The Vietnam war has inspired dozens if not hundreds of different films. What are the best and worst of them, according to Rotten Tomatoes score?
Movies have always been used as a way of telling stories of real-life war. From ancient wars to most recent conflicts, there are countless movies that tackle them. This is especially true of the Vietnam War, which has been the inspiration for so many high-profile movies over the years.
The controversial nature of the Vietnam War has inspired many different approaches to telling this story. Some of the best filmmakers of all time have made movies centered around this war, resulting in some of the most acclaimed movies of all time. Then, there are the movies that tried and failed in the eyes of critics. Here are the good and bad of Vietnam movies, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Worst: Air America (1990) – 13%
Hollywood superstars Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. teamed up for this Vietnam-set action movie. Air America tells the story of the covert and corrupt CIA airline service that operated during the war to smuggling various cargo.
The real events behind the story are fascinating and could have made for a compelling movie. Sadly, Air America seemed content just being a wacky buddy action-comedy. Despite the chemistry of the leads, critics felt this was a toothless and tacky war satire.
Worst: Missing In Action (1984) – 19%
In the recent acclaimed Vietnam movie Da 5 Bloods, the Vietnam veteran characters mock movies like Missing in Action as suggesting the war could have been won by a single white man. Indeed, the is basically the premise of Missing in Action and it does deserve the mocking.
Chuck Norris stars as a special forces officer who goes back into Vietnam to rescue the American prisoners of war who were left behind. It is a cheesy, silly, and ridiculous action mess with a dull action hero performance from Norris.
Worst: The Green Berets (1968) – 23%
While most Hollywood movies often addressed the controversy of the Vietnam War, right-wing actor John Wayne wanted to make a movie in support of the war effort. Wayne co-directed and starred in The Green Berets, which follows an elite group of soldiers on a mission in South Vietnam.
The fact that Wayne was in his sixties when he was supposed to be playing a special forces colonel was just one of the problems critics had with the movie. The pro-war message and uninteresting characters only helped to make the movie a dud.
Worst: Flight Of The Intruder (1991) – 25%
The fighter pilot action movie Flight of the Intruder feels largely like a lesser version of Top Gun despite having an interesting premise. It follows a group of pilots frustrated with their dangerous missions bombing meaningless targets. They decide to take matters into their own hands and select their own target.
The potential for an interesting war story was there, sadly many critics felt the movie gets lost along the way. The intrigue gradually gets worn down by cliches and disconnected scenes.
Worst: Operation Dumbo Drop (1995) – 31%
It is crazy to imagine enough people thought a family-friendly Disney comedy set during the Vietnam War would be a good idea. Defying logic, Operation Dumbo Drop was made and tells the story of a US military outfit tasked with delivering an elephant to a Vietnamese village.
As a surprise to no one, the light-hearted comedic elements set to the backdrop of a real-life brutal war didn’t work. The misguided movie landed with a thud, failing to deliver laughs, heart, or any interesting commentary.
Rescue Dawn (2006) – 90%
Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog adapted his own documentary into this dramatic retelling of a POW’s harrowing experiences in the war. Rescue Dawn stars Christian Bale as a military pilot who is shot down and taken captive by the Vietnamese. While undergoing brutal treatment, he plans his daring escape.
The movie was called a compelling man versus nature story like only Herzog can tell. They also pointed to Bale’s immersive and powerful performance as a big reason the movie works as well as it does.
Best: Good Morning Vietnam (1987) – 90%
It is difficult to make a war movie with comedic elements, but most critics felt Good Morning Vietnam found that right balance. Loosely based on a true story, Robin Williams stars as an energetic and controversial military radio broadcaster offering entertainment to the soldiers on the frontlines.
Many critics hailed the film’s hilarious comedic elements as well as its ability to include poignant moments of drama. They also pointed out that the movie was a perfect showcase for Williams and his wide range of talents.
est: Full Metal Jacket (1987) – 92%
Years after making the most famous war satire of all time with Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick told a much darker and disturbing war story. Full Metal Jacket is told in two separate parts, the first being the harsh and intense boot camp soldiers faced before going to the war, and the second explored their experiences fighting in that war.
Though some critics pointed out that the movie’s message offers no new commentary, Kubrick’s way of communicating them is breathtaking. The intense and taut style of the movie was regarded as a testament to Kubrick’s talents as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
Best: The Deer Hunter (1978) – 93%
More than four decades after its release, The Deer Hunter remains one of the most brutal and harrowing war movies of all time. The story centers around a group of friends, including Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, who leave their small town to fight in the war which dramatically affects them even once the war is over.
Though there are some legitimate criticisms to be had about the movie’s one-sided depiction, it remains an unforgettable epic and compelling drama. De Niro, Walken, and Meryl Streep all deliver incredible performances that elevate the sprawling movie.
Best: Apocalypse Now (1979) – 98%
After creating some of the most acclaimed movies of all time with the first two Godfather movies, Francis Ford Coppola went on to make the most acclaimed Vietnam movie of all time. Apocalypse Now stars Martin Sheen as a destructive soldier sent on a mission into the jungle to assassinate a colonel who has gone mad.
Critics hailed the war epic as a visionary take on the war. As the story heads deeper into the jungle, the movie takes on a nightmarish feel. It is anchored by wonderful performances from Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, and others.