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The Vietnam War Movies & TV

Green Berets (1968)

Released in 1968, at the height American involvement in the war in Vietnam, Green Berets is a grand and optimistic story of American heroism winning victory over North Vietnamese tyranny. The movie, directed by and starring John Wayne, was the only feature-length film about the Vietnam War to come out of Hollywood before the fall of Saigon. Critics have since derided it as a conservative piece of pro-war propaganda. Still, Green Berets is worth seeing, if only to compare its depiction of war to other Vietnam War films such as The Deer Hunter (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), and Platoon (1986). (This film is rated "PG.")

Hearts and Minds (1974)

Hearts and Minds may be one of the most gripping documentaries ever made, and certainly the best documentary about the war in Vietnam. Director Peter Davis weaves new film footage with interviews, archival images and news reports to explore the controversial war and the issues that drove the U.S. to fight in it. Gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, the film is a must-see for anyone who seeks to better understand this bloody conflict. (This film is rated "R" for disturbing scenes of violence and death.)

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The Deer Hunter is a gripping story about the impact of the Vietnam War on three working-class brothers from a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. The film follows the young men to the warfront, where they become imprisoned both physically and psychologically by the enemy and by their own inner struggles. They each struggle to return to a life without war, but must ultimately face the somber fact that they cannot escape. (This film is rated "R" for intense violence, vivid scenes of war, profanity, and lots and lots of drunkenness.)

Apocalypse Now (1979)

This Academy Award-winning film from director Francis Ford Coppola was inspired both by field reporter Michael Herr's accounts of the war in Vietnam and by Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella Heart of Darkness, a story about colonialism and a man's struggle between good and evil. Set near Vietnam in 1969, at the height of the war, Apocalypse Now is a fictional tale of a twisted search-and-destroy mission in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Coppola captures the absurdity of the Vietnam War, and directs actors Marlon Brando, Laurence Fishburne, and Robert Duvall in some of the most memorable roles in film. (This film is rated "R" for graphic war violence, nudity, drug use, and, according to imdb.com, "at least 86 uses of 'f---' (8 used with 'mother'), 36 's---' words" and plenty of slang references for female and male genitalia.)_CITATION98_

First Blood (1982)

Sylvester Stallone stars in this notorious action film as John Rambo, a disoriented Vietnam veteran who uses his skills in guerilla warfare to escape police deputies in a small town in Washington state. (Stallone himself did not draw from personal experience for his role as a vet; the actor didn't serve in Vietnam, but instead spent those years making his film debut in a 1970 porn film entitled Party at Kitty and Stud's.) First Blood is the first of a series of films, each controversial for its glorification of violence. (This film is rated "R" for violence, gore, and profanity.)

Platoon (1986)

Platoon is a fictional yet poignant account of the war in Vietnam from the perspective of a young soldier. In directing the film, Oliver Stone drew upon his own experiences as a young serviceman in Vietnam in order to portray the often psychologically disturbing and demoralizing aspects of warfare. Released just over a decade after the fall of Saigon, Platoon was highly controversial for its violence, its depiction of drug use, and its morally ambiguous tale—quite different from John Wayne's 1968 film, The Green Berets. (This film is rated "R" for vivid war violence, drug use, profanity, and references to sex acts.)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Based on Cormac McCarthy's chilling novel, this Coen Brothers film is both fascinating and haunting. Set in southwest Texas in 1980, it focuses on the world of a murderous sociopath, and on the life of an aging sheriff. It is a violent, disturbing, and ominous tale about post-Vietnam America—a hardened, soulless, and strange place. (This film is rater "R" for intense violence, gunplay, and an incredibly gnarly scene with a broken ulna.)

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