Recommended Vietnam Movies

Here at the Black Seal's Cyclopean towers, we've been thinking about movie inspiration for your Arclight games, we've come up with a list of some of our favourite Vietnam movies, you'll have heard of some of them, but hopefully not all. Of course, if you're feeling generous, we've added some Amazon affiliate links, any pennies will end up in the Black Seal coffers and fund printing this monster!

The Big Ones

First the obvious choices, Keepers interested in a Vietnam campaign should have these on the shelf already!

Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is probably the most famous Vietnam War Film. The plot revolves around the efforts of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) who is sent deep into the jungle to assassinate Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has gone rogue and is presumed insane. The movie also stars Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore the hard charging Air Cavalry commander who loves the smell of napalm in the morning.

Watch It For:The Slow SAN spiral as so many characters fall to the madness of war.

Apocalypse Now Redux [DVD] [1979]

Adding an extra 49 minutes to the film, enhancing the surrealism of the original, Keepers may be particularly interested in the French Plantation scene.

Full Metal Jacket

Based on Gustav Hasford's novel The Short-Timers, Stanley Kubrick shot the entire film in Britain with Beckton Gas Works in east London standing in for the city of Hue and British Army base, Bassingbourn Barracks, doubling as Parris Island Marine camp. The film revolves around Private Joker (Matthew Modine) first as a Marine recruit in brutal basic training and then as a Marine Combat Correspondent in Vietnam with Stars and Stripes during the bloody street fighting to retake the city of Hue after the Tet offensive in 1968. Kubrik said on several occasions he set out not to make a statement about the war, simply a good war movie.

Former U.S. Marine Drill Instructor R. Lee Ermey was originally hired as a technical adviser but was cast as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman after providing audition tape in which he rattled off an unbroken stream of insults for 15 without flinching, ducking, or repeating himself as people off camera threw things at him.

Watch It For:Every Keeper should have a Gunny Hartmann impression in their grab bag.

Hamburger Hill

Follows the members of a squad from the 101st Airborne Division when over a period of ten days in May 1969 their division repeatedly assaulted the heavily fortified Ap Bia Mountain in the A Shau Valley. The film was written by James Carabatsos who served in the 1st CAV in Vietnam 1968-9. Apart from the graphic battle scenes the film portrays the sense of betrayal and alienation felt by the soldiers for life back in the United States so much so that one soldier Worchester actually chooses to sign up for another tour in Vietnam after a period spent back in the states.

Watch it for: An understanding of almost everything which will go wrong for the American war effort as the war progresses.

The Deer Hunter

Focuses on the impact of war on a group of working class friends from a Pennsylvania steel town all of whom are sent to Vietnam. The movie has some very haunting scenes and stars Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken (who won an Oscar for the role). Split into three acts, before during and after the war, this is one of the greatest War movies ever made.

Watch it for: The Russian roulette scene, if your players don't end up hammering a Tcho-Tcho to death with the butt of an AK, then you're doing it wrong!

We Were Soldiers

Mel Gibson plays Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, commander of the 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry in the first major engagement of the Vietnam War. A more recent Vietnam film that does well to tie together the disparate elements of a complicated battle, only falling at the last hurdle due to its Hollywood ending.

Watch it for: Sam Elliot's excellent turn as Sergeant Major Plumley, a Sergeant who has obviously seen the worst the Mythos has to offer and is non-plussed by anything else.


Oliver Stone's story about his experience in Vietnam with a young pre "Tiger Blood" Charlie Sheen in the role of Oliver. Sheen moves from innocent to killer guided and influenced along the by his platoon's senior NCO's Sgt's Barnes and Elias. One of Oliver Stone's best movies, and the first of a trilogy of Vietnam War movies.

Watch it for: Tom Berenger, and don't forget to pick up the soundtrack for use in your own games.

First Blood

Not so much about the war as what happens after it, Rambo is about how American society treated Vietnam War veterans, worth buying the book as well. The less said about the subsequent Rambo films the better.

Watch it for: Stallone actually acting. Other than that, the man traps and ambushes as he flees through the forest, now add Tcho-Tcho...

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  1. How about “Go Tell The Spartans”? Burt Lancaster on fine grizzled form as a WW2 veteran officer in the early stages of the Vietnam conflict.

    Don’t trust those friendly villagers, they might be Tcho-Tchos.

  2. I would suggest “Off Limits” with Willem Dafoe and Greofy Hines as well. Cops investigating serial killings in Saigon during the Tet-offensive should fit right into the mood.

    • I heartily agree, its the movie I hold up to show that stories set in Vietnam do not necessarily need to be about investigators hacking their way through the jungle; so there was no way I wasn’t going to put it in this article. However, you wont see it until Pt 4.

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