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Film / Full Metal Jacket

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Goodbye, my sweetheart. Hello, Vietnam...

"These are great days we're living, bros. We are jolly green giants, walking the earth with guns. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know. After we rotate back to the world, we're gonna miss not having anyone around that's worth shooting."
Crazy Earl

Full Metal Jacket (1987) is the story of The Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of a U.S. Marine named J.T. Davis, known to the audience as "Joker."

The film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is split into two parts. The first part follows James T. "Joker" Davis (Matthew Modine) alongside his fellow Marine recruits through boot camp as they suffer under the colorful Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), who causes the platoon's Butt-Monkey Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence to suffer a frightening mental breakdown. The second part follows Joker's struggle to keep his humanity while he covers the Vietnam War as a combat correspondent and is sent to assist a squad in Phu Bai during the Battle of Huế in the Tet Offensive of 1968.

The film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers by former Marine Gustav Hasford, published in 1979. However, the script was co-written by Michael Herr, who incorporated a large amount of his Gonzo Journalism book Dispatches. The result is an odd fusion; the plot is drawn from The Short-Timers, with the first half an extremely faithful adaptation and the second half an amalgamation of events from the second and third stories, while almost all the film's iconic dialogue and surreal moments are taken word-for-word from Dispatches.

The title refers to the most common type of ammunition used in military rifles. A full metal jacket is a copper coating on the outside of a bullet that prevents the round from depositing lead in the barrel over time and reduces the possibility that a round will become deformed in automatic feeding mechanisms. This is referred to at the end of the first half of the story.

This is the only major Vietnam War film that focuses on urban warfare rather than the jungle.

Definitely not to be confused with Fullmetal Alchemist or Full Metal Panic! note 

"These are my tropes! There are many like them, but these ones are mine!"

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: The film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers published in 1979 by former Marine Gustav Hasford. However, the script was co-written by Micheal Herr, who incorporated a large amount of his Gonzo Journalism book Dispatches from the Vietnam War. The plot is drawn from The Short-Timers and a lot of the dialogue is taken from Dispatches. This led to some friction over who would be given full credits. In the end, it was given to both authors.
  • A-Team Firing: Sort of in the sniper scene. When Eightball is shot, the group starts shooting at the two front buildings. Then Doc Jay goes to recover him and gets shot, too. When Animal Mother reaches them, he realizes that there's only a lone sniper, far back in a distant building, and that they've wasted a ton bullets shooting at literally nothing.. Justified as it's meant as suppression fire.
  • Acoustic License: The scene in the helicopter where Joker is interviewing a door gunner as he strafes the countryside. Everyone can hear each other as long as they SHOUT.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: A Vietnamese sniper intentionally shoots an American soldier in the groin with the intention of drawing the other soldiers in the unit into the open as they want to prevent their wounded soldier from slowly dying.
  • The All-Solving Hammer: At first Hartman calmly tells Pyle to place the weapon on the deck and step away. When Pyle doesn't comply, Hartman reverts to his default method of persuasion. The fact that Hartman's solution to a clearly deranged recruit pointing a loaded rifle at him is to insult him seems to imply that he has gotten it in his head that he can solve any problem by yelling at it. Partially Truth in Television; while this is standard procedure in the military, and while it's taught that nine times out of ten a show of strong force will cause a person to back down, there is a world of difference between a show of force and needlessly insulting and antagonizing a seriously disturbed man with a loaded rifle. Someone having a massive mental breakdown with a loaded rifle is not what standard procedure is designed for.
    • A bit of Fridge Brilliance for those that have been through training and understand the thought process. Hartman's attempts at resolving the situation with gentleness are obviously failing, so he attempts to use the conditioning to immediately follow orders that basic training is meant to instill. Sometimes, thinking can be the worst thing that you can do when your life is at stake, especially when the one giving orders has already likely done all the thinking you'd have done for you.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Marine base at Da Nang comes under attack by the NVA as the Tet Offensive begins. The invasion is easily repelled, but this is one exception in the middle of a general offensive all over the country.
  • Arc Words: The idea of being "in a world of shit" is mentioned four times.
  • Armchair Military:
    • Lt. Lockhart, Joker's "Stars and Stripes" CO.
      Joker: Sir, maybe you should go out on some ops yourself. I'm sure you could find a lot more blood trails and drag marks.
      Lockhart: Joker, I've had my ass in the grass. Can't say I liked it much. Lots of bugs and too dangerous. As it happens, my present duties keep me where I belong; in the rear with the gear.
    • When he's introduced, Rafterman is shown lamenting having to be this.
      Rafterman: I hate Da Nang, Joker. I want to go out into the field. I've been in country almost three months, and all I do is take handshake shots at award ceremonies.
  • Artistic License – History: In-universe: Hartman claims that the infamous spree killer Charles Whitman gained his marksmanship skills from Marine training, when Charles was actually a crack shot before he was a teenager. Note this could be intentional by the screenwriter, as Hartman invoking a skewed narrative or simply being misinformed. (That being said, his time in the Marines certainly didn't make Whitman a worse marksman.)
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • As Senior Drill Instructor, Hartman should normally give the speeches to the entire recruit platoon while the two Junior Drill Instructors (the "war dogs") handle yelling at individual recruits. The Senior DI only gets in a recruit's face if that recruit has seriously fucked up (and God help you if you've messed up so bad that you're sent to the training Officer). The Junior Drill Instructors can frequently be seen in the background, but they have no lines. Had they been more prominent in the opening, they would have been yelling at the recruits for random things while expecting them to listen to Hartman's speech and would have caught someone mouthing off instantly by the sheer number of people observing the recruits.
    • The Marine Corps Rifleman's Creed that the recruits recite before lights out is an abridged version of the real one.
    • R. Lee Ermey, formerly a real-life Drill Sergeant Nasty, once said in an interview that while drill instructors frequently struck recruits (something he states was never officially condoned by the Marine Corps), it was done more as a quick attention-getting device rather than something used to humiliate a recruit. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is also far more verbally and physically abusive in the movie than what is or was permitted in real life: he casually flings racist and homophobic remarks at his men; he nearly chokes Private Pyle to death twice, first for smiling too much and then on a jelly doughnut; and he doesn't even intervene when other recruits haze Pyle. He once noted that had he done anything as bad as Hartman did and his C.O. found out about it, he would have been court-martialed and convicted in short order.
