We all have our favorite military movies. Whether or not they depict combat isn’t as important as the aspects of military life they bring to the screen. Military films remind us of our own experiences and those with whom we deployed. The characters in these movies have been with us so long, it’s like we know them personally. Like the real-life people you deployed with, the characters are mixed bag: you like some more than others. Some you can’t stand, some you absolutely love. These are the military movie characters closest to the hearts of America’s veterans.
These are the military movie characters closest to the hearts of America’s veterans.
1. Everyone in “Full Metal Jacket”
“Full Metal Jacket” is supposed to be an anti-war movie, a treatise on the effects of overly macho masculinity, brainwashing in military training, and the combination of those forces in war.
Inside of the military, however, it’s the single most quoted movie ever. Everyone knows these characters and R. Lee Ermey’s performance as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman cemented everyone’s view of the Marine Drill Instructor in his own image, forever. Everyone from Animal Mother to Joker to Private Pyle makes this the perfect storm of characters.
2. Sgt. 1st Class Norm “Hoot” Gibson, “Black Hawk Down”
Hoot is actually based on three real people, based on Sgt. 1st Class John Macejunas, Sgt. 1st Class Norm Hooten and Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Rierson. In a movie full of memorable lines and moments, Hoot’s stand out and stay with you, especially his speech at the end.
3. Lt. Aldo Raine, “Inglorious Basterds”
Brad Pitt is really getting into World War II movies. On top of 2014’s “Fury,” he has another coming out in 2016 called “Allied.” Before all that, he was Aldo Raine, the gung-ho leader of a band of Jewish troops dropped into Fortress Europe to strike fear in the hearts of Nazis. It worked and we loved watching him do it.
4. Staff Sgt. Sykes, “Jarhead”
Swoff’s scout sniper training instructor is funny, good at his job, cares about his Marines, and is one of the most memorable Marines in film and television history. Which is saying a lot.
5. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, “Apocalypse Now”
Apocalypse Now is an older film, the second oldest on this list (1979), so it may move a little slower than audiences today are used to. Still, in a movie full of legendary characters and performances by the actors portraying them, Kilgore stands out among them because he’s not paranoid or crazy, but he genuinely enjoys war.
6. Lt. (j.g.) Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, “Top Gun”
Goose was the ultimate wingman, the guy who always has your back.
7. Private Trip, “Glory”
Trip was angry, brooding, and resentful of the country he had to fight for. He’s the first to voice his displeasure with the idea that nothing will change for blacks in post-Civil War America. He’s the first to protest unequal pay. It makes you wonder why he bothers to fight at all until you realize he’s fighting for everyone around him and for what lives they could have.
8. Gen. George S. Patton, “Patton”
This is the oldest movie on the list here, but is so chock full of moments that, in movie buff circles, more people remember George C. Scott’s depiction of the man than the man himself.
9. Lt. Dan Taylor, Forrest Gump
Even Gary Sinise once said that Lieutenant Dan became a part of the actor himself and make Sinise dedicate his time and energy toward wounded veterans. When the actor walks through veterans hospitals, the attitudes of the patients literally change because Lt. Dan just walked in. That’s powerful.
10. Pvt. Dewey “Ox” Oxberger, Stripes
It’s not easy to choose which character in “Stripes” stands out the most. There are strong cases for Bill Murray’s John Winger and Harold Ramis’ Russell Ziskey, but John Candy’s Ox will steal your heart.
11. Adrian Cronauer, Good Morning Vietnam
The relatively recent death of Robin Williams may have made this performance a little more poignant, but the real-life Adrian Cronauer himself admitted that Williams’ portrayal of him was more epic than he ever was in real life.