Top 10 Vietnam War Movies

Script written by Sean Harris. It’s an iconic war, and it inspired some awesome movies! In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 Vietnam War movies. For this list, we’re looking at movies with excellent stories, acting and special effects, where the primary action and plot line are built around the Vietnam War. Movies that contain only individual scenes or small references don’t count! Special thanks to our users David Juarez, Willie Sanchez, Deathmatch1959, Andrew A. Dennison, Billy Surrick, Toño Valadez Uvalle, Rambo55, Muffins, Rvdxtreme1, arimazzie, iverdaa and Kriegerdammerung for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Sean Harris.

Top 10 Vietnam War Movies


It’s an iconic war, and it inspired some awesome movies! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Vietnam War movies.

For this list, we’re looking at movies with excellent stories, acting and special effects, where the primary action and plot line are built around the Vietnam War. Movies that contain only individual scenes or small references don’t count!

#10: “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

Focusing mainly on the Battle of Ia Drang, this film has Mel Gibson in the midst of carnage. As Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, he leads a battalion of soldiers into the fray, and pledges to bring every one of them back – alive, or dead. Colonel Moore is a real person, a soldier who’d never seen a war film get it right, and the movie is based upon his memoirs – it’s a true tale of heroic men, and a tragic war, told with human characters and realistic battle sequences.

#9: “Casualties of War” (1989)

A portrayal of “the Incident on Hill 192,” this movie tackles the War from an alternative perspective. The “casualty” of the title largely refer to a young Vietnamese woman, Tran Thi Oanh. Kidnapped by an American patrol, she’s kept as a sex slave, raped and beaten. Michael J. Fox, as Private Eriksson, is our hero, working to expose the soldiers and their crime, but this movie still leaves a bad taste, blurring the lines between the good guys and the bad and highlighting the dehumanizing effects war can have.

#8: “Rescue Dawn” (2006)

As fighter pilot Dieter Dengler is shot down and captured by opposition forces, the end seems near before this movie has even begun. When he finds himself in a torture camp, we’re left wondering whether he might’ve been better off dying in the crash. But Dengler is tough and proud; he won’t condemn the U.S., he won’t give up his life – and his daring escape attempt is thrilling to watch. But instead of turning “Rescue Dawn” into an action-adventure, director Werner Herzog focuses on fear and the least glamorous aspects of war.

#7: “Hamburger Hill” (1987)

Assault after assault, firefight after firefight, this movie does not let up! Using largely unknown actors, “Hamburger Hill” charts the efforts of a mismatched battalion as they go against North Vietnamese forces over Hill 937, aka Hamburger Hill. A group of archetypal characters, the majority don’t make it – and for those who do, their lives are changed forever. Written by a real-life Vietnam vet, “Hamburger Hill” was but one area, in one region of the war – but this film makes clear the widespread tragedy.

#6: “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989)

Considered the second part of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy, this is an adaptation of Ron Kovic’s memoirs of the same name. Tom Cruise plays the Vietnam veteran, who goes from idealistic youngster to soldier and ultimately is critically wounded in support of his country. But the film’s message really begins when he returns home: anti-war protests, American flag burnings, and family feuds leave a paralyzed Cruise to wonder what the point of his injury really was. This film asks questions, and demands a response!

#5: “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987)

Behind every good army, is a good radio broadcaster – at least that’s the case here! Robin Williams steps into the studio, and plays cheeky, unabashedly chirpy wartime DJ, Adrian Cronauer. And this is a tale not of the war, but of Cronauer’s maturation into a more well-rounded human than the man who first stepped off the plane. Williams’ edgy humor and honest opinions earn him airplay on the frontline, and an Academy Award nomination. This movie doesn’t make light of ‘Nam, but it does show Saigon has a smile.

#4: “The Deer Hunter” (1978)

Upon release it was controversial, but over time it’s become a classic! Robert De Niro plays Staff Sergeant Mike Vronsky, and he and two friends leave America for the battlefields of Vietnam. As they’re captured and separated, Russian roulette becomes a way of life. The game, which involves gambling with human life, is big business, a metaphor for the war, and Mike and his pals become main players. In this film that covers many themes and questions, the stakes have rarely been higher, and neither has the tension!

#3: “Platoon” (1986)

The first of his aforementioned trilogy, “Platoon” is one of Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone’s most notable movies. A brutal analysis of the battle itself, and of the effects it can have on good people, it’s a film that’s sometimes hard to watch and that doesn’t glorify battle. The platoon of the title is put through hell – and they emerge out of it as different men. Some have lost limbs, some have lost minds. But it’s the personal tension between these troupe members that truly makes for heart-in-mouth cinema.

#2: “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)

Our runner-up and a rollercoaster watch, this Stanley Kubrick movie has two distinct sections – training for ‘Nam, and fighting in ‘Nam. But in between, it shows the psychological torture inflicted on those willing to don the uniform. Sergeant Hartman steals the show until the infamous latrine scene, and Private “Joker”’s journey to the “thousand-yard stare” is as devastatingly accurate as a Vietnam flick is ever likely to get. A movie that has you reminding yourself that this war did actually happen, “Full Metal Jacket” is full on, but fantastic!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “The Hanoi Hilton” (1987)
- “Air America” (1990)
- “The Green Berets” (1968)

#1: “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola’s Joseph Conrad adaptation is a ruthless journey into the center of Vietnam, and the soul of man himself. With an all-too-appropriate shift in setting, “Heart of Darkness” is taken from 1880s Africa and transplanted into 1960s ‘Nam. Some things haven’t changed (Marlon Brando’s villain still answers to the name Kurtz) and some things are different (Conrad didn’t feature Playboy girls); but the overriding message is clear in this painstaking recreation of Vietnam – human beings can turn very, very bad and war is more devastating than you can imagine.

Do you agree with our list? Which Vietnam classic have we missed? For more explosive Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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