    • In the book, Sergeant Gerheim (as the "Hartman" character was originally called) isn't nearly as vulgar, but calls people into his office or the showers to beat them in private. He encourages other punishments — some worse — or orders the other recruits to perform them. Ermey, in an interview, once recalled one of the punishments from the book (the DI nearly drowning Pyle in a toilet other recruits had urinated in) and pointed out that any DI who ever tried something like what Gerheim did would never have been able to command respect among his recruits again.
    • Drill Instructors/Drill Sergeants are trained to watch out for recruits who show signs of mental instability, and Private Pyle showed plenty of signs. In real life, he would have been removed from training and given a quiet psychiatric discharge long before he ever reached the point of murder-suicide.
      • In The Short-Timers, the senior drill instructor actually mentions Pyle is mentally unfit and deserves a discharge, but intimidates other recruits to keep quiet about Pyle. The platoon has already lost several other members, and losing Pyle as well will invite unwanted attention from higher-ups in the chain of command.
    • Trainees, in a general sense, are encouraged to observe one another and report any and all suspicious behavior to the instructors as soon as possible, since the instructors can't observe everyone all the time. The instructors will act intimidating to ensure that the recruit isn't bullshitting them, but if the recruit stands their ground on the matter, the instructors are required to investigate the issue immediately. The film possibly lampshades this by having Joker inform Cowboy of Pyle's increasingly unstable behavior and suggesting that they report it to Hartman, but Cowboy brushes it off. Had they done so, Hartman would have had no choice but to accept that Pyle had cracked and sent him home.
    • Marines saluting officers out in the war zone. This is a big no-no in real life, as it identifies the officers and makes them big, convincing targets for snipers.note  Also in the scene with Joker explaining his "Born to Kill" graffito, the officer is the one who (just barely, but still) initiates the salute: the junior ranking soldier always salutes first, in every branch.
    • In real life it would be practically impossible to smuggle a single live round out of the firing range, never mind enough of them to fill a magazine. When you go to the range, you are given a set number of rounds, and someone will be standing by you to make sure you load and fire all of them. If there's any discrepancy at the end of the session, you can expect to be searched from head to toe until those missing rounds turn up. Same with smuggling a rifle out of the Arms Room; there is strict accountability for every weapon on site, and they are only given out for operations, training, or maintenance, and as Joker explains, by this point the platoon has graduated and is only spending one more night there before being sent to their next course/new home units, meaning all rifles would have already been turned in (note how they do not have rifles in the graduation parade).
    • The VC sniper uses a Czech vz.58note  assault rifle. While these rifles were indeed used by both Viet Cong and the NVA, a bolt-action rifle (such as a Mosin-Nagant) would have been a more likely choice for a sharpshooter.
  • Asian Hooker Stereotype: This movie is a famous example, arguably the Trope Codifier, with its infamous line, "Me so horny. Me love you long time. Me sucky sucky."
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Likewise, "Me love you long time."
  • Asshole Victim: As much as Sgt. Hartman is just doing his job (as mentioned above), it may be hard to feel sorry for him when he gets killed by Private Pyle.
  • Ate His Gun: Private Pyle, moments after killing Hartman, turns his rifle on himself, firing through his lips.
  • Badass Bandolier: Animal Mother has two bandoliers of ammo for his M-60 crossed over his torso.
  • Badass Boast:
    • "God has a hard-on for Marines because we kill everything we see! He plays His games, we play ours! To show our appreciation for so much power, we keep heaven packed with fresh souls!"
    • The Door Gunner also thinks his deeds are something to brag about.
      Door Gunner: You guys ought to do a story about me sometime [...] cause I'm so fucking good! That ain't no shit, neither. I've done got me 157 dead gooks killed and 50 water buffaloes, too! Them are all certified.
  • Banging Pots and Pans: Hartman's favorite way to wake up the recruits each morning is by pounding on a metal trash can with a baton.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Or rather, having a blanket party thrown on you and being mercilessly abused by an authority figure makes you evil.
  • Berserk Button: Don't laugh at Hartman's comments, interrupt him, mess up his orders, tell him you don't love the Virgin Mary or sneak food into the barracks. Oh and he really hates unlocked foot lockers as well.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Pvt. Pyle after murdering Hartmann. He almost certainly realizes he'll be court-martialed and executed for his actions, so instead decides to end it all right on the spot with a bullet through the mouth.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Rafterman shooting the VC sniper when the sniper has Joker pinned.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Inverted. A Vietnamese prostitute does not want to have sex with 8-Ball at first, a black Marine, because she assumes he's "too beaucoup" and thus, as her pimp says "no boom-boom with soul brother." 8-Ball has to whip out his "Alabama blacksnake" and show it to her to convince her that it's not "too beaucoup."
  • Big "NO!": Joker lets one out right before Pyle commits suicide.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On one hand, the war ain't over yet and Joker's got a whole lot more hell in store for him; he's in a world of shit, but he's not afraid and he's happy to be alive. On the other hand, he's just shot a mortally wounded teenage soldier in the head after she begged him to put her out of her misery, and he's watched his best friend get shot in the back and held him as he died. Even though he states that he is glad to be alive, marching away through the smoke with his comrades and singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, it is apparent that he is a profoundly changed man and will never be the same.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The portrayal of Americans in Vietnam is hardly idealized to say the least, but the mass grave and description of what the VC and NVA have already been doing to civilians in Hue City shows that they're not the "good guys" by any means, either.
  • Black Comedy: Plenty of Comedic Sociopathy remarks from the Marines.
    Joker: I wanted to see exotic Vietnam... the jewel of Southeast Asia. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture...and kill them. I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill!
  • Black Comedy Rape: Male on female. Not actual rape but a joke about it. While in the barracks, Stork, a white Marine jokes with Payback, a black Marine, "How do you stop five black men from raping a white woman?" Answer: "Throw them a basketball."
  • Black Dude Dies First: Corporal Eightball is the one sent to do recon and the first to be gunned down by the sniper. He's helplessly aware of the trope.
    "Put a nigger behind the trigger."
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: "No boom-boom with soul brother": at one point, a hooker initially refuses to sleep with an African-American man because of his so-called "Alabama blacksnake." Eightball has to graphically debunk it.
  • Blood Knight: Joker claims that he joined the Corps to be a killer. However, he's being sarcastic since he's a military journalist, and when he has to perform a Mercy Kill, he finds it very hard. Straighter examples in Animal Mother and Crazy Earl.
    Crazy Earl: I will never forget this day: the day I came to Hue City and fought one million N.V.A. gooks. I love the little Commie bastards, man, I really do. These enemy grunts are as hard as slant-eyed drill instructors. These are great days we're living, bros! We are jolly green giants, walking the earth with guns. These people we wasted here today...are the finest human beings we will ever know. After we rotate back to the world, we're gonna miss not having anyone around that's worth shooting.
