War Movies in the 1980s

Heartbreak Ridge


I can't believe this is hub number five in a series on war movies. With so many war movies I thought it best to break them into decades. Then, I decided to pick two or three from each of those decades to take a closer look at starting in 1940. I'm now at 1980. New war movies come out all the time..new war movies about new wars some about old wars.

War movies in the eighties faced a few problems, such as blockbusters like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Also released in the eighties were movies like Die Hard, An Officer and a Gentleman (a military movie but not a war movie), Police Academy, Mad Max, Rocky, and so on...you get the picture...the competition was rough. But war movies always stand the test of time and competition!

Heartbreak Ridge

As I'm going through war movies it dawns on me I really do like Clint Eastwood and his movies! This is the second war movie starring Clint that I've picked (the first was in an earlier war movies hub). Heartbreak Ridge was made in 1986. This is a typical Clint part. He is a Marine Gunnery Sergeant nearing retirement. He has problems with his officers, problems with his platoon and problems trying to get his ex-wife back, but he has that Clint bravado and courage.

The introduction to this movie is riveting, I'm not sure if it's the fighting or the music or a combination of both...possibly because this is real war movie footage.

Eastwood is an old-time soldier and though this is his old outfit, its hard to recognize. The officer in charge before him had little interest in discipline so his new platoon needs some training. He tries to shape them up with field exercises. The platoon, not too happy about this, tries to use "Swede" Johnson, a huge brute of a guy to intimidate Eastwood (Sgt. Highway) but of course we know that doesn't work! When Highway takes the Swede down, the men head for training without any further questioning.

War Movies of the 1980s

Missing in Action
Frist Blood
Das Boot
Born on the Fourth of July
The Big Red One
Good Morning Viet Nam
The Final Countdown
War and Rememberance
Sophie's Choice
Empire of the Sun

Highway's platoon becomes a real, disciplined platoon and is sent to the Invasion of Grenada. Remember Swede Johnson? On the way to combat, jumping from their helicopter, it goes something like this:

Swede Johanson: Gunny, I'm afraid of heights.
Highway: So am I.
Swede Johanson: You are?
Highway: Jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft is not a natural act. So let's do it right, enjoy the view. Come on.

In the Invasion they use a bulldozer for protection and manage to rescue American students. When their radioman is killed and their radio knocked out the Lieutenant takes over and suggests using the telephone to try to get air support. Later, against orders, they take a key rebel position on a hill and capture enemy P.O.W.s. The officer threatens Highway with a court martial and bawls the men out, however, when the Commanding Officer arrives he commends Highway and the men for their bravery and initiative. When they return home they are met with a warm reception and Highway's ex-wife is there to greet him. This was Highway's last hurrah, as he is now retiring.

This is a typical Clint Eastwood movie...he's brash, know-it-all, and right! It's a good movie with lots of action, humor and comradery. While it is a war movie there is a lot of humor and irony as well. Well worth seeing if you haven't seen it before.

Quotes from Platoon

Chris Taylor: Somebody once wrote, "Hell is the impossibility of reason." That's what this place feels like. Hell.

Chris Taylor: Day by day, I struggle to maintain not only my strength but my sanity. It's all a blur. I have no energy to write. I don't know what's right and what's wrong anymore. The morale of the men is low. A civil war in the platoon. Half the men with Elias, half with Barnes. There's a lot of suspicion and hate. I can't believe we're fighting each other when we should be fighting them.

Bunny: What are they doing over there? They're gettin' high, that's what.

[King is writing a letter to his girlfriend] Francis: It aint D-E-R-E, its D-E-A-R. And "Sarah" aint got no two Rs, King. Damn you're dumb. King: It don't make no difference, she know what I mean. She don't read too good nohow.


Wikipedia states, " A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the platoon leader or platoon commander, is usually a lieutenant. He is usually assisted by a senior non-commissioned officer—the platoon sergeant." It goes on to say in the U.S. a platoon is usually composed of 42 people.

Unlike Heartbreak Ridge, Platoon is the bleak and dirty side of war.

The director of this movie, Oliver Stone, also wrote the movie, based on his own experiences. This "Platoon" is in Viet Nam. This movie holds no punches and is a brutal look at war. Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) quits college to join the Army. He soon realizes it is not what he thought it would be. In addition to the marijuana shared among the men, he finds brutal slayings and torture. When men of his own troop rape two Viet Namese girls, he is shocked and disgusted. Things get worse however.

