Vietnam War Movies Ranked

PracticallyHistorical ranks the Five Best films set during the Vietnam War….

5.  We Were Soldiers…2002–  Randall Wallace brings General Hal Moore’s heartbreaking account of the Battle of Ia Drang Valley to the screen with heart wrenching realism.  Wallace’s script captures Moore’s tactical knowledge as well as the commendable balance of the book.  Sam Elliot shines as the grizzled veteran, Sgt. Major Basil Plumley.  Bottom line- Hyper realistic battle sequences highlight  even-handed depiction of early battle in Vietnam conflict.

4.  Full Metal Jacket… 1987– Gustav Hasford’s harrowing novel depicting a Marine’s service during Vietnam, from training to combat, is faithfully recounted in Stanley Kubrick’s stark film.  R. Lee Ermey’s performance, mostly improvised, is one of the most haunting ever filmed.  Bottom Line- Kubrick’s Vietnam movie brought to reality by a real gunnery sergeant.

3.  Apocalypse Now… 1979– Francis Ford Coppola nearly lost his career and his mind bringing Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to the big screen as a Vietnam epic.  Marlon Brando portrays Kurtz as a rogue Special Forces officer hunted by Martin Sheen.  Robert Duvall steals the show as Colonel Bill Kilgore, 1st Cavalry’s resident surfer.  Bottom line- Deep, dark, but visionary.

2.  The Deer Hunter… 1978– Epic in scope, Michael Cimino’s masterpiece is also a humanistic portrayal of how the madness of war can tear apart a tight-knit community.  Powerful performances by Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken reach out to the viewers with unrelenting sadness.  Critics still debate the coda of the film, the cast singing “God Bless America.”   Bottom line- Epics are never short, but this powerful film still resonates today.

1.  Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam… 1987– Bill Couturie’s documentary utilizing actual letters sent home by soldiers during the war is everything a war movie should be:  realistic, moving, funny, frightening, and most of all, powerful.  Actors like Robin Williams, Tom Berenger, Matt Dillon, Michael J. Fox, Kathleen Turner, and Willem Dafoe bring the words of the men and women to life.  Couturie combines home movie footage from in- country with news coverage of the day all set to a soundtrack of the popular hits of the time.  Nothing in the film is staged or recreated providing realism that will leave emotions raw.  Bottom line- The perfect way to end any filmography detailing the Vietnam war.  Unforgettable.

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