  • Booby Trap: An extremely dastardly one, to boot. A stuffed rabbit attached to a hidden antipersonnel mine, the sort of thing that was all too common in the real war.
  • Break the Cutie: Private Gomer Pyle gets it worse than the rest of the recruits due to being overweight and mentally slow, most of it at the hands of the original Drill Sergeant Nasty. The worst of it comes when the other recruits, pissed off after the entire platoon keeps getting punished due to Pyle's screwups, throw him a blanket party by pinning him to his bunk with a blanket and beating the crap out of him with bars of soap wrapped in bath towels. All this eventually leads to his psychotic breakdown, his murder of Hartman, and his ultimate suicide.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In a meeting with his fellow Stars & Stripes personnel, Joker and the other Marines are being informed by their CO, Lt. Lockhart, of upcoming events, one of which is a USO visit by actress Ann-Margret. A few scenes later, after being informed by Lt. Lockhart about the Tet offensive by the NVA and how bad the situation is, Joker asks, after a few moments of silence, "Sir, does this mean that Ann-Margret's not coming?"
      • Unfortunately for Joker, this quip pisses off the Lt. enough that he reaches his breaking point and immediately ships Joker off to a combat zone.
    • The whole bit about Joker wanting to bang Cowboy's sister. It's the first thing they reminisce about when they reunite in Vietnam.
  • Broken Record: "Shoot... me... Shoot... me..."
  • Bullying a Dragon: Hartman still goes Drill Sergeant Nasty up to the end on Pyle, despite being already pushed too far that leads to the latter killing Hartman.
  • Call-Back: Several:
    • Joker references actor John Wayne during both segments. First in the boot camp segment, in his very first line in the film, he says out loud and in Wayne's voice after Gunny Hartman's opening speech, "Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?" He repeats the line later during the Vietnam segment while the Marines are being filmed as they go into Hue to take the city back from the NVA.
    • "A world of shit." Gunny Hartman first tells the recruits during marksmanship training that this is what they will be in if they hesitate in combat. It's referred to at the end of both of segments. At the end of the boot camp segment, Joker, after finding the crazed Leonard in the head with his rifle, tells him that if Hartman catches them, they'll "both be in a world of shit," to which Leonard replies, "I AM... in a world... of shit." At the end of the Vietnam segment, Joker says, during his closing narration, "I am in a world of shit."
    • Gunny Hartman says to the recruits when they get their rifles, "You will give your rifle a girl's name! Because this is the only pussy you people are going to get! Your days of finger-banging old Mary Jane Rottencrotch through her purty pink panties are over!" In the closing narration, Joker says: "My thoughts drift back to erect-nipple wet dreams about Mary Jane Rottencrotch and the Great Homecoming Fuck Fantasy."
    • The Real Life Marine Corps Rifleman's Creed. An abridged version is first said by the recruits in unison as they're lying in bed before lights out, and it's later repeated partially and very loudly by Leonard after he snaps and is in the head with his rifle.
    • Mickey Mouse is referred to at the end of both segments. At the end of the boot camp segment, Gunny Hartman yells, "What is this Mickey Mouse shit?!" At the end of the Vietnam segment, the Marines are singing the theme song to The Mickey Mouse Club as they march away from the burning city of Hue. There's also a midpoint Freeze-Frame Bonus: look toward the background of Lt. Lockhart's office at the right time and guess what you'll see? Figurines of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
    • In probably the darkest call-back of the whole movie, Joker gets heckled for claiming he's seen combat when the veterans listen to his badass boasts. Payback calls B.S. on him because he doesn't have the thousand-yard-stare. Much later, in the last moments of the movie, Joker wills himself to finish off a teenage sniper...and as the tension and shock from pulling the trigger wears off, he's transfixed with a thousand-yard-stare of his own.
  • Camp Follower: There are two scenes in the movie focused on prostitution.
  • Cargo Ship: In-universe example. Gunny Hartman orders the recruits to give their rifle a girl's name, "Because this is the only pussy you people are going to get!" Private Pyle, after he goes insane, seems more than a little doting over his rifle (which he names Charlene, if you're wondering).
  • Cassandra Truth: After the Hue sniper kills Eightball and Doc Jay, Cowboy tells the squad they need to cut their losses and move out, because this setup is a trap and it's going to get more of them killed if they fall for it. He's right, but the squad doesn't listen and forces him to follow them forward...and he's the only one subsequently killed.
  • Central Theme: The de-humanizing effects of war.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Pyle manages to smuggle a jelly doughnut into the squad bay. While it's probably not entirely accurate to say that this would be impossible, it would be very, very hard to do. Later in the movie, he presumably uses the same skill to sneak in enough live ammo to fill a rifle magazine.
  • Child Soldier: The Cold Sniper of Hue is a fourteen year old girl. She gets riddled with bullets by Rafterman in a surprise sneak attack and finished off by Joker in a Mercy Kill, leaving him with no sense of triumph or heroism.
  • Chewing the Scenery: "Hiiiiiiii...Joooookerrrrrrrr..." The entire scene in the bathroom is full of this, capped off with Pyle at his hammiest, executing rifle drills and loudly belting out the Rifleman's Creed.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Crazy Earl lives up to his name.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The scene introducing Gunny Hartman. To be blunt, the whole movie is peppered with these, but it's fully justified in that these are Marines.
  • Cold Sniper: The Viet Cong sniper at the end of the movie.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    Joker: How can you shoot women and children?
    Door gunner: Easy. Ya just don't lead 'em so much.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Hartman catches Pyle with a stolen jelly donut, he institutes a new rule: Pyle's screw-ups will draw punishment for everyone in the platoon except him. First he has to stand there and eat the donut while the other recruits do push-ups. Later, he sits with his cover on backwards and his thumb in his mouth as the others do burpees. They eventually respond by pinning him to his bunk and beating him with bars of soap.
  • Coup de Grâce: Joker gives one to the teenage VC sniper after the rest of the squad gives him an ultimatum: either he finishes her off, or they leave her to die.
  • Creator Cameo: Stanley Kubrick is Murph, the voice on the other end of the radio when Joker's squad calls for tank support.