Illegal murders, war casualties, betrayals, and more. All the while Taylor trying to come to terms with what is going on around him. This movie isn't just about the horrors of war but what those horrors can do to an ordinary, God fearing young man...how they can sometimes turn him into a vicious animal.

It is a hard movie to watch at times but is rated as the best movie ever written about the Viet Nam War. If you're a fan of war movies, you have to put this on your list.

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket is an adaptation of a 1979 novel "The Short Timers". It was filmed in 1987, almost entirely in England. The cast was a stellar one including; Joker (Matthew Modine), Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin), Gomer (Vincent D’Onofrio), Eightball (Dorian Harewood), Cowboy (Arliss Howard), and D.I. (Lee Ermey) who views the would-be devil dogs as grunts, maggots or something less. (taken from http://kubrickfilms.warnerbros.com/video_detail/fmj/) It is said Viet Nam war veteran Lee Ermey was first hired as a technical advisor but so impressed the director (Kubrick) with his stream of invectives that he was hired to play the drill sergeant.

The movie follows Marines through their basic training and then two Marines through the 'Tet Offensive'. Basic training sees the breakdown of a Marine recruit who is referred to as Pyle (after Gomer Pyle). After being hazed and beat by his fellow Marines he becomes a model Marine (while talking to his rifle). Things escalate and the outcome is not good for Pyle. I won't detail this part of the story because it will ruin it if you're going to see the movie.

Private 'Joker' is assigned as a war correspondent after basic training and sent to Da Nang. As he goes into battle things escalate when the platoon commander is killed by enemy fire, a squad leader is killed by a booby trap, a sniper takes down another...


Full Metal Jacket Reviews

Roger Ebert, in a 1987 review said the stages and sets do not compare to the realism seen in movies like Platoon.

''Full Metal Jacket,'' Mr. Kubrick's harrowing, beautiful and characteristically eccentric new film about Vietnam, is going to puzzle, anger and (I hope) fascinate audiences as much as any film he has made to date. (New York Times, June 26, 1987)

The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Jay Scott; May be the best war movie ever made...Different is Kubrick's artistry and control, and his almost perverse, but philosophically progressive, refusal to impart to chaos a coherent narrative contour.

From commonsense media.com;
Is it any good?

Although this is a film about the Vietnam War, it could just as easily be about current events. The ugly realities of war, and what soldiers have to go through before they even get there, are a timeless theme, and Full Metal Jacket looks at the whole picture.

There isn't a lot of plot -- the soldiers go from training to war and they fight for their lives -- but the relationships among the men and the extremity of the situation they're in are riveting. The film captures both the excitement and the tedium of war, but ultimately loses something by not having a stronger storyline and a stronger leading man. Modine is a good actor, but he is something of a cipher here. We don't know enough about him to care deeply for him, but he is the moral center of the film. It's a well-made film that is powerful and still relevant, but it somehow doesn't quite deliver what it seems it could. Also, it's way too violent for kids, so share this one with older teens only.

As you can see reviews are very mixed about this one. You'll have to see it for yourself to decide.

I really wanted to add more quotes to these movies but it seems the newer movies contain a little more vulgarity than hub pages will allow. It was difficult finding quotes I could use here. It was almost impossible to find a video clip that wouldn't be banned either!

I know I didn't do these movies justice. They are more realistic than war movies made in the forties and fifties and give you a better view of what life is like in war. I hope what you read here has encouraged you to see at least one of these movies.

Please leave your comments and suggestions. Its always good to hear what others think both about my hub and about the movies here.

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Comments 38 comments

josh3418 profile image

josh3418 4 years ago from Pennsylvania


Another classic list of war movies. Believe it or not, I still haven't seen Platoon! But I have heard great things, and of course your review is enticing as always. I guess now is the time! :) Thanks for sharing Mary!

Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

Saw Platoon and Full Metal Jacket on big screens. Both depicted 'the good, the bad, and the ugly'. Honestly speaking, the timing for releasing the latter movie couldn't be worse, right after Platoon. It drew comparisons and I personally did not like it as much as I did Platoon. In any case, that was an awesome era for war movies.

