The Vietnam War was one of the most politically charged military campaigns in American history. Scores of brave, young men were drafted into service to fight against the spread of communism and a well-trained North Vietnamese Army.
Each man who fought in the war came away with their own personal story. Oftentimes, those stories feed the creative process and are adapted to resonate with a wider audience. The result is a huge assortment of stories, told through books, feature films, or television series.
But for every great piece of media, there are plenty of not-so-good Vietnam movies and TV shows that hit the shelves. So, we’ve put together a list of classics that won’t ever get old.
‘China Beach’ (TV series)
Created by John Young and William Broyles Jr., the show follows Army Nurse Colleen McMurphy while she works at an evacuation hospital and USO center during the Vietnam War. The show featured various storylines of troops rotating in and out of the war.
Plus, the show’s opening credits showcased one of the most famous songs from that era: Reflections, as performed by the Supremes.
Fun fact: The title of the show, China Beach, refers to the nickname of My Khe Beach in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam.
‘Tour of Duty’ (TV series)
Created by Steve Duncan and L. Travis Clark, the show initially aired on CBS in 1987 and followed a group of Army soldiers as they moved through the unforgiving jungles of Vietnam. It was considered the first dramatic television show to regularly display combat events in a narrative setting. Tour of Duty was intended to be the spin-off to Oliver Stone’s Platoon.
The show only lasted three seasons, but many Vietnam vets were fans of this short-lived series.
‘The Deer Hunter’
Directed by Michael Camino, the 1978 classic follows three lifelong friends from a steel mill town in Pennsylvania as they experience the grim realities of POWs in Vietnam. The powerful acting performances and gruesome Russian Roulette scenes are why the film took home the Oscar for Best Picture that year.
Directed by John Irvin, this story depicts one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. Nearly 400 allied lives were cut short during a tragic friendly-fire accident.
In real life, the Hill was considered by many to not have any real, significant military value.
‘Full Metal Jacket’
Directed by the late Stanley Kubrick, Full Metal Jacket is considered one of the greatest war movies ever made. It showcases the journey of a recruit who makes his way through basic training and is thrust into the dangerous, combative pit known as Vietnam in the late 1960s.
With Platoon, critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone pulls from his own experiences (an Army veteran) to take audiences directly into one of the most politically charged times in American history. Platoon follows a young soldier, Chris Taylor, who enters the war as a complete newbie and exits full of emotional scars.
‘We Were Soldiers’
Based on the real events, We Were Soldiers focuses on the heroism and outstanding leadership abilities of Lt. Colonel Harold G. Moore. This intense war epic displays both the vigors of war on the frontlines and the emotional strife endured by faithful Army spouses back home.