  • Cruel Mercy: After confiscating a jelly donut from Pyle's footlocker, Hartman comes to the conclusion that punishing Pyle for his failures is accomplishing nothing. Therefore, he will no longer punish Pyle when he fucks up...the rest of the platoon will be punished instead, hopefully either directly motivating him to do better, or motivating the platoon to better motivate him to do better. They end up trying to motivate him through some serious Tough Love. It goes disastrously wrong.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The NVA's unsuccessful attempt at overrunning the Marines' Da Nang base.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Hartman makes threats like, "I will unscrew your head and shit down your neck!" "I will gouge out your eyeballs and skullfuck you!" and "I'll PT you until your assholes are sucking buttermilk!"
  • Dead Guy on Display: The Hotel company keeps a dead Vietnamese soldier resting with them. They are otherwise respectful toward him, as he is considered a Worthy Adversary.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Openly admitted to by Lt. Lockhart when he tells one of the Stars & Stripes Marines to substitute the phrase "Search and Destroy" with "Sweep and Clear."
  • Deadly Hazing: Despite the best efforts of Gunny Hartman, it's ultimately the midnight "blanket party" thrown by his fellow trainees that pushes Private Pyle over the edge, leading him to kill Hartman and then himself.
  • Death by Irony:
    • Gunny Hartman. More emphasis on this in the book than in the movie. When he gets shot in the book, before he dies he says, "Private Pyle, I'm so proud." (He's glad that he was finally able to make Pyle a killer, which he had been struggling to do all through boot camp.)
    • Hand Job had just qualified for a Section 8. Too bad the papers didn't get processed sooner.
  • Deconstruction: The first half of the Vietnam segment is filmed in a deliberately flashy Hollywood style, with heroic and badass American soldiers taking out hordes of Vietcong with surprising ease. This is explicitly pointed out by a U.S. soldier who says, "This is Vietnam: The Movie!" to a cameraman, and later Joker's unit is shown lounging on a bunch of seats pulled out of a cinema. When they "exit" through the cinema door into the real war, the film takes a much more realistic and chilling tone, the soldiers are much less invincible, and the single Cold Sniper they're going up against turns out to be a Child Soldier.
  • Deep South: Invoked by Gunny Hartman when he gives Cowboy his nickname, saying, "Only steers and queers come from Texas!" note 
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • In the 1960s it was acceptable for drill sergeants to strike recruits, but no longer.
    • Same goes for the infamous, "This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun."
    • Also applies to the, "Eskimo pussy is mighty cold," cadence that the recruits chant while running. In general, this was a lot more common before women were integrated into the US military in the 1970s. The military was allowed to get away with chanting cadences that had more sexual references or sex-related humor in them.
    • There's also the way black marines were treated, the open usage of racial slurs like the N-word and gook, and the Confederate flag painted on Cowboy's helmet.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Private Pyle.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Cowboy dies in Joker's arms.
  • Dies Wide Open: Cowboy, after getting sniped.
  • The Ditz: Pyle.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: The night of graduation, Pyle kills Hartman and himself.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • The German dub changed Private Pyle's nickname to "Private Paula," replacing the insult of being an incompetent Marine (as Gomer Pyle was on The Andy Griffith Show) with one of being a woman. "Private Snowball" became "Private Scheewittchen," which means "Private Snow White," keeping the Ironic Nickname and adding the additional insult of being like a fairy princess.
    • The French dub changes "Private Snowball" into "Engagé Blanche-Neige" ("Private Snow White" again). "Gomer Pyle"/"Private Pyle" becomes "Grosse Baleine" ("Fat Whale") and "Engagé Baleine" ("Private Whale"). Animal Mother becomes "Brute Epaisse" ("Dumb Brute").
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Subverted. One of the Marines finds an oversized stuffed rabbit lying in the rubble of Hue and picks it up out of curiosity. It's attached to an antipersonnel mine. Boom.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: During the "blanket party," what really hurts Pyle the most is Joker, whom Pyle looks up to for helping him get his act together, taking extra swings after the other recruits go back to their bunks.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: The Time Skip after boot camp is illustrated by Joker sporting a full head of relatively wild hair.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Namely, Hartman staring down the barrel of a loaded M-14 being held by a visibly deranged recruit that has just that day gotten word that he's made it through to proper infantry. He may have thought "Private Pyle" wasn't going to shoot at all, or that yelling him down would work as it always has, but either you are officially insane (a Section 8), have a death wish, or have to have a serious set in order to look your potential murderer in the eye and scream in a rage "WHAT IS YOUR MAJOR MALFUNCTION, NUMBNUTS?! DIDN'T MOMMY AND DADDY SHOW YOU ENOUGH ATTENTION WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD?!?!"
  • False Dichotomy: Only two things come from Texas...
  • The Film of the Book: Based on the novel, "The Short Timers," by Gustav Hasford.
  • Flowery Insults: Hartman's whole shtick.
  • Foreshadowing: Hartman gloats about the Marine-taught shooting prowess of university-shooter Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald before Leonard "Pyle" Lawrence becomes a sociopathic murderer himself, under (and perhaps because of) Hartman's own tutelage.
  • Freudian Excuse: Invoked by Gunny Hartman to Leonard/Pyle. Doubles as last words, as Leonard kills him immediately after.
    Hartman: What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?! Didn't mommy and daddy show you enough attention when you were a child?!
  • Gendered Insult: The German version nicknames Leonard Lawrence as "Private Paula" on account of his ineptitude and weakness.
  • The Generic Guy: Doc Jay, Donlon and Rock.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Hartman's goal is to turn the new recruits into remorseless killing machines. In Pyle's case, he succeeds all too well.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted for the most part as it's a Kubrick film, but played straight with the sniper's death.
  • Graduation for Everyone: Pyle included, though he does not live a full day longer.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Joker and Cowboy are the only things connecting the boot camp plotline to the Vietnam plotline.
  • Hand Gun: Joker pulls out his sidearm, a M1911, when confronting the sniper after finding out his M16 has jammed. Shortly after, he uses it to finish her off.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: Hartman forces his recruits to sing the song to the ghost of Jesus Christ for Christmas.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Gunnery Sergeant Hartman was specifically played by ex-drill sergeant R. Lee Ermey as a bully who sucks at his job. Hartman spends his time berating his recruits more than instructing them, eventually latching onto one who's clearly out of his element. Nicknaming him after a dimwit from a popular TV show, Hartman proceeds to encourage the rest of his trainees to mistreat the poor guy in an attempt to make him fall in line and get in shape. All it does is break the guy's already fragile mind.
    • The door gunner is a sociopathic sadist who enjoys warfare far more than he should. While transporting Joker to his destination, he picks off every Vietnamese person he sees, soldier or civilian, with a smile on his face. claiming they're all the enemy whether it's true or not. His last line is him jokingly asking, "Ain't war hell?" despite clearly loving it.
