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Vietnam War films on DVD and tape

Go Tell the Spartans
This list is confined to movies currently available in video. (I've omitted the "vetploitation" films and the PW rescue fantasies.) Click on a highlighted link and the Amazon VHS video or DVD page will come up. Most of these films can be rented from Netflix.

I'd appreciate additions or corrections to this list. -- Dan Ford

Air America / Also available in DVD
A traffic helicopter pilot is enlisted to work for Air America, a CIA airline flying contraband into Laos during the Vietnam War. While there, he learns that they are also shipping opium out of the country for the local drug lords. One of the few comedies about the war. Writers: John Eskow and Richard Rush, from Christopher Robbins' book. Stars: Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr.

Apocalypse Now / Also available in DVD
An American military assassin journeys up river into Cambodia on an assignment to find and kill an American colonel who has gone beyond the limits of the military's code of warfare. Considered by many to be the quintessential anti-war movie. Vaguely based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Writers: John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola, and Michael Herr. Stars: Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, and Marlon Brando.

Born on the Fourth of July / Also available in DVD
Ron Kovic joined the Marines as a gung-ho recruit, went to Vietnam, and came back home paralyzed. Naturally he was somewhat annoyed; he endured an ordeal of physical and mental rehabilitation before becoming an antiwar activist and striking it rich with a book and this film. Writers: Oliver Stone and Ron Kovik. Stars: Tom Cruise, Willem Dafoe, Caroline Kava, and Raymond J. Barry.

Casualties of War / Also available in DVD
A soldier watches helplessly as his squad (what else?) kidnaps and rapes a Vietnamese girl; later he manages to bring the squad to justice. Writers: David Rabe, from a New Yorker article by Daniel Lang. Stars: Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn.

China Beach
The pilot for the immensely popular Vietnam soap opera TV series. Directed by Rod Holcomb. Stars: Dana Delaney etc. (Available only second-hand)

China Gate
A preposterous special-ops romp. But note the date: 1957. We should have paid more attention! Nat "King" Cole is an American in the French Foreign Legion intending to finish the job he'd started in Korea. Written, produced, and directed by Sam Fuller. Stars: Angie Dickinson, Gene Barry, and Nat "King" Cole. (Available only second-hand)

Coming Home / Also available in DVD
While her Marine captain husband is in Vietnam, a woman volunteers at a V.A. hospital and becomes emotionally and intimately involved with one of the patients. Her husband comes home, disillusioned by the war, and tries to cope with his wife's infidelity. Writers: Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones, from a story by Nancy Dowd. Stars: "Hanoi Jane" Fonda, Jon Voight, and Bruce Dern. (VHS available only second-hand)

The Deer Hunter / Also available in DVD
Three patriotic steel workers go to Vietnam and find that the experience alters their sense of self and community. One of the first and still one of the best films about the war. Writer: Deric Washburn, from a story by Michael Cimino, Louis Garfinkle, Quinn K. Redeker, and Washburn. Stars: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep.

Full Metal Jacket / Also available in DVD
Another top film about the war. That all this could have happened to one bunch of guys is beyond belief, but that every bit of it happened to somebody, I certainly believe is possible. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, of course. Stars: Matthew Modine and Vincent D'Onofrio.

Flight of the Intruder
Pilots from an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam resolve to bomb Hanoi and are shot down. Writers: Robert Dillon and David Shaber, from the novel by Stephen Coonts. Stars: Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe, Brad Johnson, and Rosanna Arquette.

For the Boys / Also available in DVD
Two USO entertainers tour the fronts in World War II, the Korean War, and finally Vietnam where the woman's only son is killed. Writers: Marshall Brickman, Neal Jimenez, and Lindy Laub. Stars: Bette Midler and James Caan.

Go Tell the Spartans / Also available in DVD
"One of the noblest films, ever, about men in crisis." Set in the early 60s. Lancaster is a war-weary major obliged to garrison a village that the French had once tried and failed to defend. (Not a bad prediction for 1967, huh?) Writer: Wendell Mayes, from Daniel Ford's novel, Incident at Muc Wa. Stars: Burt Lancaster and Craig Wasson. [MORE]

Good Morning, Vietnam / Also available in DVD
An Armed Forces radio disk jockey is a hit with the American soldiers and Vietnamese but antagonizes his superiors. Based on the life of Adrian Cronauer. Writers: Larry Brezner and Mitch Markowitz. Stars: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, and Tung Thanh Tran.

The Green Berets / Also available in DVD
A Green Beret command defends a military outpost and kidnaps a Viet Cong leader. Hawkish John Wayne flick. He's too old for the job, and the country certainly isn't Vietnam! Be sure to catch the final scene, when the sun sinks into the East. Writer: James Lee Barrett, from the novel by Robin Moore. Stars: John Wayne, David Janssen, and Aldo Ray.

Hamburger Hill / Also available in DVD
Recreation of the 1969 battle involving the 101st Airborne Division. One of the good ones. Writer: Jim Carabatsos. Stars: Michael Dolan, Anthony Barrile, and Michael Patrick.

Indochine / Also available in DVD
In 1930s Indochina, a woman manages her rubber plantation but loses her French lover, a naval officer, to her adopted Indochinese daughter. The lush scenery is spectacular; I found the story tiresome. Writers: Regis Wargnier, Louis Gardel, Erik Orsenna, and Catherine Cohen. Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Vincent Perez, and Jean Yanne.

The Lost Command / Also available in DVD
French soldiers fail courageously at Dien Bien Phu and go on to fight for a losing cause in Algeria. Writer: Nelson Gidding, from The Centurians by Jean Larteguy. Stars: Anthony Quinn, Alain Delon, and George Segal. (VHS available only second-hand)

The Lover / Also available in DVD
An adolescent French girl becomes the lover of a well-to-do Chinese man in 1920s Saigon, but their love is forbidden by the social order of the era. Filmed in Vietnam. Not really a war movie, but well worth watching just for the spectacular Vietnam scenes. Writers: Gerard Brach and Jean-Jacques Annaud, from the novel by Marguerite Duras. Stars: Jane March and Tony Leung.

Maya Lin
Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (DVD only)
Academy Award winning documentary about the 20-year-old Yale undergraduate who designed the "Wall" in Washington, and the infighting that added the statues to it, for better or worse. Also covers her later career. Director: Frieda Lee Mock. Star: Maya Lin.

Off Limits
Two pros from the Criminal Investigation Detachment (CID) track down the killer of Vietnamese prostitutes in 1968 Saigon. Writers: Christopher Crowe and Jack Thibeau. Stars: Willem Dafoe, Gregory Hines, and Amanda Pays.

Operation Dumbo Drop
Based on a true story about Green Berets and an elephant. One of the few comedies from the Vietnam War. Stars: Danny Glover. (Available only second-hand)

Platoon / Also available in DVD
Oliver Stone takes on the Vietnam War. Okay, okay, he knows more about it than JFK's assassination, but is he any more inclined to tell the truth? Stars: Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe.

Purple Hearts
Navy doctor falls in love with feisty nurse in Vietnam. Stars: Ken Wahl and Cheryl Ladd. One of the few romances about the war.

Uncommon Valor / Also available in DVD
An American colonel brings together the remaining members of his son's platoon for an attempted POW rescue sortie. Based on a true incident. Writer: Joe Gayton. Stars: Gene Hackman, Robert Stack, Fred Ward, and Patrick Swayze.

We Were Soldiers / Also available in DVD
The best Vietnam film ever made, and the finest war movie of recent years. Stars: Mel Gibson.