Study Guide

Apocalypse Now Good vs. Evil

Good vs. Evil

Except for the Nung River, nothing's murkier in Apocalypse Now than morality. The film's shot through with moral ambiguity. We never quite know who the good guys and bad guys are. We've got murderous Viet Cong and the ebullient but equally murderous Kilgore. We see young American soldiers killed and then see a boatful of innocent Vietnamese peasants senselessly slaughtered by other young American soldiers.

One of the film's messages seems to be who are we to judge what people do in the heat of combat? Don't ideas about good and evil go out the window when you're in mortal danger? Doesn't war have its own special set of moral circumstances?

By giving us Colonel Kurtz, who's committed more than his share of atrocities, Coppola dares the viewers to make their own moral judgments about the war. Our guess? You'll walk out of the film more confused than when you went in.

Questions About Good vs. Evil

  1. In Apocalypse Now, where does evil come from? Is it something that's already inside people, or is it created by their circumstances?
  2. Does Willard become a better person throughout the course of the movie? What tempts Kurtz into evil? What does he get out of it?
  3. How does the movie challenge the way we think of the categories "good" and "evil"? Is there a genuinely good side in this movie?

Chew on This

The point of the movie is ideas of good and evil are irrelevant in a war.

The point of the movie is that we all have evil at our core; all we can do is try to control it.

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