  • Height Insult: During Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann's memetic Drill Sergeant Nasty moment, one recruit is asked for his height:
    Recruit: Sir! Five-foot-nine, sir!
    Hartmann: Five-foot-nine, I didn't know they stacked shit that high!
  • Hollywood Fire: Inside the building where the sniper hides out, the fire spots are evenly spread out and burn steadily with no smoke emerging.
  • Hope Spot: Leonard actually starts improving as a marine when Hartman puts him under the tutelage of Joker. Then Hartman finds that jelly donut in Leonard's footlocker and it all goes seriously downhill from there...
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The second Vietnamese prostitute is a petite young woman (Cowboy greets her with "Good morning, little schoolgirl!") Next to Animal Mother (played by the 6'4"-tall Adam Baldwin), she looks like a child.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Hartman says there's no place for racial discrimination in the Marines before launching into a stream of racial slurs.
  • I Call It "Vera": Enforced by GySgt Hartman, taken very seriously by Pvt. Pyle; his weapon's name is Charlene.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: The sniper, who gets mortally wounded—perhaps paralyzed—when Rafterman ambushes her with rifle fire.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Joked about by Joker when he meets Animal Mother.
    Animal Mother: You seen any combat?
    Joker: Seen a little on TV.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: After a routine inspection turns up a stolen jelly doughnut in Pvt. Pyle's footlocker, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman comes to the conclusion that continuing to reprimand Pyle is accomplishing nothing. Thus, he announces to the platoon that from that point on, whenever Pyle screws up, everyone else will have to do P.T. while he just looks at them, in the hopes that this will either motivate Pyle into becoming a proper Marine or motivate the platoon into better motivating him to get with the program. It works, but probably not in the way Hartman intended.
  • Important Haircut: The opening montage is of new recruits with many varied hairstyles, colours, lengths, etc. undergoing the ritual head shave of the Marines, emerging with identical buzzcuts.
  • Improvised Weapon: When Leonard shows that he's not quite making the cut in boot camp even under Joker's tutelage, the recruits each wrap their soap bars in towels, making what are essentially low-end blackjacks. Cowboy gags Leonard with a pair of socks, a few others hold him down with the help of a blanket, and the rest quickly take turns hitting Leonard, except for Joker, who at first hesitates and then subsequently unleashes a series of furious hits on Leonard. Joker's been the one trying desperately to get Leonard to get up to snuff and failed to motivate him to do so despite his best efforts, and now the entire platoon is paying for it.
  • Insistent Terminology: "This is my rifle, this is my gun..." Truth in Television.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: After a Vietnamese boy steals a camera and tosses it to his friend on a bike, he turns around and starts doing a series of palm strikes in the air and making fierce screams, then does a spin kick. Joker then proceeds to mock him from a distance with a single, half-assed jumpkick.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: Joker wears a peace sign on his shirt while his helmet says, "Born to Kill." ("I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.") This is most noticeable during the final scene when Joker executes the female sniper. Both the "Born to Kill" phrase and the peace sign are visible as Joker struggles to pull the trigger. The exact moment the peace sign is obscured, he kills her.
  • Ironic Nickname: Hartman gives the nickname "Snowball" to Private Brown, who is black.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The film ends with the marines marching through burning ruins back to camp while singing the "Mickey Mouse March."
  • Irony:
    • Hartman insists that the recruits give their rifles female names as they're "the only pussy they're gonna get." Pyle shoving Charlene's barrel into his mouth is done to emphasize the phallic nature of the weapon.
    • Joker's rifle fails when he needs it most, failing to become the instrument of death he was instructed to be.
  • Just Plane Wrong: A minor offender. The helicopter which transports Joker and Rafter Man to Hue is British-built Westland Wessex, a licenced variant of Sikorsky HUS-1/UH-34 used by the USMC in the war but powered by turboshaft engines, giving it minor yet visible differences.
  • Kick the Dog: The Door Gunner could not be happier while killing unarmed civilians, and he also goes out of his way to kill their water buffaloes.
    • The entire platoon gets one when they torture poor Pyle with the blanket party, but this is just payback for his constant screwups causing them endless suffering.
  • Kill Him Already!: The discussion over the VC sniper.
  • Kubrick Stare: Pvt. Pyle starts exhibiting these as signs of his descent into insanity, pulling off a chilling one when receiving his Military Occupational Specialty assignment, and greeting Joker with an extremely disturbing one when Joker finds him in the bathroom.
  • Lead the Target: The door gunner's procedure regarding slower and smaller targets...if you want to shoot women and children, you just don't lead them so much.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    Cowboy: Hey, start the cameras. This is Vietnam: The Movie!
    Eightball: Yeah, Joker can be John Wayne. I'll be a horse!
    Donlon: T.H.E. Rock can be a rock!
    T.H.E. Rock: I'll be Ann-Margret!
    Doc Jay: Animal Mother can be a rabid buffalo!
    Crazy Earl: I'll be General Custer!
    Rafterman: Well, who'll be the Indians?
    Animal Mother: Hey, we'll let the gooks play the Indians!
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Doc Jay can't be bothered to wait for tank support and runs in to save Eight-ball from the sniper, a decision that costs his and Cowboy's lives. Animal Mother does the same thing, but fares better due to having a bigger gun and sticking to walls rather than running into the wide open.
  • Malaproper: Courtesy of Snowball: Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy "from that book suppository building, sir!"
  • Mama Bear: Rafterman's mom, as mentioned by Joker, when Rafterman is lamenting being stuck in the rear.
    Rafterman: A high school girl could do my job. I want to get out into the shit. I want to get some trigger time.
    Joker: If you get killed, your mom will find me after I rotate back to the world and she'll beat the shit out of me. That's a negative, Rafterman.
  • Man Hug: Joker and Cowboy share a rather heartfelt one when they're reunited.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: One character is nicknamed "Hand Job" for his habit of masturbating at least ten times a day. It's also an example of the "mental health/sexual frustration" variety of masturbation in that the other recruits referred to him as a "crazy fucker" and that it ultimately got him scheduled for a Section 8 discharge* when he was caught doing it in the waiting room after being sent to see a Navy psychologist, and he ultimately would have gotten shipped out if not for him getting killed by a VC booby trap.
    Cowboy: Tough break for Hand Job. He was all set to get shipped out on medical.
    Joker: What was the matter with him?
    Cowboy: He was jerkin' off ten times a day.
    Eightball: No shit. At least ten times a day.
