The Vietnam War Lives On
For many people, the past is in the past. Some civilians, however, recognize that the impacts of the Vietnam War lives on whether we publicly address it or not. The truth is that hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans are still alive today, plus an exponentially higher number of family and friends who lived through the war second-hand and experienced direct consequences of its impact on their loved ones.
Start a Conversation
War - and the Vietnam war especially - is a touchy subject and can be difficult for many people to talk about. That’s why I wrote this list of 5 Vietnam War Films Guaranteed to Start a Conversation. So grab a friend, watch, listen… and let the conversation flow.
1) Apocalypse Now
This critically acclaimed film takes place during the Vietnam War and explores the tale of Captain Willard, who “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.” A 1979 drama / war movie starring Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen, the original Apocalypse Now is a beautifully told personal exploration of man set in the wild jungles of Vietnam. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in discussing the bureaucracy of war.
2) Jacob’s Ladder
An intense film covering the story of a Vietnam veteran. Jacob’s Ladder is the heart-wrenching tale of divorced New York postal worker Jacob Singer who mourns his dead child and suffers from a severe case of dissociation. This excellent movie takes our hearts by the hand, leading us through the reality of a Vietnam War veteran whose grip on sanity weakens day by day despite his new wife’s attempts to help him. If you want an opportunity to discuss the impact of the Vietnam War on individuals and families, Jacob’s Ladder is your best bet.
3) Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 war drama that attacks the ugliness of war and violence of man head-on. Told in two parts, Full Metal Jacket first follows the story of Vietnam War Marine J.T. Davis and his fellow recruits under Gunnery Sergeant Hartman’s punishing boot camp regime. In the second half of the film, Davis works as a combat journalist, witnessing the dehumanizing effects and horrors of war first-hand. The uncompleted feel of this intense drama is poetic justice to one of the USA’s uncompleted wars. A great starting point.
The ultimate tale of duty and sacrifice. A Quadruple Oscar-winning fictional documentary about young Vietnam recruit Chris Taylor who “faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.” Taylor lives under two Non-Commissioned Officers, Barnes and Defoe, whose personalities are at complete odds: Barnes enjoys using war to cater to his sadistic pleasures while Defoe feels compassion for his fellow man. The NCOs symbolize the struggle “Taylor must face if he is to survive out in Vietnam”. Loosely based on Director Oliver Stone’s time in Vietnam, Platoon is the incomparable story of life, hopelessness and the inhumanity of war.
5) Hamburger Hill
Unlike any of the other films on this list, Hamburger Hill focuses completely on the insanity of war, without any other messages behind it. This movie focuses on the lives of 14 U.S. Army soldiers during the 10-day battle for Hill 937 in Vietnam wherein enemy fire was so fierce that the rain of bullets turned troops into shredded hamburger meat. It begins and ends with the same feeling of pointlessness as brutal casualties and faults are taken daily. If you’re looking for the real experience, Hamburger Hill is the film to watch.