Somebody once wrote: "Hell is the impossibility of reason". That's what this place feels like. Hell. I hate it already and it's only been a week.
— Private Chris Taylor
is an acclaimed war film written and directed by Oliver Stone
based on his experiences as an American soldier in The Vietnam War
. It was released in 1986 and won the Academy Award
for Best Picture. This is also his first film about the war, followed by Born on the Fourth of July
and Heaven And Earth
. These three films are often said to form a "trilogy", although they merely share subject matter and do not take place in a shared continuity.
The film follows a new recruit named Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen
) as he gets thrown into the humid, alien and deadly jungles of war and gives a frank look at the toll the war took on the men that fought, lived and died in the jungle. The main conflict is the murder of innocent civilians causing a rift in the platoon while Chris tries to find the correct thing to do in a war with ambiguous morals.
It is generally considered a milestone in war films in that the battles are far from glamorized and it is not afraid of showing just how hellish it can be; this makes it come closer to defeating Do Not Do This Cool Thing
than many other films.
A tie-in videogame
was developed by Ocean Software a year after the film's release. Probably some of the least necessary film-to-game adaptations ever, given that the movie was demonizing
the war. They at least tried to replicate the film's message in the NES game by giving you a "Morale" gauge
which goes down whenever you kill a civilian
. Once the bar drops to zero, a Non Standard Game Over
occurs. The game's levels recreated the film's scenes, each with their own gameplay style, from a side-scrolling shooter to a First-Person Shooter
, and vice versa. A tactical board game
was released around the same time by Avalon Hill.
Another tie-in game was released in 2002, this time a real-time tactics game.
This film provides examples of:
- All Asians Wear Conical Straw Hats: Many of the Vietnamese civilians.
- Anyone Can Die: And at any moment, just like in war.
- Asshole Victim: Most notably Pvt. Bunny and Lt. Thomas Wolfe during the final battle. In general, most, if not all, of the soldiers (excluding Chris and Sgt. Elias Grodin) in the platoon might count. It's hard to root for or to feel sympathy for any of them after they attempted to massacre the Vietnamese villagers.
- Author Avatar: Basically, Chris is Oliver Stone. His commentary on the film reveals that just about everything is taken from his time in Vietnam, and he occasionally talks like he really is the character.
- Ax-Crazy: Whenever Taylor snaps, he becomes this.
IT'S FUCKING BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!
- Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes.
- Badass Boast:
Barnes: Oh, you wanna kick ass. Yeah. Well, here I am, all by my lonesome. And there ain't nobody gonna know. Six of you boys against me. Kill me. ... [beat]... I shit on all of you.
- Big Bad: Barnes is the closest as the movie gets to a villain.
- Big "NO!": Chris shouts this just as Barnes is about to kill him during the final battle by the end of the movie.
- Bittersweet Ending: Chris survives the war and goes home, but he doesn't really escape the consequences of the war.
- Black Dude Dies First: Subverted; most of the platoon's black members were either wounded or came back home. and only a few of them killed. Warren was the first to go.
- Blood Knight: Barnes is a frightening example. Very frightening example.
- Booby Trap/Schmuck Bait: Be careful opening that box of documents, guys.
- The odd thing is, just before lifting the box, he was telling his comrade to be careful about where he stepped and what he touched because of... well, y'know. Why didn't he just grab the papers from within the box? The Idiot Ball, that's why.
- Boom, Headshot: Bunny and Wolfe in the Final Battle.
- California Doubling: The Philippines for Vietnam.
- The Captain: Subverted with Harris; he's not part of the platoon.
- Cassandra Truth: When Junior falls asleep on his watch, blowing an ambush and causing one platoon member to be killed, he immediately tells a bold-faced lie and says it was Chris. The others believe Junior unquestioningly since Chris is the rookie. Chris meekly tries to defend himself ("I didn't fall asleep. It was Junior.") but it falls on deaf ears. "Excuses are like assholes! Everybody has one!"
- However, if you pay close attention you will see that two most experienced men (Barnes and Elias) aren't fooled by Junior for one minute. When Barnes gives his lecture on what he's going to do to the next person who falls asleep on watch, he pauses to give Junior a blistering death glare. In addition, Elias pointedly orders Junior to help carry Gardner's corpse
- Chromosome Casting: All of the characters are men (appropriate given the setting and period).
- Colonel Kilgore: Barnes.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Elias when he finds out what Barnes did at the village. So bad that even career soldiers thought it was over-the-top.
- Couldn't Find a Lighter: One of the characters lights his cigarette from a villager's burning hut that the American soldiers have just torched.
- Creator Cameo: Oliver Stone as the company commander who gets bombed to oblivion by an NVA sapper.
- Crucified Hero Shot: One of the most popular examples. Since this became the main poster/video box/DVD cover image, this rather builds up expectations of the film. The closing narration doesn't help. The image is a homage to the famous 1968 photograph by Art Greenspon.
