Best Vietnam War Films
When it comes to war films, there is no other industry than Hollywood that knows how to squeeze each and every emotion out of the audiences.
Vietnam War holds a very special place among the American history and it is not very difficult to understand why certain filmmakers have had a fascination with the Great American War with a relatively weak country.
But oh boy! Did the Vietnamese give American imperialists a tough fight! Several filmmakers have tried to present an honest account of the war, without taking sides.
This list is dedicated to those brave films that went beyond what Americans wanted to see and showed them the brutality behind the ‘Half victory’ that the US armed forces had. Here is the list of Best Vietnam War Movies.
Table of Contents
List of Best Vietnam War Films of All Times
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola took the novel ‘Heart of Darkness’ written by Joseph Conrad and made it his own, changing the backdrop from the Belgian Congo to the Vietnam War. The film starred Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen.
The story revolves around a voyage Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) embarks on, to move through the jungles of the Cambodia-Vietnam border in order to take out ace American colonel Kurtz who has supposedly gone insane and is being worshipped by the Vietnamese as a god.
Amidst all the Academies and Golden Globe nominations raining in on it, the film went home with a Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. Frequently mentioned among the ‘greatest films ever made’, the film still stays relevant today as well.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
The Deer Hunter won five Oscars, earning one for Best Picture and another for Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken.
The film came a year prior to Apocalypse Now and what differentiated both the films was the fact that The Deer Hunter presented a somewhat one-sided account of the war.
Also featuring Robert De Niro and John Savage, the film was an all-around winner at the box office and on the critical scale. It told the tale of three American soldiers captured by the enemy soldiers and their brave escapades.
The film also dug deeper into the psychological trauma that the troops face on a daily basis. The Deer Hunter remains one of the unabashed masterpieces made by Michael Cimino, who got lost into oblivion after helming this film.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has also plunged into the Vietnam War era through his cult classic film Full Metal Jacket. The film took a slightly different approach than others and focused on a more personal aspect of the war.
The ruthless commander Hartman is a hard man to crack and several of men under his command frequently face tragic mental breakdowns. A bizarre incident transpires and the men now have to deal with the impacts of the war on their psyches.
The film starred Matthew Modine as Private Joker and Lee Ermey as the commanding officer Hartman. The film is frequently counted among the best war films of all times and one of the very few ‘mainstream’ movies that Stanley Kubrick piloted in his lifetime.
Before Oliver Stone turned to directing, he had a brief past as a part of American Army and that firsthand experience came in handy when he sat down to write the first installment in his highly regarded war film trilogy. Platoon remains one of the most aggressive and provocative war films ever made, with a major dose of entertainment.
The film featured loud rock music, larger than life characters and some astonishing set pieces and covered within the tropes of a sweet candy, the film had a bitter taste underneath which remains somewhat subtle throughout the film.
The film presented a two-sided account of the war and had some controversial scenes such as an American troop brutally killing an innocent disabled Vietnamese man and another one raping a local girl. Platoon is one of the best Movies on Vietnam War.
Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
1987 was the year when three Vietnam War films were released back to back- Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill and Good Morning Vietnam.
What made Good Morning Vietnam different than others was the fact that it was a light-hearted and somewhat a comedic take on the atrocities of Vietnam War. One of the major early successes of Robin Williams’ career, the film portrays him as a goodhearted military DJ Adrian Cronauer.
The film follows him amidst the brutal war, he seeks love from a local girl and befriends her brother. The film, which starts as a light-hearted take on the war quickly turns into a more depressing and hard-hitting film towards the second half. Director Barry Levinson’s Good Morning Vietnam remains one of the most loved Vietnam War films of all times.
Deathdream was a shocker and presented a never seen before facade of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that army personnel face on a regular basis.
The film featured the heartbreaking tale of Andy Brooks, who gets shot and is presumed dead during the war. Somehow, he makes his way back into his house and displays a strange behavior, diagnosed by his parents to be PTSD.
But the reality is furthermore shocking. The film married the vampire mythology in its treatment and the wacky screenplay remains one of the greatest pieces of work by the Canadian director Bob Clark. The low budget film stays underrated to this date but has gained a cult fan following over the years.
Director Zack Snyder’s superhero epic Watchmen, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, is one relatively odd entry on the list but it is here for a very good reason.
The complex film dealt with the ‘godly’ creature Dr. Manhattan and his relationship with the human beings around him. Some of the key scenes in the film feature him as America’s ultimate weapon against the Vietnamese forces. Vietnamese are winning the war and when they witness Dr. Manhattan in all his godly glory, they now wish to surrender, but only to Dr. Manhattan.
Another brutal scene in the film features another character Robert Blake (The Comedian) burning Vietnamese soldiers alive with a big smile on his face and even killing a pregnant Vietnamese girl, with whom he had an affair.
Also Read: List of Less Popular Superhero Films
We Were Soldiers (2002)
This Mel Gibson starrer was one of the most straightforward accounts of the war, based on the battle that took place in la Drang during early phases of the war.
As North Vietnamese troops and American soldiers come face to face for the first time, chaos ensues. Director Randall Wallace ensures that the film does not drift away from its central human drama and took heavy inspirations from the book ‘We Were Soldiers Once… and Young’.
But somehow, the film forges its own narrative path while dramatizing several key events and battles, ensuring a hard-hitting and emotional experience.
Rescue Dawn (2006)
The eccentric German director Werner Herzog’s wild take on the atrocities of Vietnam War was the perfect testimony of how he stays uncompromising with his vision, despite heavy budget.
He based the film on the documentary film ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’. The film was a true account of an American-German pilot Dieter Dengler who was captured by the Vietnamese villagers while flying above them during the American invasion of the village.
Christian Bale starred in the film which received extensively positive reviews by the critics but somehow it failed to collect decent box office numbers. Never the less, the film has developed a cult following in the subsequent years and is known as one of the best career achievements of Werner Herzog.
These are our pick of Best Vietnam War Movies, do comments with your favorite film about Vietnam War or on the backdrop of Vietnam War.
You forgot The Boys in Company C!