As we observe the 50th anniversary of the War in Vietnam, here are ten of the best of the movie and documentary depictions of the war and its impact on history and culture in the United States. The best-known films about Vietnam include “Apocalypse Now,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Platoon,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Coming Home,” “Good Morning Vietnam.” But over 2000 films have touched on or portrayed the Vietnam war and there are sure to be many more to come as we continue to grapple with the strong feelings about the conflict. These are others I think are well worth watching.
1. We Were Soldiers The very first U.S. military involvement in Vietnam is explored in this somber portrayal of military honor and politicians’ hubris.
2. Gardens of Stone James Caan and James Earl Jones star in this poignant story of the war at home and in Southeast Asia, focusing on the Arlington Cemetery’s “Old Guard.”
3. Hearts and Minds This documentary was made in 1974 so it is as much an artifact of its time as it is an accurate depiction of events as we have come to understand them. But it is a powerful film with some important footage of the era.
4. China Beach This beautifully acted television series is a rare look at the war through the eyes of women.
5. Hamburger Hill The story of the 101st Airborne’s attempt to take a single hill in one of the most brutal engagements of the war stars Dylan McDermott and Don Cheadle.
6. Born on the Fourth of July Tom Cruise plays Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, who became an anti-war protester after he returned.
7. Little Dieter needs to Fly Werner Herzog made a documentary about a German immigrant fell in love with planes and became an American naval pilot in the Vietnam War, where he was captured and then escaped, and then made it again as a feature film called Rescue Dawn with Christian Bale.
8. Vietnam – A Television History The PBS series about the Vietnam war has been re-edited and updated. It is still a thoughtful, balanced history of the conflict and its context.
9. In Country Bruce Willis stars in the story of a girl who wants to find out what happened to her father, who never returned from Vietnam.
10: Remembering Vietnam: The Wall at 25 Maya Lin’s memorial to the Americans who died in Vietnam is one of the most powerful spaces in Washington D.C. Vietnam veteran Jan Scruggs was determined to build a Vietnam memorial. Maya Lin was the Yale undergraduate whose etched granite memorial was selected by the judges but was considered insulting by some in the veteran community. The site has become a place for thousands of visitors to pay their respects. Many of them leave tokens with deep personal connections, and that is now a part of the memorial as well.