- Death from Above: And below. And left, right, front, and back. Though to be fair, this trope occurs literally in the form of Huey helicopters and an F-5 Freedom Fighter airstrike.
- Death Seeker: Barnes begs Taylor to kill him in the alternate ending. It was such an Out of Character moment that it would've contradicted the closing narration if it was kept in the final cut.
You godless bastard, come back here!
- Determinator: The NVA.
- Dirty Coward: Sgt. O'Neill, who goes as far as to hide under the corpse of one of his comrades to avoid fighting in the Final Battle - understandable in the moment as he was about to be surely killed and had no other way to live, but then we find out he stayed there the entire battle while other soldiers got slaughtered..
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Barnes, before revealing himself as a killing machine.
- Dwindling Party: The titular platoon.
- Every Helicopter Is A Huey
- Evil Counterpart/Foil: Elias and Barnes function as this; Chris even compares his conflict between the good and evil inside of him to their conflict.
- Evil Is Hammy: Barnes.
- Evil Versus Evil: The sociopathic American soldiers themselves (with the exception of Taylor, Elias, and a few others) may not be one of the movies' saintly soldiers, but the NVA who were against them were as bad as they.
- Eye Scream: Wolfe gets hit by shrapnel in the eyes during the Final Battle (you can see him staggering around covering his face) before being fragged in the head.
- Final Battle: And how!
- For the Evulz: Basically the reason why Barnes and Bunny likes to go around killing people in war.
- Game Mod: There's a Duke Nukem 3D mod themed around this movie. Also counts as a Non Indicative Name since it's actually based on 3 different Vietnam War films; this, Full Metal Jacket, and Apocalypse Now. A stand-alone sequel, NAM, was released 2 years later.
- General Ripper/Reasonable Authority Figure: Zig-zagged with Captain Harris. He was willing to court-martial Barnes and Elias if he finds out an illegal killing took place. But during the Final Battle, he orders the air strike on the base which killed many of his own men and the NVA attackers.
- In fairness to him, final protective fire is an accepted desperation tactic when a position is overrun or about to be overrun.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Barnes in Chris' hallucinogenic experience of the final battle.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Barnes has a nasty scar that zig-zags all up and down the right side of his face.
- Chris earns a classic "good" scar on his cheek from his fight with Barnes. As Chris leaves on the chopper after killing Barnes, he has a deep cut on his face almost identical to Barnes'.
- Good Guns, Bad Guns: Played with. The Americans and the briefly-seen ARVN troops use NATO firearms, while the NVA use Chinese Type 56s and B-40 RPGs, the former of which is also used by both Barnes and Taylor late in the film. Pretty much Truth in Television as discussed in the trope page.
- Good Is Not Nice: The platoon fractures into an idealist group loyal to Elias and a survivalist group loyal to Barnes. However, the stoners in Elias' group are far from saints. Elias and Taylor are the most moral of the entire platoon, and they do a lot of drugs, cursing, and starting fights.
- Heroic BSOD: Thrice with Taylor, to the point of becoming Ax-Crazy.
- It's the Only Way to Be Sure: Cpt. Harris orders an F-5 Freedom Fighter to destroy his own base during the Final Battle in a last-ditch attempt to stop the NVA attack.
Harris: Be advised, we got zips in the wire down here... For the record, it's my call. Dump everything you got left on my pos. I say again, expend all remaining in my perimeter. It's a lovely fucking war. Bravo Six out.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: Unsurprisingly happens to Taylor as the film progresses.
- Jerkass: A majority of the soldiers (bar Chris and Elias, who look like absolute saints compared to the others, despite their constant swearing) that you might see in this movie were assholes from start to finish, especially Barnes, Bunny and Wolfe. And don't even start about the village scene where they interrogate the civilians.
- Karmic Death: Chris frags Barnes with three rounds in the upper-right torso, exactly how Barnes shot Elias.
- Kill It with Fire: The Final Battle ends with an F-5 Freedom Fighter dropping napalm on the whole base.
- Licensed Game: Did you just read the description?
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Elias.
- Manly Tears: Chris weeps at the end of the film.
- Messianic Archetype: Elias.
- More Dakka: The M60 machine guns used by King, Tex, Morehouse, and Huey helicopter door gunners.
- My Girl Back Home: Complete with wallet picture and all.
- Na´ve Newcomer: Chris, at first.
- The Neidermeyer: Wolfe, the leader of the titular platoon. An incompetent coward who is unable to control his own soldiers, he lets Elias and Barnes do as they like (and the only order he gives is to burn down the village). US Army leadership classes have used Wolfe an example of how a junior officer should not behave.
- New Meat: Chris, Gardner and Bunny.
- Never My Fault: The soldiers that advocate killing everyone in the village, including the ones that claim that they're not doing anything wrong when they're trying to rape two girls.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Inverted.