    Cowboy: Last week he was sent down to Da Nang to see the Navy head shrinker, and the crazy fucker starts jerking off in the waiting room. Instant Section Eight. He was just waiting for his papers to clear division.
  • Meaningful Name/Punny Name: Courtesy of The Nicknamer Sgt. Hartman, some soldiers are Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Private Joker, "a fucking comedian."
    • Private Cowboy, from Texas, where "steers and queers" roam the plains.
    • Private Eightball, as '8' ball in billiards is all-black.
  • Mercy Kill: The VC sniper asks for this. Joker eventually performs it, and the rest of the squad compliments him on his cold-blooded killing when it's really an act of mercy.
  • Misplaced Accent: U.S. Marine "Rafterman" (played by Canadian actor Kevyn Major Howard), has a very noticeable Albertan accent.
    • It was not unheard of for Canadians to join the US Military and volunteer to go to Vietnam, however.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In-Universe, done intentionally by Joker. In a meeting with his fellow Stars & Stripes Marines, after being informed by Lt. Lockhart about the Tet offensive by the NVA and how bad the situation is, Joker asks, after a few moments of silence, "Sir, does this mean that Ann-Margret's not coming?"
    • There are numerous mood whiplashes in the film: 1) The opening 3–4 minutes with the heads being shaved followed by Hartman's rant are somewhat amusing. We could all relate to Pyle's stupid little grin, until he's choked and asked, "Are you through grinning yet?" He is, and so is the audience. 2) Rounds and rounds of fire being exchanged, cease-fire, tense moments of silence...then "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen starts. 3) Standing over the body of their dead commander, the troops say their final words to him one by one: "You're going home now." "Semper Fi." "We're mean Marines, sir." "Better you than me."
    • After the horrific Murder-Suicide, the next shot is of the hooker walking to the tune of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'."
    • When Joker and Rafterman arrive at the burial site, they press a nearby lieutenant for details. He's clearly annoyed and guarded until they reveal that they're reporters for Stars & Stripes. He warms to them at once and immediately starts smiling for every one of a good ten photos in between recounting the horrific atrocities committed against the locals.
  • More Dakka:
    • Animal Mother and his M60.
    • The Door Gunner taking potshots at civilians.
  • Morton's Fork:
    • Lampshaded and defied when Hartman asks Joker whether he believes in the Virgin Mary. Joker says no. Hartman slaps Joker, and then asks him whether he believes in the Virgin Mary now. Joker still says no, explaining that he believes any answer he gives will be wrong and that Hartman will only punish Joker harder for reversing himself. Hartman responds by promoting Joker to squad leader, stating that, "Private Joker is silly and ignorant, but he's got guts, and guts is enough."
    • This "reasoning" from the Door Gunner, which he uses to justify gunning down Vietnamese civilians:
      Anyone who runs is a VC. Anyone who stands still is a well-disciplined VC!
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Just about anything Hartman does, but special mention goes to the footlocker scene, where he reacts to the presence of a jelly doughnut ("What is that? ...What the fuck is that?! ...WHAT IS THAT, PRIVATE PYLE?!") like he's watching some horrifically Squick-y shock video.
  • Murder-Suicide: After Private Pyle kills Sgt. Hartman, he seems to realize that he'll be severely punished and perhaps even executed for his crime, so he shoots himself in the mouth. Or, he's just in a world of shit and doesn't want to live anymore regardless.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Pyle is Driven to Suicide after he shoots Hartman, realizing what punishments could lie ahead.
    • Joker definitively feels pangs of guilt after taking extra swings at Pyle during the "blanket party."
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits:
    • After meeting Joker, Hartman sarcastically tells him, "You can come over to my house and fuck my sister," followed by a punch to Joker's gut.
    • Subverted. While cleaning the head (aka restroom) Joker says to Cowboy, "I wanna slip my tube steak into your sister. What'll you take in trade?" to which Cowboy simply replies, "What've you got?" Cowboy later brings it up again in Vietnam when he asks if Joker has been getting any, to which Joker replies, "Only your sister!"
  • Naïve Newcomer: Rafterman receives a healthy dose of exposition.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Not quite a trailer, but the film was promoted with an official Voice Clip Song of the same title which was a big hit in the UK. Not only did it imply the film was more of a knockabout comedy, it was also entirely unrepresentative of the movie's actual soundtrack.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Hartman's overly harsh manner, combined with the marines' abuse of Pyle, eventually pushes him to become a model soldier... only for him to spiral into insanity as they've pushed him past his breaking point, leading to his murder of Hartman and his own death as he commits suicide.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: The Marines casually use the disparaging word "gook" more often than "Vietnamese." The neutral moniker "Charlie" is also used sporadically. Comes in comedic use when Animal Mother is being interviewed on camera and with a long pause clearly has a hard time trying to stop himself from using the slur in favor of "Vietnamese."
  • No Name Given: The Da Nang Hooker is credited as such; her name is unknown.
  • Noodle Incident: At one point, Pyle is seen walking behind the grunts marching in parade formation, sucking his thumb with his pants around his ankles and holding his rifle by the barrel. Why is never explained, though it's presumably a punishment Hartman metes out on him.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Cowboy actually wants to leave Eight-ball and Doc Jay behind, realizing that they can't save them anyway, and the sniper is trying to lure the rest of the Marines out. However, Animal Mother refuses to follow his orders and leads the platoon out into danger, getting the cautious Cowboy killed in the process.
  • No Scope: The sniper's weapon of choice is a vz.58 rifle with no scope whatsoever, as the squad find out after they've flushed her out.
  • Nothing Personal: Discussed by Joker and Rafterman about the South Vietnamese.
    Rafterman: You know what really pisses me off about these people?
    Joker: What?
    Rafterman: We're supposed to be helping them, and they shit all over us every chance they get. I just can't feature that.
    Joker: Don't take it too hard, Rafterman, it's just business.
  • N-Word Privileges: Animal Mother and Eightball are Vitriolic Best Buds, with Mother casually tossing around some obscenely-racist insults. Animal Mother becomes almost deranged when Eightball is shot and flatly refuses to leave him behind, practically destroying a city block with his M60 in his rescue attempt.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Hartman, upon being informed that Private Pyle has a full magazine locked and loaded.
    • Joker as well when he realizes the same.
      Joker: Are those live rounds?
    • Animal Mother, when his attempt to rescue Eightball and Doc Jay leads to their deaths and a near-miss of his own with the sniper.
