Top Ten Vietnam War Films

Mar 4, 2006 (Updated Jun 6, 2007)

The Bottom Line I would recommend any of these films to people interested in the Vietnam war or action movies.

America 1964 -1974

The Vietnam war was not was not Americas finest moment. I have studied the war and the politics and it was a complex situation. I am still not quite sure what to think of the motives and why the United States went into Vietnam. France was getting whipped and we were next in line. The one lesson we learned the hard way in Vietnam was to never fight a war, less than all out. It should be all out war or no war. If we must fight, give it all we have. This change of policy was shown in the next war which was The Gulf War. The fourth largest military in the world was defeated in detail. The ground war took 100 hours to rout the shell shocked Kuwaiti would be conquerors. I’d like to think that nearly sixty thousand soldiers did not die in vein. I also believe the nation learned what a disgrace we were as a nation to disrespect our soldiers returning from the hell of war.

This disrespect and dishonor by the culture of the time had a very negative impact on returning soldiers. Our politicians were corrupt and their values questionable. Our young men were drafted to fight in a war where they were destined to lose. Most of these young men went and served their country. The ones that didn’t stayed in college, dodged to Canada or got stoned and spit on returning combat veterans. The hippie culture was in full swing. Sex, drugs and Rock & Roll, Better Red Than Dead. I believe the actions of the government and the nation as a whole was one of the lowest points in American history. The government was corrupt while society was a disgrace and looking for their next high. A lot of these films portray the state of a country involved in a war that was destined and waged to fail while others tell of a story of the soldiers and their struggles. I would recommend seeing all of these films. You simply can not successfully battle gorilla warfare with less than all out total war. So I’ll get off my two inch soap box and post my list of Top Ten Vietnam films in no particular order.

We Were Soldiers

The morning of November 14th, 1965 was the morning American soldiers engaged the enemy, in force, for the first time. These soldiers were the men of the 7th Air Cavalry Division. They were led by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore and Sergeant Major Plumley. This engagement started approximately 9A.M. there were 395 U.S. soldiers. As usual, military intelligence had no idea what they were sending Col. Hal Moore and his men into. They suspected that Col Moore and his Cavalry soldiers would meet light resistance. The light resistance that they met was a large battalion size element. There was between 2,000 - 3,000 regular enemy soldiers. Not only were they out numbered, they were surrounded with no way out. This is OK if your Chesty Puller, or as it turns out, Hal Moore

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket is one of the better more realistic Vietnam movies. It is definitely the most accurate movie I have ever seen regarding boot camp. Drill Instructor Hartman is played by R. Lee Ermey (History Channels Mail-Call) who was in fact, a real Marine Drill Sergeant during the Vietnam conflict. Watching the first 15 minutes of this movie will bring back old boot camp memories for any Veteran. About the first hour of the movie deals with a group of guys going through Marine Corps boot Camp on Paris Island, South Carolina, 1968. The morality of war...? The meaningless loss of life in war... and so on and so fourth. It's definitely not a movie that the Marine Corps would hand out to potential recruits. I'd recommend this movie to anyone who has been in the military or enjoys military type flicks.

The Deer Hunter

Deer Hunter is about a group of very close friends who work in a steel mill in Pennsylvania during the Vietnam war. The story is set in the late sixties and these guys have decided to volunteer to join the Army and serve in Vietnam. Just a bunch of young, hard working, patriotic men. Quite a bit of time is spent getting to know this group of guys, and their families. Eventually three of the five good friends head off to war. After their tour in Vietnam nothing would ever be the same. The life that they enjoyed so much was over. Like every other war does to good men, it changes them, some physically and all mentally.

Good Morning Vietnam

Good Morning Vietnam is a story based on actual events in 1966 during the Vietnam war. Adrian Cronauer (Williams) is a young airmen sent to Vietnam to work as a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Network. It was a good change for the soldiers in the field. Chonauer replaced an anal retentive lieutenant who liked play Polka and kiss the Sergeant Majors ass. As if a young twit of lieutenant wasn’t enough, he had the sergeant Major to deal with. The sergeant major pretty much hated everything and every body. Cronauer couldn’t do anything right in this guys eyes. His music wasn’t right, he didn’t like his humor, and he wanted the young DJ out! Luckily for Cronauer, the general enjoyed his show and the troops sent duffle bags of fan mail. What the troops want is what the troops will get was the Generals attitude. The only problem was that the Sergeant Major and the lieutenant would go out of their way and do whatever it took to get the DJ booted from Vietnam

The Fog of War

The Fog Of War is a look back at Robert S. McNamara's life, from his perspective. The man has lead a very complex and public life. McNamara clearly has ghosts from his past that have come back to haunt him. Could it be the 58,000 soldiers and Marines that were killed in Vietnam while he served as Secretary of Defense? Or perhaps the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians burned in the fire bombings of world war II are lingering on his conscience as well? Robert McNamara had some very demanding jobs throughout his career. Jobs that require an exceptionally intelligent person with the knowledge and prudence to call the shots like he sees them, and live with the consequences.