- The Obi-Wan: Elias is faster, stronger and more experienced than his student Chris.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Pretty much everything Bunny does, including beating a crippled Vietnamese civilian and his elderly mother to death just for the hell of it, and nearly raping a young girl.
- Opposing Combat Philosophies: Elias (laid-back/tactical) and Barnes (aggressive). Stone based them on two different sergeants he knew while he was in Vietnam. They never met but Stone wondered what would happen if two men of such opposing viewpoints were in the same platoon.
- Opposed Mentors: Wide-Eyed Idealist Chris is torn between two Sergeants about how he should conduct himself in Vietnam. As his closing monologue goes" The war is over for me now, but it will always be there, the rest of my days. As I'm sure Elias will be, fighting with Barnes for what Rhah called "possession of my soul".
- Putting on the Reich: The M113 APC at the end of the film has a swastika flag tied to the antenna. According to Stone, APC soldiers during the war were notorious for displaying Nazi paraphernalia on their vehicles.
- Rated M for Manly
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: See Glowing Eyes of Doom.
- Retirony: Subverted. After announcing that he's going home in a chopper in ten minutes with the final battle approaching, King (Keith David) actually does make it out alive.
- Screaming Warrior/Shouting Shooter: All of the NVA soldiers during the Final Battle.
- Screw the War, We're Partying!: Subverted with Elias, a stoner with a relativist attitude to war who is still a complete Badass and a more effective commander than Barnes.
- Although to be fair, there is a literal party scene at one point, complete with joints and a "Tracks of My Tears" singalong.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Junior bolts for dear life when he realizes he and Bunny are completely overrun by the NVA. He doesn't make it.
- Sergeant Rock: Elias and Barnes, in their own ways.
- Shotguns Are Just Better: Bunny. Averted during the Final Battle.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: On the cynical side. Very much so.
- Sociopathic Soldier: Quite a few of them, though somewhat understandably so. Barnes and Bunny would be the prime examples. All of the NVA soldiers were just as bad as them.
- Stock Parodies: The "Platoon" pose, as seen on the main page.
- Stuff Blowing Up: From booby traps, a village, a forest, to an entire military base.
- Suicide Attack: During the Final Battle, there's that one guy who runs straight into company command and suicide bombs it (taking the director with him).
- Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred: Barnes dares Taylor to kill him after the Final Battle, which he does.
Go on boy! Do it!
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Chris after he kills Barnes. And just as dramatically, when Chris first arrives in Vietnam, one of the soldiers boarding the plane back to the States sports a doozy of one.
- Truth in Television/Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Ask any Vietnam veteran what the war was like.
- The really big fight at the end is based on the New Years Day Battle of 1968 that Stone lived through.
- Tunnel Network: Elias infiltrates an underground VC tunnel at one point in the film.
- Unfriendly Fire: And more than once.
- Unnaturally Blue Lighting: Some of the movie's scenes are filled with blue tint. Said tint is omitted from Blu-ray/HD releases.
- The Vietnam War: One of the definitive films about it.
- War Is Hell: This movie does not attempt balance: it is an all-out War Is Hell work. It contains war crimes including murder and attempted rape, graphic imagery of violent death and maiming, PTSD, drug use, mistaken fire on friendly units, and focuses on lethal infighting. note
- We ARE Struggling Together: Eventually, the platoon gets torn between those who side with Elias and those who side with Barnes.
Taylor: I can't believe we're fighting each other, when we should be fighting them.
- Weapons Understudies:
- Colt Model 653 carbines stand in for CAR-15/XM-177's.
- An F-5 Freedom Fighter stands in for either an F-4 Phantom or an F-105 Thunderchief, which would've been more accurate for the air support role. F-5s were used in Vietnam by the USAF, but only sparingly so for combat evaluations and unlikely for the situation in the movie.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Taylor, at first.
- Would Hurt a Child: Dear God, Bunny.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Averted terribly.
- You Are in Command Now: Red O'Neill. Doubles as an Oh, Crap.
- Zerg Rush: The final attack of the NVA.
The video games provide examples of:
- Dolled-Up Installment: The Real-Time Strategy game was originally going to be just, well, a generic Vietnam War-themed strategy game. That is, until the publisher got the rights to the film, and the game's story was retooled to fit the film.
- Genre Shift: Each level has different gameplay changes. You even get to fight and kill Barnes in a grenade-throwing duel.
- Non Standard Game Over:
- What happens if you kill way too many civilians.
- If you forget to get the explosives and put them on the bridge, a single enemy kills you with a flamethrower and performs a Total Party Kill.
- One-Man Army: The player, who is presumably Chris. His "lives" represent other members of the platoon.
- Timed Mission: The final mission, where you must find and kill Barnes before the F-5 Freedom Fighter drops the napalm.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: In the game, the morale gauge decreases whenever you kill a civilian.