35 Movies about the Vietnam War and Era
War has always impacted society and culture. The Vietnam War, one of the most divisive moments in US history, was no exception. More than 50 years since the Vietnam Era, its legacy and history continues to be examined. Pop culture has reflected a range of perspectives about the period and movies have played a role in shaping our understanding of it.
During The Wall’s 35 Anniversary, we look at 35 movies that were shaped by the Vietnam War and Era:
- Platoon (1986) – A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.
- Apocalypse Now (1979) – During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
- Full Metal Jacket (1987) – A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
- Born on the Fourth of July (1989) – The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.
- The Killing Fields (1984) – A journalist is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot’s bloody “Year Zero” cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million “undesirable” civilians.
- Indochine (1992) – Story of a rubber plantation owner in French Indochina in the 1930s and her adopted Vietnamese daughter, who falls in love with a French naval officer and gets involved in the anti-colonial struggles of the times.
- Good Morning Vietnam (1987) – Tells the story of an American disc jockey assigned to U.S. Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam.
- The Deer Hunter (1978) – An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.
- Missing in Action (1984) – Colonel James Braddock is an American officer who spent seven years in a North Vietnamese POW camp. After the war, Braddock accompanies a government investigation team that goes to Ho Chi Minh City to check out reports of Americans still held prisoner.
- First Blood (1982) – Former Green Beret John Rambo is pursued into the mountains surrounding a small town by a tyrannical sheriff and his deputies, forcing him to survive using his combat skills.
- We Were Soldiers (2002) – The story of the Battle of Ia Drang, first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.
- The Quiet American (2002) – The screen adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American tells the story of a British journalist who lives in Vietnam, where he is reporting on the Vietnamese fight for independence from French colonial rule.
- Journey From the Fall (2006) – Based on the true stories of Vietnamese refugees who fled after the fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975, and on the Vietnamese who stayed behind.
- Rescue Dawn (2007) – A U.S. fighter pilot’s epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.
- Tigerland (2000) – A group of recruits go through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana’s infamous Tigerland, last stop before Vietnam for tens of thousands of young men in 1971.
- In Country (1989) – A reclusive Vietnam War veteran and his 17-year-old niece struggle to heal the wounds of Vietnam, where her father died.
- A Rumor of War (1980) – TV mini-series that follows the memories of a US private in Vietnam who slowly gets disillusioned as the war progresses.
- Three Seasons (1999) – An ex-G.I. in Ho Chi Minh City searches for a daughter he left behind in the war.
- Jacob’s Ladder (1990) – Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to discover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation.
- Hamburger Hill (1987) – A bloody, violent account of the struggle of American forces to secure a particular hill in Vietnam.
- Casualties of War (1989) – During the Vietnam War, a soldier finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they unnecessarily kidnap a female villager.
- The Boys in Company C (1978) – Follows a group of men as they prepare for the Vietnam war and their eventual tour of Vietnam.
- Coming Home (1978) – A woman whose husband is fighting in Vietnam falls in love with another man who suffered a paralyzing combat injury there.
- Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980) – Seven former college friends gather for a weekend reunion at a summer house in New Hampshire to reminisce about the good old days, when they got arrested on the way to a protest in Washington, DC.
- Heaven and Earth (1993) – The true story of a Vietnamese village girl who survives a life of suffering and hardship during and after the Vietnam war.
- Air America (1990) – A young pilot finds himself recruited unwittingly into a covert and corrupt CIA airlift organization operating in Vietnam War Era Laos.
- Hoa Binh (1970) – A small Vietnamese boy grows up during the horrors and hardships of The Vietnam War era.
- Go Tell the Spartans (1978) – During the early 1960s, U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam discover the same challenges that plagued the French army in Indochina ten years prior
- Forrest Gump (1994) – Follows the life of Forrest Gump and the love of his life, Jenny, chronicling his accidental experiences with some of the most important people and events in America from the late 1950’s through the 1970’s, including the Vietnam War.
- Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978) – Vietnam veteran Ray Hicks gets conned into helping his buddy John Converse smuggle some heroin, only to wind up on the lam with John’s wife when the deal goes sour.
- The Visitors (1972) – Mike, Tony, and Bill were in the same platoon in Vietnam. They also became opposed parties in a court martial – for a reason that Bill never explained to his wife Martha.
- JFK (1991) – A New Orleans DA discovers there’s more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.
- Dogfight (1991) – Story of the night before 18 year old “Birdlace” Eddie and his friends are shipped to Vietnam.
- Nam’s Angels/The Losers (1970) – Some bikers are hired by the CIA during the Vietnam War to rescue a captured agent from the clutches of the Chinese army.
- The War At Home (1996) – Haunted by his experiences in the Vietnam War, a young man returns home and has trouble adjusting back to civilian life, his family and his stern father.
Since the Vietnam Era, film has been used to reflect a range of perspectives on war, a tradition which continues into the 21st century. Some films continue to interpret the Vietnam experience, such as 2002’s We Were Soldiers, which tells the story of the Battle of Ia Drang, considered to be the first major battle between US forces and North Vietnamese forces. Now a part of the story of our nation’s history of the war, the Vietnam Memorial is featured in the film as a place where the protagonist goes to find peace.
To learn more about film and war, visit: www.vvmf.org/education-social-film-and-war
Parts of this blog were taken from the Echoes From The Wall, a free VVMF comprehensive high-school level curriculum on the Vietnam War and Era.