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Top Vietnam War Movies

Updated on October 16, 2021

The Vietnam War

Vietnam War Propaganda
Vietnam War Propaganda | Source

Movies on the War in Vietnam

War movies about Vietnam are really not about Vietnam. Put them all together and you have an epic story of bad planning, bad judgment, horrible execution and an absence of imagination on the part of the American government.

The war is just part of the continuing tragedy for the Vietnamese people. They had been at war with China and France before that and nothing will ever stop them from defending their country. They make this clear even now.

But today, surprisingly, there is no resentment against the Americans at all here. We now work in Hanoi and live just beside the Hoa Lo Prison. I meet American friends where we live who will not go and visit this Prison. They still have vivid memories of friends whose sons never came back and of the division that the war caused in the country. Yes, for the American people, the wound is still healing. For many, it will always be there.

The War in Vietnam - A War in the Jungle

You have to understand that the war in Vietnam was a war in the jungle and this was what the young American volunteers got into. Vietnam was a jungle that was so unfamiliar to the many young Americans who have not even been overseas. Here are some of the movies that show this reality so well.

Good Morning Vietnam - Starring Robin Williams

Fighter Plane Vietnam War
Fighter Plane Vietnam War | Source

1. Good Morning Vietnam

Good Morning Vietnam blared through our short wave radio everyday that when this movie came out, it became an instant favourite. This movie centered on the American DJ, Arian Cronnauer, who was sent to Vietnam to the American Armed Forces Radio Service and whose irreverence refreshed the troops and sent them to howls of laughter.

Acted by Robin Williams, this airman second class, DJ Cronnauer, immediately touched the heart of movie goers especially when his superiors, second lieutenant Steven Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and sergeant major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh), who had other ideas about entertainment and behavior for the troops did everything they could to make him change his style. The troops, however, including Brigadier General Taylor (Noble Willingham) quickly enjoyed Cronnauer's brand of comedy. One of the troop members, Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (Forest Whitaker), immediately befriended him and the two of them just went further into getting their two superiors worked hard into getting them out or even sending them to where the North Vietnamese Army could take care of them.

Meanwhile, Cronnauer is unstoppable not only as a DJ. He met Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana) and followed her to her English class where he persuaded the teacher to let him teach the class and whereupon he taught them American slang. Trinh's brother was not impressed by what this American is doing so stopped him but instead, Cronnauer befriended him bringing him for drinks at Jimmy Wah's, the popular G.I. Bar in Saigon. This is just the beginning of his relentless pursuit of Trinh and her family's constant watch.

You just have to watch the movie to know what happened to Cronnauer in his DJ work and his pursuit of Trinh.

Preview the movie, Good Morning Vietnam - Take a peek at some of the great scenes in the movie

There are some memorable scenes in this movie that we still love to recall.

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2. Deer Hunter

Deer Hunter is a movie about a close knit group of young American steel factory workers who volunteered for the war in Vietnam. They said goodbye to their small community in the wedding of one of them.

While in Vietnam, they were taken prisoners and were able to escape but they would never escape this experience. It has changed them and their lives. They were never the same again. There are great actors in this movie and two of my all time favourites: Robert de Niro and Meryl Streep.

The Deer Hunter - An Epic 1978 Drama

Child Playing in Vietnam's Military Museum
Child Playing in Vietnam's Military Museum | Source

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Remains of the Vietnam War - What's in the military museum in Hanoi

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Vietnam Military Museum DisplayFighter PlaneTank
Vietnam Military Museum Display
Vietnam Military Museum Display | Source
Fighter Plane
Fighter Plane | Source
Tank | Source

3. We Were Soldiers

America's First Engagement in Vietnam

America's first engagement in Vietnam took place 14 November 1965. This movie shows 395 American soldiers go to battle not knowing they were going to engage a large Vietnamese batallion. See how Lt.Col. Hal Moore and hi 7th Air Cavalry Division fared.

Watch Lt.Col. Hal Moore's Speech - What Leardership is

Watch these videos and understand leadership better.

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4. Hanoi Hilton

Hoa Lo Prison

I live right beside Hoa Lo Prison, our residence share a fence with this place. Sometimes, I go there to just sit and just sit in the Memorial garden.

This movie, Hanoi Hilton, shows how the Americans, mostly pilots, imprisoned here in Hoa Lo lived. One of the most popular of these prisoners is Sen. McCain of Arizona. His U.S. Navy aviator uniform is displayed here. The displays include pictures of American prisoners preparing for Christmas, decorating the Christmas tree and preparing Christmas dinner. Other pictures are of them playing cards, guitar, planting trees, raising fowl for meat and of their departure when they were freed.

What will give you some sense of what the American prisoners went through as show in the movie are the pictures of Vietnamese revolutionists who resisted the French. Letters and accounts of how they lived in this prison are displayed in Hoa Lo. There is a memorial to these Vietnamese patriots here. There are huge sculptures showing the Vietnamese "rebels" chained together. The detention and isolation places are there, too.

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Video of Hanoi Hilton - See some of the American prisoners' experiences in Hoa Lo

Hanoi Hilton Today - Photos of displays

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The entrance to Hoa Lo PrisonThe Memorial Inside Hoa LoThe Americans Released from Hoa Lo PrisonAmerican Prisoners in Hoa Lo Preparing Christmas DinnerSenator McCain who was one of those detained in Hoa Lo came back to visit
The entrance to Hoa Lo Prison
The entrance to Hoa Lo Prison | Source
The Memorial Inside Hoa Lo
The Memorial Inside Hoa Lo | Source
The Americans Released from Hoa Lo Prison
The Americans Released from Hoa Lo Prison | Source
American Prisoners in Hoa Lo Preparing Christmas Dinner
American Prisoners in Hoa Lo Preparing Christmas Dinner | Source
Senator McCain who was one of those detained in Hoa Lo came back to visit
Senator McCain who was one of those detained in Hoa Lo came back to visit | Source

Full Metal Jacket - One of the more realistic movies on the war in Vietnam

Scraps of the Vietnam War
Scraps of the Vietnam War | Source

5. Full Metal Jacket

This movie on the Vietnam War, Full Metal Jacket, shows the dehumanizing effects of war. A marine corp observed this starting at the marine corps boot camp in Paris Island, South Carolina to their engagement in Hue. The drill sergeant, R.Lee Ermey, acting in this movie has really served as a marine corps drill sergeant in Vietnam.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Mary Norton


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