Film / Hamburger Hill

Hamburger Hill is a 1987 American Vietnam War film about the actual assault of the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles," on a well-fortified position, including trenchworks and bunkers, of the North Vietnamese Army on Ap Bia Mountain near the Laotian border.

This film provides examples of:

  • Angry Black Man: Played straight with the educated and well spoken Doc Johnson, who is constantly commenting on issues of race to his white squadmates, along with frequent emotional outbursts. Subverted thoroughly as he is fiercely protective of the men, repeatedly risks his life to reach anyone who falls regardless of their color, and is close friends with several white troops, especially SGT Frantz.
  • Anyone Can Die: it being a war movie based on real-life events, a large chunk of the cast (including several major characters) doesn't make it through the movie.
  • Armor Is Useless
    Sgt. Worchester: I remember a guy once, Johnny I-Forget-His-Name. Wore two helmets, two flak jackets and armored underwear. In the A Shau Valley, when your time is up, your time is UP.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The repeated charges up the hill.
  • Badass Creed: "Don't Mean Nothin'"
  • California Doubling: The Philippines standing in for Vietnam.
  • Conscription: The draft, this being Vietnam and all. The 101st, however, only accepted volunteers.
  • Death from Above: Helicopter air support. Trope name doubles as motto for the 101st Airborne.
  • The Dreaded: A place as opposed to a person, spoken of with obvious dread and respect by the veteran members of the squad, with one expressing his outright fear of it. When one of the replacements asks "What's the A Shau?" he only gets a cold stare as a reply.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Justified. It's the Vietnam War, and historically accurate.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Foot soldiers assaulting a hill that holds little strategic worth, full of entrenched enemies. Tragic, but though it did in fact happen.
  • Manly Tears
    • Realising you survived Bash Brothers partnership.
    • Shed over carnage of final scene.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: An enemy example. The squad follows a blood trail after an ambush to find an NVA soldier's abandoned equipment, including his helmet, canteen and wallet, but no actual body. Inside the wallet is the picture of a pretty young woman. The sergeant is unmoved, commenting that the victim was an "FNG-type, walking around the A Shau with a half-empty canteen" that made lot of noise. The new soldiers in the squad who see the picture are clearly thinking of their own girlfriends back home.
  • Retirony PVT McDaniel is a short timer who hears a rumor that the squad is being sent back into the A Shau valley and asks his sergeant to find him a job back at the rear before they're sent in. Guess who is killed during the first assault on the hill.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: When showing the fresh troops how silent and deadly the NVA are vs. the VC, the instructor specifically tells them to forget about "(Victor) Charlie" and worry about "Nathaniel Victor."
  • Southern-Fried Private: Well, technically Sgt. Worcester.
  • Stern Teacher: Spc. Abraham Johnson. "Be an individual, and I'll be tagging your ugly toothless face straight to a long box with metal handles!"
    • Sgt. Frantz: "Some of you think you have problems because you're against the war. You demonstrated in school, you wear peace symbols on your steel, and you have attitudes. I'm orphan, my brother's queer, the city of Chicago got the clap from my sister, Mom drinks, Dad coughs blood, I have ringworm, immersion foot, the incurable crud and the draft ruined my chances of being a brain surgeon. People, you are in Vietnam. You have no problems. Except me. And him."
  • Straw Civilian: Inept, naive, or downright hostile. Multiple characters have their relationships ruined by the anti-war movement at home, and at least one goes back to Vietnam after coming home to nothing but hostility from young hippies and college kids that have a Jane Fonda-like attitude toward the NVA (even calling them "heroic" and the US soldiers "evil"), to the point where they harass a bartender that had a son in Vietnam after he died.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Sgt. Worcester's monologue on anti-war protesters motivating him to volunteer for another tour.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: The Americans use M41 Walker Bulldog tanks throughout the movie, when they should be using M48 Pattons instead. The M41 was only used by the South Vietnamese during the war.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Several, in the aftermath of each of the eleven assaults up the hill. SGT Frantz gives one to Alphabet after the FNG's first battle, when the new meat looks for his sergeant's approval afterwards. "We got our cherries busted good today, didn't we?" Frantz's response, after giving the stare: "One of my people got killed. That's all that happened today." Also, At the end of the brutal fight up the hill, the three survivors all look back down at the charred, deforested hilltop littered with bodies from both sides with utterly empty, haunted expressions.
  • Wham Shot: Lt. Eden is calling in an artillery strike when his position is hit by a mortar. Sgt. Worchester rushes to help and finds him leaning against a tree, dazed but seemingly unharmed and still trying to give orders over the radio, unaware that the handset wire has been cut, the radio itself smashed, and his RTO is dead. Worchester administers first aid, which annoys Eden because he's busy. "Sir! Your arm." The camera pans down and Eden (and the viewer) sees that his right arm has been ripped off above the elbow.
  • White Guilt: Doc Johnson tries to evoke this in some of the white soldiers of the squad, but Beletsky throws it back in his face.
    Johnson: Surely, you must realize, that the brothers are here because they cannot afford an ed-u-cation.
    Beletsky: So what am I doing, sitting around in some fuckin' country club, sippin' Seven-and-Sevens and eating a steak? Take a look around, Doc. I see all kinds of white faces here.
    Johnson: Okay. The war started for you when you farted, and said good morning, Vietnam. Me? I was born into this shit.
    Beletsky: And they yanked that gold fuckin' spoon outta my mouth and sent me here so I could see how you low-class Eleven-Boos live, is that it?
    Johnson: [approaches Beletsky as if to fight, but holds out his hand] Brother blood.
    • Despite popular belief, statistical breakdown of American casualties in Vietnam shows that black troops were actually less likely to be killed or wounded than whites or Hispanics. Doesn't mean they didn't have legitimate grievances against racism, of course.
  • Worthy Opponent: "Survive twice, and you will call him MR. Nathanial Victor"