Vietnam War & Films Essay

Vietnam War films came in fame during the ’80s, from being a movie theme that was still viewed as outlawed during the ’70s. Films, such as Platoon and Metal Jacket turned the warfare into a popular theme for movies. Rambo (Part II) revolves around the movie’s leading role – Rambo – who reprises his responsibility as Vietnam veteran. The movie is set in the background of the issues regarding Vietnam War’s prisoners and those missing in action; it shows Rambo discharged from detention center by national order to file the likely existence of prisoners of war in Vietnam, with the trust that he will not discover anything, therefore allowing the government to ignore the issue.

Rambo, a United States’ veteran from the Vietnam War, comes back to America and finds out that “for him nothing is as it used to be before the war” (Anderegg, p. 83, 1991). On a journey on the lookout for a military friend, he notices problem with a small city sheriff. Rambo is at first harassed by the sheriff and detained on fake blames of vagrancy. He works impulsively, overcomes all the protectors and escapes. Rambo has been working in a labor camp detention center when his former commander visits him and offers the opportunity to be freed from detention, but on condition of him going into Vietnam to look for American prisoners of war. Rambo meets an American civil servant who is in command of the operation and he informs Rambo that the American community is requiring information regarding the prisoners of war and they would like a skilled commando to step in and search for them. Rambo received the notice that he should only take pictures of the prisoners of war and not to save them, nor is he to involve in any opponent armed forces. Rambo unwillingly gives consent and he is subsequently told that a representative of the American government will be present to receive him in the ruthless situations of Vietnam. 

America has modified its perceptions about the Vietnam War and veterans of that war. By the year 1977, no one even likes to speak regarding Vietnam. From 1977 until 1980, a ‘whole bunch’ of actually excellent films on the subject of Vietnam War was released, and all of a sudden, it was justifiable. At the moment, it is acceptable to be a Vietnam veteran. Two of the early movies that cause the alteration in opinion were ‘Missing in Action’ and ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’. ‘Platoon’ was the earliest of five key movies concentrating on the personal account of veterans about warfare’s incidents. That was a year of self-assessment as well as understanding of history. It was a straightforward public acceptance of defeat during a 20 years old combat.

Platoon (1986) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) symbolize a number of of the most excellent Vietnam films and each of them criticized the war from a special point of view. The proliferation of these films overlapped with the administration of Ronald Reagan, a Cold Warrior determined to finish the confrontation with the USSR. Vietnam films may have been aggravated by the need to remind Americans of the pointlessness of battles like Vietnam that started as a result of hopeless apprehensions of socialist growth. Nevertheless, most Americans during the 1980s had place Vietnam behind them, concentrating on creating nationwide as well as individual prosperity. 

Rambo arrives at the Vietnam soldiers’ camp, and in opposition to his briefing, he locates American captives there and releases one of them from a temporary crucifixion. Subsequent to his break out, the camp’s Soviets, as well as Vietnamese soldiers are sent to try to find him. Rambo gathers his weapons, and by means of guerilla fighting approaches, is able to destroy a huge number of opponent military forces. He continues to a small rival camp and annihilates it along with quite a lot of vehicles. The movies that followed near the beginning of 1980s created a mythic Vietnam: the revenge movies about prisoners of war and those who are missing in action merged the impressive components of “action cinema with right-wing nationalistic fantasy to refigure the vigilante of 1970s exploitation cinema as a lone veteran who returns to Vietnam, this time to win” (Williams & Malo, p. 203, 1994). In every case, the focus of the soldier’s search is the prisoners of war: soldiers unaccounted for following the repatriation of prisoners of war during 1973 were, in accordance with the judgment of these movies, still alive; similarly, the Vietnam War had never come to an end. A difficult figure, in spite of the simplicity of its movie management, the prisoners of war of these movies stands in for everything that was vanished all through the unstable phase of the combat, together with faith in the government following the exposure of ‘Watergate’ as well as the ‘Pentagon Papers’. The vigilante heroes of these movies struggle as much in opposition to government fraud as they do in opposition to evil socialists; the movies present plot engagements with the various ‘conspiracy theories’ that revolved around America’s behavior towards the warfare along with its behavior with its personal soldiers.

Platoon is an account of a soldier’s point of view about the Vietnam War. The film is mainly “told out of the eyes of members of one platoon of the 25th Infantry Division”. It is a film, dedicated to every individual who take part in the Vietnam War. In the film, Chris is a young individual from a rich family, but when in college, decides to help his nation and do his duty in the Vietnam War. He is sent to Vietnam in the ‘25th Infantry Division’. Initially, Chris has a little rough time while over there. After being placed on daytime job, he gets involved in what a number of other soldiers were doing to take care of their misery – ‘drugs and alcohol’. 

