Vietnam films have replaced World War II films in the American consciousness in many peoples' eyes. As views on war change, often because of the Vietnam conflict, Vietnam films have become a place where filmmakers voice their concerns about the horrors of what people can do to one another and themselves when forced to fight for a cause they may not even understand. Here are the best Vietnam films about the war.
"The Deer Hunter" - Michael Cimino's masterpiece of Vietnam films stars Robert DeNiro, John Cazale, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep in the story of a group of Pennsylvania steel workers and friends who enlist to fight in Vietnam. After facing many trials, they are eventually captured and placed in a POW camp, where, for the amusement of the guards, they are forced to play Russian Roulette against one another. Though they escape, none of them will ever be the same, in this powerful standard for Vietnam films.
"Platoon" - Vietnam vet Oliver Stone directed this tale of a platoon of soldiers in Vietnam, through the eyes of new recruit Charlie Sheen. Sheen realizes he is not onl fighting with the Vietcong, but with the other soldiers in his platoon, and his own moral code, after an incident divides the platoon behind its two non-commissioned officers, played by Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe. Berenger and Dafoe truly make up the core of this tough, gritty entry on our list of the best Vietnam films.
"Bullet in the Head" - John Woo's Hong Kong film about Chinese gang members who go to Vietnam during the war to make money but instead get caught in the conflict is reminiscent of "The Deer Hunter" in many ways, including a lengthy prison camp scene, but it is a moving, effective example of Vietnam films in its own right. It also has a star-making performance by Simon Yam as a Chinese arms dealer suavely playing the sides against one another in Saigon.
"Dead Presidents" - This film from the Hughe brothers is less about the war itself than its effects on young black men as they return. More than many other Vietnam films, it focuses on the struggle of minority soldiers, and what they are forced to do when the war itself has gotten them addicted to drugs, violence, and more. When the young veteran soldiers decide to rob a bank, everything spirals out of control in this final entry on our list of the best Vietnam films.