the law of war.
Returning home he focuses on the love triangle between Sally (Jane Fonda), her husband Bob (Bruce Dern) and the physically impaired Luke (Jon Voight). Bob leaves for Vietnam and returns mentally upset: he is unable to react to his disability and will commit suicide.
Luke begins to live constructively, fighting for the pacifist cause. Sally carries out a process of liberation through sexual relations with Luke, the bearer of new moral values.
Finally, the third category brings the Vietnamese war back to an emotional and mental dimension: for example, Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola), Platoon (1986, Oliver Stone) and Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick) can be cited .
Apocalypse Now and especially Full Metal Jacket put Vietnam in a symbolic and internalized dimension. War is not a rite of passage to Remarque: Vietnam is the background of an inner crisis, which affects already adult characters.
The disenchanted pessimism that characterizes these films is probably the best cinematographic language to exorcise what was the first heavy defeat of the American armed forces.
List of films about the Vietnam war
This list is subject to change and may not be complete or up to date.
I disperati della gloria (Les parias de la gloire) (1964), regia di Henri Decoin
317º battaglione d’assalto (1965), regia di Pierre Schoendoerffer
Operation C.I.A. (1965), regia di Christian Nyby 
A un passo dall’inferno (To the Shores of Hell) (1966), regia di Will Zens
Berretti verdi (The Green Berets) (1967), regia di Jonh Wayne
The Edge (1968), regia di Robert Kramer 
Ciao America! (Greetings) (1968), regia di Brian De Palma
In the Year of the Pig (1969), regia di Emile De Antonio 
The Activist (1969), regia di Art Napoleon 
Hail, Hero! (1969), regia di David Miller 
America, America, dove vai? (Medium Cool) (1969), regia di Haskell Wexler
Alice’s Restaurant (1969), regia di Arthur Penn, ispirato all’omonima canzone di Arlo Guthrie
Fragole e sangue (The Strawberry Statement) (1970), regia di Stuart Hagman
L’impossibilità di essere normale (Getting Straight) (1970), regia di Richard Rush
Un mucchio di bastardi (1970), regia di Jack Starrett
Homer (1970), regia di John Trent 
Cowards (1970), regia di Simon Nuchtern 
Punishement Park (1971), regia di Peter Watkins 
Il piccione d’argilla (Clay Pigeon) (1971), regia di Tom Stern
The Hard Ride (1971), regia di Burt Topper 
Billy Jack (1971), regia di Tom Laughlin 
My Old Man’s Place (1971), regia di Edwin Sherin 
Summertree (1971), regia di Anthony Newley 
Limbo (1972), regia di Mark Robson
I visitatori (The Visitors”) (1972), regia di Elia Kazan
Welcome Home, Soldier Boys (1972), regia di Richard Compton 
Slaughter, l’uomo mitra (Slaughter) (1972), regia di Jack Starrett
Two People (1973), regia di Robert Wise 
La morte dietro la porta (Dead of Night) (1974), regia di Bob Clark
Tracks, lunghi binari della follia (Tracks) (1975), regia di Henry Jaglom
Guerrieri dell’inferno (Dog Soldiers – Who’ll Stop the Rain?) (1977), regia di Karel Reisz
Rolling Thunder (1977), regia di John Flynn
Vittorie perdute (Go Tell the Spartans) (1978), regia di Ted Post
Un mercoledì da leoni (Big Wednesday) (1978), regia di John Milius
Il cacciatore (The Deer Hunter) (1978), regia di Michael Cimino
I ragazzi della compagnia C (The boys in company C) (1978), regia di Sidney J. Furie
Tornando a casa (Coming Home) (1978), regia di Hal Ashby
American Graffiti 2 (More American Graffiti) (1979), regia di Bill L. Norton
Apocalypse Now (1979), regia di Francis Ford Coppola
Hair (1979), regia di Miloš Forman
Gli amici di Georgia (Four Friends) (1981), regia di Arthur Penn
Rambo (First Blood) (1982), regia di Ted Kotcheff
Fratelli nella notte (Uncommon Valor) (1983), regia di Ted Kotcheff
Streamers (1983), regia di Robert Altman
Tornado (1983), regia di Antonio Margheriti
Rombo di tuono (Missing in action) (1984), regia di Joseph Zito
Birdy – Le ali della libertà (Birdy) (1984), regia di Alan Parker
Rambo 2 – La vendetta (Rambo: First Blood Part II) (1985), regia di George Pan Cosmatos
Missing in action (Missing in Action: the Beginning) (1985), regia di Lance Hool
Cobra Mission (1986), regia di Fabrizio De Angelis
Platoon (1986), regia di Oliver Stone
Ricercati: ufficialmente morti (Extreme Prejudice) (1986), regia di Walter Hill
Full Metal Jacket (1987), regia di Stanley Kubrick
Giardini di pietra (Gardens of Stone) (1987), regia di Francis Ford Coppola
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), regia di Barry Levinson
Hamburger Hill: collina 937 (1987), regia di John Irvin
Braddock (1987), regia di Aaron Norris
Bat*21 (Bat 21), (1988), regia di Peter Markle
1969 – I giorni della rabbia (1969) (1988), regia di Ernest Thompson
Dear America – Lettere dal Vietnam (Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam) (1988), regia di Bill Couturié
Saigon (1988), regia di Christopher Crowe
Vittime di guerra (Casualties of War) (1989), regia di Brian De Palma
A Better Tomorrow III (1989), regia di Tsui Hark
Nato il quattro luglio (Born on the Fourth of July), regia di Oliver Stone (1989)
Ritorno dalla morte (Welcome home!), regia di Franklin J. Schaffner (1989)
Vietnam – Verità da dimenticare (In Country) (1989), regia di Norman Jewison
Bullet in the Head (Die xue jie tou) (1990), regia di John Woo
Allucinazione perversa (Jacob’s Ladder) (1990), regia di Adrian Lyne
La Collina dell’onore (Platoon Leader) (1991), regia di Aaron Norris
L’ultimo Attacco (Flight of the Intruder) (1991), regia di John Milius
Tra cielo e terra (Heaven & Earth) (1993), regia di Oliver Stone
Forrest Gump (1994), regia di Robert Zemeckis
Dollari sporchi (Dead Presidents) (1995), regia di Allen e Albert Hughes
La guerra dei bugiardi (A Bright Shining Lie) (1998), regia di Terry George
Tigerland (2000), regia di Joel Schumacher
We Were Soldiers – Fino all’ultimo uomo (2002), regia di Randall Wallace
The Fog of War: La guerra secondo Robert McNamara, regia di Errol Morris, 2003
L’alba della libertà (2006), regia di Werner Herzog
The White Silk Dress, regia di Luu Huynh (2006)
Tropic Thunder (2008), regia di Ben Stiller
Tunnel Rats (2008), regia di Uwe Boll
My Lai Four (2009), regia di Paolo Bertola
It should be noted that most of the television series produced in the United States between the seventies and early eighties presents issues concerning the veterans of the Vietnam war, in particular the difficult reintegration of veterans within society.
Series in particular that deal with the subject are: Magnum, P.I., A-Team, Simon & Simon, Riptide, At the borders of reality, while in many others there are still references to war events.