The Platoon quickly sets out once more, watching the ruthless situation. They find out a Vietnamese bunker compound and shortly after that notices one of their soldiers is not there. The soldiers go in the equipped region, and blow a mine. The platoon lately discovered their lost soldier is dead, after finding out about his death they made their way to the rural community where they take out their annoyances on the inhabitants as well as their property. Chris found a Vietnamese couple that tried to hide from him. One his co-soldiers ask Chris to murder him and afterwards himself murder the meager Vietnamese person. The Platoon’s most significant personalities are two NCO’s, “each an exhausted, self-aware veteran of earlier Vietnam tours: the facially scarred Sergeant Barne, who has somehow become committed to the war, which is all he has left, and Sergeant Elias, whom the war has made as eerily gentle as Barnes is brutal” (Devine & Schatz, p. 392, 1999). 

‘Missing in Action’ is set in the background of the Vietnam War’s ‘prisoners of war’ and missing in action’ issue. Colonel Braddock, who fled a Vietnamese captive of war camp 10 years before, comes back to Vietnam to locate American soldiers indicated as missing in action in the Vietnam War. Following the bloodiest combat, Braddock goes together with a government inquiry group that goes to ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ to look into the information about Americans still held hostage. Braddock finds the facts and after that goes to Thailand, where he meets Tuck, an old military friend turns into ‘black market key player’. Jointly, they start an operation deep into the ruthless situation to free the American prisoner of war from General Trau (Dittmar & Michaud, p. 93, 1990).

Full Metal Jacket follows a unit of U.S. Marines during their preparation and portrays a few of the experiences during the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War, a faction of fresh United States Marine Corps employs appears at Parris Island for recruit preparation and meets their drill coach, Sergeant Hartman. “Hartman, tasked with producing battle-ready Marines, immediately begins abusing his recruits in an attempt to harden them. The film focuses its attention on Privates Joker and Cowboy, while the overweight Leonard Lawrence draws the wrath of Hartman, who nicknames him Gomer Pyle” (Taylor, p. 62, 2003).

Indifferent to Hartman’s continuous punishment, Pyle is paired with Joker. With this assistance, Pyle starts to get better, although improvement is stopped as Hartman finds out a ‘jelly doughnut’ in Pyle’s foot cabinet. Sensing that the recruits have not assisted in encouraging Pyle appropriately, Hartman makes a decision to implement a strategy of combined punishment: For every time Pyle makes an error, Hartman will not penalize Pyle, but will penalize the rest of the unit. During the subsequent weeks, Pyle goes through a change, turning into a model Marine and skilled shooter, which amazes Hartman. On the other hand, Pyle as well shows symptoms of psychological breakdown – together with social abandonment and conversing to his ‘M14’ (Hunter, p. 184, 2003). 

Following graduation, every recruit gets a task to a professional specialty, with the majority, together with Pyle, being sent to the infantry; however, Joker is assigned to fundamental armed forces reporting, which makes him the ‘ridicule of Hartman’. On the unit’s final night on Parris Island, Joker is given the task to fire watch, in which he notices Pyle in the head loading his rifle with actual bullets. Joker tries to calm Pyle, who starts yelling, performing drill commands, and narrating the ‘Rifleman’s Creed’. The sounds wake up the whole unit and Hartman, with the latter scolding Pyle. Pyle deadly fires Hartman, then points his rifle at Joker, who entreats to Pyle to calm down. Pyle at last manages to relax, however being traumatized at killing Hartman, commits suicide.

“’Born on the Fourth of July’ is an American movie mode in line with bestselling life history of the similar name by Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic” (Heberle, p. 492, 2009). After Ron Kovic, along with his classmates, listen to an emotional speech with reference to the Marine Corps, Ron makes a decision to enroll. The film subsequently moves to Kovic’s next Vietnam excursion during October 1967. “Now a Marine sergeant and on patrol, his unit massacres a village of Vietnamese citizens, believing them to be enemy combatants” (Heberle, p. 492, 2009). During the retreat, Kovic turns perplexed and unintentionally fires at one of the fresh arrivals to his unit, named Wilson. Afterwards, he dies from his injuries, leaving a profound mark on Kovic. Weighed down by guiltiness, Kovic pleas to his executive officer who simply tells him to stop thinking about the incident, and thus, the meeting has a depressing effect on Kovic, who is crushed at being ignored by his executive officer.

