The Vietnam War was one of the most arrogant blunders on the part of the USA and a true tale of grit on part of Vietnam as history has shown us. The war in its entirety was a classic example of US interference where it was not required and ultimately sparked off protests against then-president Lyndon Johnson with one of the more famous chants being ‘LBJ, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’
However, despite what history tells us, the soldiers themselves faced the toughest fights – on the ground where they were up against a Guerilla technique they were unfamiliar with and back home where they were treated with shame and disgust rather than as heroes for having put their lives on the line. Amidst much political speculation and turmoil surrounding the war, it’s not surprising that Hollywood too would chip in – and why not when some of the finest directors were working at the time. Here is the list of top Vietnam war movies ever. You can watch some of these best Vietnam war movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. Rescue Dawn (2006)
Starring Christian Bale as Dieter Degler in this epic war drama, the film borrows the story from a 1997 documentary titled ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’. The story is about a US-born German pilot who gets captured by the Vietcong when his plane is shot down. His troubles start when his patriotic fervor leads him to turn down an offer of leniency by the provincial governor. Degler is taken to a prison camp and held in captivity with other pilots who are victims of malnutrition, unhygienic conditions and abuse at the hands of the guards. The story is raked with tension, from their captivity at the prison camp to the escape that goes awry to the chases through the jungle and Degler’s eventual rescue. The film shows the risk the soldiers run in going behind enemy lines and remains a testament to the brutality that some soldiers faced at the hands of the Vietcong during the war.
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9. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
A comedy based on the Vietnam war? Is it possible? Of course for Robin Williams it is! The film follows the plot of Robin Williams as a DJ for the armed forces radio service. Williams plays the role to perfection as the DJ is loved by the troops and infuriates his superiors. A film that strikes a light nerve amongst all fun and shows the danger posed to the lives of the US people stationed there and hints at a possibility of friendship between Americans and Vietnamese symbolized through the friendship that Tuan and Adrian (Williams) shared. The striking feature of this film is that most of the dialogue was improvised by Williams and if you’re in the mood for something light on the topic, this movie is the best there is.
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8. We Were Soldiers (2002)
This film directed by Randall Wallace stars Mel Gibson as Colonel Hal Moore. The film shows the battle of la Drang one of the bloodiest battles against the Viet Cong. The fight between the American troops against a strong veteran Vietnamese division and making it against all odds is a tale of true grit. The film focuses on the heroics of the American troops, but rather than politicizing the war, the film focuses on ground realities of the battle, like soldiers holding defensive positions, supplies during the war and military strategy. A fine film about a small part of a long drawn war, this movie definitely deserves a watch.
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7. Uncommon Valor (1983)
Directed by Ted Kotcheff, this movie is about a father’s wish to know the truth about his son who went MIA during the Vietnam war. Himself a retired Marine colonel, Gene Hackman plays the role of the father and gathers along a ragtag team of ex-soldiers from his contacts and his son’s unit. They embark on what turns out to be a treacherous and highly dangerous rescue mission. The film focuses on the horrors of the war and the unbreakable family bond that some people share. The film which ends in unfulfilment for the father figure as he discovers his son is dead still manages to strike a note of satisfaction as some American POWs are rescued and Hackman’s character gets closure.
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6. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Directed by Oliver Stone who is famous for his political movies, this film is part of Stone’s trilogy about the Vietnam war. The film stars Tom Cruise as Ron Kovic, the man whose autobiography this film is based on. Kovic is a young boy whose head is filled with dreams of glory and patriotism by impassioned speeches and fine rhetoric on part of Kennedy and at the Marine Academy. However, his experiences in the war are horrific having managed to kill Vietnamese civilians and a newcomer in his own platoon. The film focuses on post-war conditions as Kovic comes home to terrible hospital conditions for the vets, and finally descends to alcoholism and begins to suffer from PTSD. Eventually, he realizes the magnitude of the mistake that the war actually was and joins the Vets against the war movement and goes on to take a famous anti-establishment stance that is a characteristic in Stone’s films as well.
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5. Casualties of War (1989)
This fantastic Brian De Palma film stars Sean Penn and Michael J Fox. Narrated in a flashback style the film explores the exploitation carried out by some soldiers in Vietnam. This particular story is about a unit that gets ambushed by the Viet Cong and the strain of war cracks the captain who goes berserk and kidnaps and rapes a Vietnamese girl. Eriksson played by Fox, protests and the story unfolds as Eriksson attempts to bring the girl’s gang rape and murder to light and the perpetrators to justice. A touching film set against the backdrop of the war and speaking to the depravities of human nature, this movie is one of De Palma’s finer works.
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4. The Deer Hunter (1978)
A star-studded cast that includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken in his academy award-winning performance and John Savage makes up this movie. The film is divided into three parts so to speak – the lives of the friends before they ship out to Vietnam. The war itself and the consequent capture and escape. The readjustment to civilian life and dealing with the trauma of the war. Michael Cimino directs a fine film, that captures the condition of war vets perfectly and the actors deliver the director’s vision with a degree of excellence that makes this one of the most memorable war movies ever made.
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3. Platoon (1967)
Trust Oliver Stone to put a different spin on a Vietnam war based movie. Set against the backdrop of the war, Stone still manages to capture the human condition beautifully. The story follows the exploits of a platoon of soldiers and their internal conflicts. The platoon looks up to Barnes and Elias (Dafoe). Charlie Sheen plays Taylor a young soldier fresh behind the ears. The war takes its toll and Barnes goes off the reservation having killed a civilian and orchestrated the death of Elias to prevent him from testifying. The climax comes in an all-out assault as Taylor finally manages to get away from the hell-hole called Vietnam war.
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2. Apocalypse Now (1979)
The film is based on Conrad’s acclaimed novel ‘Heart of Darkness’. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this film stars Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. Brando who plays Colonel Kurtz. As a colonel who’s gone rogue and presumably insane and commands his own troops, his fate his preordained. The moment Sheen’s character is sent after Kurtz we know that the narrative will climax in Kurtz’s death. From start to finish the cinema remains, chilling, cinematic engrossment is at the highest and film remains one of the finest films ever made.
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1. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this film was based on Gustav Hasford’s novel, ‘The Short Timers’. Kubrick is a brilliant director and his war movie was bound to be brilliant as well. His film is split into two parts – the actual training that the people go through and then the deployment in Vietnam. He expertly shows the kind of mindset that the new recruits are made to get into and the psychological trauma of the very training itself. The film follows the narrative mainly of Private Joker and is set against the Tet Offensive. An expertly constructed script the humanity of the war and the humanity of the Vietnamese is brought out deftly in the hands of this talented director.
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