Although not exactly a war movie in the sense you are describing it, in my humble opinion, Killing Fields should also be covered under this list.

Awesome hub. Enjoyed every word of it.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for being the first to comment Josh! As you read in my hub, Platoon is considered a classic and is well worth seeing! Again, thanks for reading.

Suhail, any film could be added here. I know I left out some good ones for sure and I'm glad you mentioned Killing Fields. So glad you enjoyed my hub!

Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England

Another enjoyable war movie article Mary, two more decades to go. :)

Heartbreak Ridge is an interesting choice. I think its the only war movie featuring the invasion of Grenada. Its been years since I've watched the film.

Platoon and Full Metal Jacket are most probably the two best war movies of the 80's. Both critically acclaimed, given a choice I'll pick Platoon, more emotional and Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe are so watchable as the two sergeants "fighting for possession of my soul" as Chris says at the end of the film.

Another big favourite of mine is the submarine drama Das Boot, I watched that many times on video back then and I also liked Glory about a black regiment during the American civil war, an underrated film which won Denzel his first Oscar.

Voted Up, Interesting and Awesome.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I am always so happy to see a comment from you Steve! Add to that you enjoy my hub and it really thrills me. Yes, I figure two more decades then we'll see. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 4 years ago

Great Choices Mary, Saw Full metal jacket back in 87. Did watch "Good Morning Viet Nam" with Robin Williams. Love Clint Eastwood acting. By accident had to stay at Westin Hotel in dowtown LA back in 98, and saw a plaque on the elevator entrance: "True lies" and "In the line of fire." Thanks for writing these hubs Mary. 20 years more to go. Have a nice day!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Nice to have a following for this series Lord. Its been fun looking back at these movies for me and I'm glad it is for you too! You have a nice day too!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Mary, what a great selection! I am a Clint fan any day of the week and I really like Heartbreak Ridge but Platoon wins hands down for me as the best 80s war movie. It is gripping stuff from start to finish.

Great reviews, voted up etc and shared....

weestro profile image

weestro 4 years ago from Virginia

Great hub tillsontitan, with great selections. As a child in the eighties it got no better than Rambo for me. With Red Dawn coming in second....obviously these weren't oscar winners! Voted up, interesting, and awesome!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Jools, Platoon certainly kept you on the edge of your seat...definitely gripping. Thanks for the votes and share!

Weestro, we all have our favorite...different for those of you growing up in the eighties for sure. Always glad to have you stop by. Have a great day.

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada


This is an excellent genre to plumb and I will be needing to hit up the other four articles right quick. (I'm trying to work out the other Clint movie you mentioned but didn't mention. Clever that...I'm thinking it might be "Where Eagles Dare" or "Kelly's Heroes").

Some excellent choices you have here. I always viewed Platoon/Full Metal Jacket as good companion pieces. Full Metal Jacket did an excellent job as portraying basic training; whereas, Platoon truly dived into the grittiness that was Vietnam.



PS...voting Up and all the rest!

Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

Oh, Mary, before I forget mentioning this, you have landed into what I call "my decade" with a style.

CriticalMessage profile image

CriticalMessage 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

Strangely a friend and I were just discussing this Heartbreak Ridge movie just about an hour ago... Something says I need to see it.. I enjoyed Platoon, Apocalypse Now and if you can survive the 1st hour?, I do love Deer Hunter.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Hi Til....HEY!! a war movie I love...."Heartbreak Ridge"...but I suppose it can hardly be in the category of battles and bloodshed!!...

I wanted to tell you that I was off line for a whole week! Serious computer issues...had to take her to the ER....She was a MESS cost me plenty but I got her back today and when I went online.....I had 640 (!!!) HP notifications. My point being....if I miss something, I apologize.......I have no idea where to even start!!

b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

I guess "Platoon" had to be the Classic War movie of the 80,s. I don't believe I saw "Heartbreak Ridge"...But the Library may have a copy. Another Good Hub on the Movies, Tillis, Thanks for sharing your Thoughts on this subject.

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

War movie is my favorite genera. I love watching war movies mostly those based on true stories. Thanks for this wonderful hub. I have only watched Das Boot and it was a great movies.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thomas, you were right, it was Kelly's Heroes! I think you hit Platoon and Full Metal Jacket right on! Hope you enjoy my other hubs. Glad you stopped by.