The unit goes out on a new dangerous patrol during January 1968. In a firefight, Kovic is seriously injured and trapped in a field in front of certain death, until an associate Marine releases him. He spends quite a lot of months getting better at the ‘Bronx Veterans Administration hospital’. The hospital living circumstances are terrible: the workers are normally indifferent to their patients’ requirements, general practitioners visit the patients occasionally, drug use that is uncontrolled with both the employees as well as patients, and equipment was very old as well as ill maintained to be functional. He badly attempts to walk again with the help of ‘crutches and braces’, in spite of frequent warnings from his general practitioners. He shortly experiences an awful injure by falling down that causes multiple fractures of his thighbone. The damage almost deprives him of his leg, and he passionately disagrees with the general practitioners who temporarily think about resorting to amputation.

Ron comes back to home, eternally in a wheelchair, with his leg unharmed. From the beginning, he observes the way all his relatives as well as friends treated him in a different way now that he was paralyzed. “He begins to alienate his family and friends, complaining about students staging anti-war rallies across the country and burning the American flag. Though he tries to maintain his dignity as a Marine, Ron gradually becomes disillusioned, feeling the effects of his paralysis on his life, and realizes that all the things he was taught from birth, like honor, patriotism, and courage, were illusions which he would give up any day to get his legs back” (Russell, p. 20, 2001). His setbacks are as much psychosomatic as they are physical and he rapidly turns into alcoholic and aggressive. While attending Independence Day procession, he displays signs of post-traumatic nervous tension when fireworks blow up and when an infant in the crowd begins crying. 

All through the second half of the 1980s, a further identifiable war returned to the screen within such movies like “Platoon (1986), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Full Metal Jacket (1989), Missing in Action (1984) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989)” (Boyle, p. 40-59, 2009). These efforts made a stylistic swing from the action / adventure movies that headed them during the initial part of the decade; they were promoted as well as admired for the pragmatism, legitimacy, and verifiability of their staging of warfare. Utilizing the commonly recognizable attributes of the World War II battle motion picture, they reference additional cinematic establishment, observer descriptions, in addition to actual chronological occurrences to support their alleges to past fact (Boyle, p. 43, 2009). They offered a sense of legitimacy within their settings, by 1960s trends, customer commodities, and identifiable places. They were possibly most influential – and powerful on the warfare movie – in their depiction of the visual as well as auditory quality of fight. While a film like Platoon had an effect on spectators with the surreality of its image of Vietnam, these movies concentrated instead on its intuitive nature: camera movement that referenced combat and documentary reportage established their sense of verifiability; and their soundtracks intensified the consequence.

However, at the same time that they presented a Vietnam never seen earlier or heard – on screen, the depictions of war in these 1980s movies were indebted to previous depictions of the warfare that similarly raised the individual, witness understanding as the main aspect to understanding it. Related in these terms was the TV documentary ‘Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (1987)’ made for HBO and afterwards provided dramatic release. Showing theatrical readings of letters from armed forces, their family units, and their relatives, it gives emphasis to individual understanding over political affairs of the state and beliefs to create a beneficial text of recollection (Muse, p. 201, 1995). The critics viewed such films as political movies, nonetheless, for the way that it prevented any vital or oppositional attitude toward the warfare by means of its emotional associations with the soldiers’ experience.


Anderegg, Michael. 1991. Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television. Temple University Press.

Boyle, Brenda M. 2009. Masculinity in Vietnam War Narratives: A Critical Study of Fiction, Films and Nonfiction Writings. McFarland.

Devine, Jeremy M. and Schatz, Thomas. 1999. Vietnam at 24 Frames a Second: A Critical and Thematic Analysis of Over 400 Films about the Vietnam War. University of Texas Press.

Dittmar, Linda and Michaud, Gene. 1990. From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film. Rutgers University Press.

Heberle, Mark A. 2009. Thirty Years After: New Essays on Vietnam War, Literature and Film. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Hunter, Jack. 2003. Search & Destroy: Vietnam War Movies. Creation Books.

Muse, Eben J. 1995. The Land of Nam: The Vietnam War in American Film. Scarecrow Pr.

Russell, Jamie. 2002. Vietnam War Movies. Pocket Essentials.

Taylor, Mark. 2003. The Vietnam War in History, Literature and Film. University Alabama Press.

Williams, Tony and Malo, Jean. 1994. Vietnam War Films: Over 600 Feature, Made-For-Tv, Pilot and Short Movies, 1939-1992, from the United States, Vietnam, France, Belgium, Australia, Ho. McFarland & Company.