    • Joker, when he tries to shoot the VC sniper in the back only to hear a click, indicating his rifle is jammed and he's just let the sniper know he's there.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Most of the Marines. Joker, Cowboy, Rafterman, Animal Mother, Snowball and Eightball. Leonard Lawrence is called by his nickname Gomer Pyle so frequently that it seems like his actual name.
  • Only Sane Man: In the Lusthog Squad, Cowboy. Just about everyone else appears to be just plain insane.
  • Parental Incest: Joked about by Cowboy after he meets up with Joker in Vietnam.
    Cowboy: Been getting any?
    Joker': Only your sister!
    Cowboy:' Well, better my sister than my mom, though my mom's not bad!
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Hartman gives Pyle a genuine compliment as he observes him at the rifle range.
      Hartman: Outstanding, Private Pyle. I think we've finally found something that you do well!
    • There is a cruel subversion earlier on. At one point Hartman sings "Happy Birthday" to the parade, implying that it is a special day for one of the recruits, only he ends it with, "Happy Birthday dear Jesus," and it's Christmas... with no letters or presents, just a mandatory chapel service.
    • When Pyle handles competently a rifle inspection drill, a pleased Hartman changes his tone and sounds like a proud mentor as he asks Pyle what his rifle’s name is and then states that he is born again hard and that he may allow him to serve as a Rifleman in his beloved corp.
  • Physical Fitness Punishment: After direct, individual punishment and humiliation doesn't work, Hartman begins punishing the entire squad for Pyle's failures with physical exercise.
  • Pinned Down: By a sniper. The end result isn't pretty.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: All of the soldiers are openly racist, which was par for the course at the time the film takes place.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted, at least partially, when Private Pyle shoots himself in the bathroom. While we don't see an exit wound (which could have been on the other side of his head from the camera), there is a lot of blood and some dark solid chunks on the wall behind and above him.
  • Propaganda Machine: The Stars & Stripes, which hires Joker.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Pyle does it twice.
  • Rated M for Manly: While the movie is a deconstruction of the tribal and absurd nature of war and the military with some over-the-top elements that verge on Testosterone Poisoning, there are still plenty of gutsy themes associated with traditional masculinity as well such as hijinx, mixed with strength, bravery, and vitriolic comradeship.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: An implicit motto of the Corps, which serves to underscore the dehumanization motifs. The recruits stop being pukes and maggots when they become Marines; the Marines want killers, not robots; and a full-fledged Marine only hatches after gaining the Thousand-Yard Stare, often associated with his first kill.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Part of a Drill Sergeant Nasty's job. Most of Gunny Hartman's dialogue is this, but especially his opening speech upon meeting the new recruits.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When confronted by Hartman, Joker sticks to his skepticism regarding the Virgin Mary because he (correctly) identifies the situation as a Morton's Fork where he would be punished more if he changes his stance. Hartman is impressed and immediately promotes him to squad leader.
    Hartman: Private Joker is silly and he's ignorant, but he has guts, and guts is enough.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Joker's rifle jams on him at the worst possible moment in the climax. Truth in Television, as M16 ammo at the time was terribly unreliable in Vietnam due to the high humidity causing it to expand to a width that wouldn't shoot through the weapon properly.
  • Reveille: Featured in the boot camp act.
    Hartman: Reveille! Reveille! Reveille! Drop your cocks and grab your socks!
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Animal Mother's hail of gunfire, punctuated by bellicose swearing as he chases after the sniper.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The soldiers are supposed to be the finest warriors the Free World can produce, and they are pinned down by a teenage girl with an assault rifle.
  • Sadistic Choice: As a result of the Pinned Down situation described above. Do you watch your friend scream in agony as a sniper continues to riddle his body with bullets, or run out to help him, likely getting yourself killed as well in the process?
  • Sanity Slippage: Pvt. Pyle goes off the deep end due to Hartman's abuse, in combination with being the victim of a blanket party which gradually turns him into a deranged and alienated sociopath afterwards.
  • Scenery Gorn: The bombed-out city of Hue.
  • Schmuck Bait: Crazy Earl picks up a stuffed rabbit in the middle of a wrecked building and dies when a bomb wired to it goes off.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying:
    • Whoring and comparing body counts are the most popular hobbies for U.S. soldiers in 'Nam.
    • Inverted by the Viet Cong, as they launch the Tet offensive during the Vietnamese New Year to surprise the Americans, who assume the party would halt the warring. Joker brings up rumors about a breaking of the cease-fire agreement, but his Lieutenant disregards it due to the same rumor going around every year.
  • Secret Snack Stash: The overweight Private Pyle steals and stashes a jelly donut to eat later. Unfortunately, it's discovered by the sarge. He forces Pyle to eat the donut while handing out collective punishment to the rest of the recruits. After enough collective punishment for repeated failings on Pyle's part, they get sick of it and beat him to get even.
  • Secret Test of Character: Hartman asking if Joker believes in the Virgin Mary. See Refuge in Audacity and Morton's Fork for details.
  • Semper Fi: Gunny Hartman believes that the Marines are an elite unit of killers. However, the Marines we see in Vietnam are largely disorganized and demotivated, and they aren't very effective against a lone VC sniper who turns out to be a teenage girl.
  • Severed Head Sports: A deleted scene showed soldiers playing soccer with a severed head.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Implied that Lockhart had seen more than his share of combat.
  • Shoot Everything That Moves: The door gunner certainly qualifies. "Anyone who runs is a VC! Anyone who stands still is a well-disciplined VC!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Lawrence of what?! Of Arabia?! ... Only sailors and faggots are called Lawrence!
    • Gomer Pyle is a young character in The Andy Griffith Show, who left to join the Marines in his own spinoff sitcom.
    • Joker's fondness of John Wayne. His "pilgrim" imitation comes from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
    • The lateral travelling shots where a crew is filming the soldiers is an homage to a similar scene in Apocalypse Now.
    • There are several loving homages to the 1957 film The DI, staring Jack Webb.
    • Joker name drops Carl Jung, whose psychological theory emphasizes that a healthy man embraces his feminine side. Contrary to that, the film is awash in symbolic (and at the end, very literal) instances of degradation and destruction of the feminine, because according to the Marine Corps, A Real Man Is a Killer.
    • A remarkable aversion is visible during Cowboy's final scene, where a building that resembles the monolith of 2001 is visible. Kubrick described it as an "extraordinary accident."
  • Shown Their Work: Except for some minor inaccuracies here and there, the film shows Kubrick's usual meticulousness applied to a military setting, right down to the chants and barracks. It's a testament to the work that even decades after its 1987 release, modern recruits get some savviness about what to expect in training thanks to the film, which is a period piece of the 60s.