Suhail, glad I hit your decade. Watch for more.

Critical Message guess you were meant to read this ;) So glad you did.

Effer, I kept checking your profile page to see if anything was there...glad to know it was only a computer problem but more glad you're back! I'm not surprised you liked Heartbreak Ridge...take your time and just weed through. Again, glad you're back.

b.Malin I think you might enjoy Heartbreak Ridge...it is more lighthearted than the others for sure.

Vinaya, Das Boot was an excellent movie. Hope you get to see the others.

epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

.....a most awesome hub tribute to war films by someone who obviously knows their 'movies' with such world class passion and insight from a film buff of the highest esteem and order ....thank you for bringing back some memories here and I will be posting your terrific hub to my FB group Let's just talk music or cinema with a direct link back here - sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 11:13am

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Epi you make me blush and jump for joy at the same time! I am honored to be listed on your FB and hope we can keep communication open about music and movies. I've been a movie buff since I was a kid but only started taking things seriously when I decided to try to write about them. Bless you....have a great day!

epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...well you are more than welcome to join my group at FB - Let's just talk music or cinema - that would be an honor and a thrill indeed ......and some of my favorite films are: A Clockwork Orange, Blue Velvet, the Searchers, The Wild Bunch, Wings of Desire, Carl Dreyer's Joan of Arc, Taxi Driver, Milos and Otis, the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Casablanca, Toy Story, Do the right thing, the Last Waltz, La Traviata, ....actually this list changes every week -lol - lake erie time 5:29pm

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Wow Epi, quite a list you've got. How do I look for you on FB?

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I'm taking action Mary....time to get these views up this morning....I was disappointed in this movie....and I'm not sure why...but it felt like something was missing in it....and ultimately I would have to blame the director and direction....it just didn't quite have enough to engage me.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Ok...but which movie Bill? There are three reviewed in this hub so I'm not sure .... hmmm. Nap time???

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

LOL...sorry...I was talking about Heartbreak Ridge....I love Platoon.....Full Metal Jacket just made me cringe....and I love Eastwood but that movie left me feeling flat.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

till this is indeed a great tribute to the war movies of the 80's I enjoy the war movies and Heartbridge was my fav.. although I did enjoy full metal jacket voted up and entertaining :) Frank

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for reading Frank. Heartbreak Ridge had a little something different going for it.

xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Platoon was probably the the greatest ever alright. This whole series has been great Mary! Thanks for writing it and reminding us of films we saw and some we missed and some we want to see one more time at least.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Xstatic. Its been fun to write as well. Brings back memories for me too as I haven't seen most of these movies for a while myself.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

till - This is an excellent hub and you have selectyed some great films. A number of theseI have used in my upper level history courses. Great work. Sharing. ~~ Theresa

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Does that mean I get an "A" phdast? Thanks so much for reading and commenting AND sharing! Nice to see you here.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

You definitely get an A! :) ~~ Theresa

rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Mary -

A great list here. "Platoon" & "Full Metal Jacket" are a couple of my favorites. One missing here though..."Hamburger Hill." It starred no major players at the time, but many have since gone on to stardom. Very realistic. I know it's on DVD, but I don't think its made its way to Blue-Ray yet! Great Job!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Hm, I remember hearing about "Hamburger Hill" but not sure if I saw it or not...guess I'll have to check that one out RC. Thanks for reading.

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

My husband used to drag me to see war movies, but I was not fond of them to be truthful. Guess I thought too much about WWII and the bad memories. I did see Robin Williams in Good Morning Viet Nam which I thought was good.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

It goes without saying Mary that War Movies are not exactly something you dream about....well only if you have nightmares after....but there are some good stories, talent and history lessons in many of them. Thanks for reading a hub about something you don't particularly like!

Glen Kowalski profile image

Glen Kowalski 2 years ago

Full Metal Jacket is easily the best film about basic training you will ever see. In fact it is more accurate than the watered down shows the military channel used to have about basic.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York Author

Definitely a film to remember Glen. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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    Mary Craig (tillsontitan)943 Followers
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    Mary has been a movie fan since she was a little girl. She watched movies every night of the week on Million Dollar Theater..

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