Path To War

Path To War is about the Johnson administration and several talking heads during his administration. Path To War is an inside look at when, why and how the war in Vietnam escalated into the disaster that it became. Vietnam was in fact a problem that was inherited from the Kennedy administration. It was a very small issue though. The United States had a few hundred advisors working with the South Vietnamese. Then one day in 1964, over 100 casualties were inflicted on our advisors. Our camps had been infiltrated and bombs were set off inside the wire. The military wanted revenge and retribution. This was a key turning point in the war. We had two choices; tuck tail, pull out and go home or step up U.S. military action. The administration opted to step up our military in the theater. His main concern is what ended up losing the war, his constant worry about what China and the Soviets would do. President Johnson went to war in inches, over the next six years and 58,000 men died for his failed policy.

Hamburger Hill

Hamburger Hill is about the 101st Airborne division fighting in the Ashau Valley in the rugged hill country if Vietnam. It’s loosely based on the true story of the 101st taking hill 937 in May of 1969. This film is not your typical John Wayne kick as macho movie. Instead it deals with several realities of war. Combat takes a heavy toll on the soldiers involved. When you add the fact that the soldiers were drafted and the war in many minds was not necessary. Plus a lot of the soldiers just didn’t want to be there. Hamburger Hill is an in your face look at close combat and the soldiers at a platoon level. The films covers the mental aspect of combat soldiers and one brutal battle that took place in 1969 in Vietnam. In the end we witness a slaughter for hill 937 that they won’t even hold if they can take it from the VC. A reality of war film that is a must see for any history or military buff.


Platoon is about a platoon of Infantry fighting in the jungles of Vietnam in 1967. Taylor is from a family with money and he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. He had no clue what he got himself in to or what lay in store for him and his fellow soldiers. Platoon was one of the first films to show us the individual soldiers perspective of the Vietnam war. Similar to Hamburger Hill, it’s in your face close combat with a lot of violence, emotion and fear. The FNG Taylor gets a crash course in in survival in Vietnam. To top it off, his platoon sergeant is completely off his rocker. He has a death wish and he could care less who dies with him. In fact he’s about as likely to shoot you as the enemy. Platoon is a must see for anyone who watches war films.

Hanoi Hilton

Hanoi Hilton was a place where the Vietcong imprisoned American Officers during the Vietnam war. The prisoners were mostly pilots and some of them spent six to eight years in this hell hole (Hoa Lo Prison). One well known prisoner was Arizona Senator McCain who was imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton from 1967 to 1973. This film depicts some of what these men were put through while they were there. The torture, the racks, electrocutions, beatings, forced confessions, solitary confinement, starvation… This is another hard hitting realistic Vietnam film that’s not for the faint at heart. However it is a must see for history / military buffs.

Born on The Fourth of July

Born on the Fourth of July is a about the side of war no one like to see. The film is about a young Marine from a middle America family in the 1960’s. Ron Kovic enters the Marine Corps to fight for his country. While serving in Vietnam he is severely wounded and survives as a paraplegic. He goes through hell in a stateside DOD rehabilitation clinic before he is able to leave. When he is finally able to go home he becomes a difficult burden on his family. Ron becomes even more bitter and feels betrayed by his country. Ron turns to alcohol, hate and bitterness. In the end he becomes a anti war activist as he gets his life back together. This is a true story based on the book written by Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic. The film was directed by Vietnam Veteran Oliver Stone. For an in depth review of this film check out AliventiAsylum’s Review .

More Films About the Vietnam War

Green Berets
Apocalypse Now
Casualties of War
The Killing Fields
Forest Gump
Bright Shining Lie
10,000 Day War - documentary

Some Statistics from the Vietnam War

58,148 killed in Vietnam
304,000 Wounded in Action
86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians
13% were African American
1% Other
Average age of the American soldier killed in action was 23
2/3 of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers
91% of Vietnam Veterans say they are glad they served
87% of the American people hold Vietnam Vets in high esteem

The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year do to the mobility of the helicopter. They were air mobile.

More of my Top-Ten Movie Lists

Top Ten Westerns
Top Ten Scary Movies
Top Ten Comedies
Top Ten World War II Movies
Top Ten American Civil War Films
Top Ten Submarine Movies
Top Ten Alien Movies
Ten Most Realistic War Movies

Thanks for the read,

© 2006 Joe McMaster

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