  • Signature Headgear: Hartman is never once seen without his hat. Even in the bathroom confrontation. (Truth in Television: Try and find a USMC Drill Instructor without his campaign cover. While Marines don't wear covers indoors except under arms, DI's are a notable exception.)
  • Slasher Smile: Pvt. Pyle sports a really creepy one when Joker finds him in the head with his rifle.
    "Hiiiii... Jooookerrrr..."
  • Slow-Motion Fall: This happens several times, most notably caused by the Viet Cong sniper as well as by Leonard shooting Hartman through the heart.
  • Sociopathic Marine: Omnipresent, and usually of type 1 and/or 3.
    • Where do we start...? The door gunner is probably the most spectacular example.
    • Animal Mother isn't far behind him.
    • The entire point of the film. See how Leonard has to become crazy to be a good soldier. This is in keeping with the concept of dehumanization.
    • Hartman gloats about the Marine-taught shooting prowess of university-shooter Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald. Doubly obnoxious because Whitman's massacre would have been barely a year old by the time the movie was set.
      • Hartman himself gets a few minor examples in that some of the disciplinary tactics he reserves for Pyle cross into both physical and psychological abuse territory.
    • Crazy Earl, who "befriends" a dead NVA soldier and keeps his corpse on a chair at the Lusthog Squad camp.
    • Handjob, who masturbated all the time and everywhere.
    • In the end, both Rafterman and Joker have "earned" Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • Sock It to Them: The infamous "blanket party" scene, where everyone wraps a bar of soap in a towel and participates in a run-by pummeling of Leonard as he's tied down with a blanket.
  • Sound Off: You'll hear some Jody calls during the first act, and you'll also hear the Mickey Mouse Club theme song used as a marching song in the second act.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • The film opens with the song "Hello Vietnam" by Johnnie Wright, which idealistically describes the war in Vietnam as a noble endeavor to preserve freedom.
    • "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen plays as the camera pans over a bleak, wasteland-like firing line.
    • Also:
    Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me?
    M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.
    • In the actual Vietnam War, an obscene variant of the song was popular among troops, with the famous refrain being replaced with "F-U-C-K-E-D A-G-A-I-N!"
    • "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups plays before the Marine base gets attacked by the NVA in the Tet offensive.
    • Nancy Sinatra's feminist anthem "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" with a Da Nang prostitute.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Rafterman is run over by a tank in the book.
    • Cowboy is spared in the sense that his death is much quicker (by a single shot) in the film. In the book, he runs into the ambush and mercy-kills the wounded men, but before he can kill himself, the sniper shoots his pistol out of his hand and wounds him repeatedly. Joker then mercy-kills him in turn.
  • Steel Eardrums: None of the protagonists wear ear protection at any point in the film, yet nobody ever has problems communicating after massed firearms discharges in close proximity. Especially notable when Leonard snaps and fires two large-caliber rifle rounds in the closed, echoing confines of a bathroom, which should've deafened Joker but doesn't affect his hearing at all.
  • Strawman News Media: Minor examples of both Type 2 and Type 3 with Lt. Lockhart. He explains to Joker that the Stars & Stripes newspaper needs to run positive stories about the war because of the negative stories being run by the media back in the States.
    • Type 2
    Lockhart: Joker, I've told you, we run two basic stories here: grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants...winning of hearts and minds...okay? And combat action that results in a kill...winning the war.
    • Type 3
    Lockhart: Joker, maybe you'd like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn't know it, this is not a particularly popular war, and it's our job to report the news that the "why-are-we-here" civilian newsmen ignore.
  • Streetwalker: The Da Nang prostitute.
  • Take That!: Hartman unleashing his inner art critic on Lawrence:
    Hartman: You're so ugly, you could be a modern art masterpiece!
  • Tank Goodness: Played straight during the scenes where the Marines are approaching and entering Hue. Subverted during the Pinned Down scene where Cowboy attempts to call in tank support only to be told they have to wait.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: Also a minor offender: during combat in Hue City, the tanks employed are actually light tanks M41 Walker Bulldognote , not M48 Patton medium tanks used by the USMC tank battalions in the Real Life battle. On the other hand, M41 is visually quite similar to M48, and both the camera angles used and the editing make it very difficult to actually notice the difference when casually watching the film.
  • Taught by Experience: Cowboy knows better than to try recovering the wounded Marines shot by the sniper because he's learned from experience that the sniper is just trying to lure them into the line of fire one by one. Animal Mother, on the other hand, just doesn't care. After all, his best friends are getting shot up.
  • Tempting Fate: Happens subtly. "I am fucking bored to death, man!" Not for long, you aren't.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Most of the outwardly manly Marines' personalities range from emotionless psychopaths that only know killing, civilians be damned, to, at best, extremely racist and apathetic manchildren.
  • That's an Order!: Said by Cowboy to Animal Mother when Cowboy tells him to wait for the tank and not to try recovering the wounded Marines shot by the sniper, to which Animal Mother responds with a big "fuck you."
  • Threaten All to Find One: At the start, Private "Joker" says something comical poking fun at the drill instructor while Seargeant Hartman is doing the Drill Sergeant Nasty routine on the other side of the barracks. A furious Hartman storms over and demands to know who said the line, threatening to punish all of the recruits for it, although it's not until he starts picking on another recruit, "Cowboy", that Joker speaks up and confesses.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Payback says that you can see that Joker is a new guy because he hasn't got one of these. "A Marine gets it after he's been in the shit for too long. It's's like you've really seen beyond. I got it. All field Marines got it." Joker ends up getting his after he kills the Viet Cong sniper.
  • Title Drop: One of the most chilling ones in movie history, courtesy of Pyle as he talks lovingly (and creepily) about the ammunition for his rifle. So very Kubrickian.
    "Seven-six-two millimeter. Full. Metal. Jacket."
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Hartman continuing to taunt the broken and apparently psychotic recruit who is pointing a loaded weapon at you. Played for Drama to some extent, since Hartman first tries a gentler approach and only resorts to screaming insults when it doesn't seem to work.
    • Noble as it may be, when you've just seen someone shot by a sniper, it's probably wise not to walk into the same line of fire to recover him.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Played with by Gunny Hartman when he tells a black recruit named Private Snowball that Snowball won't like that, "They don't serve fried chicken and watermelon on a daily basis in my mess hall," referring to the foods that black people are stereotyped as liking.
  • Training from Hell: The first act of the movie focuses on the recruits going through US Marine Corps boot camp, which is generally considered the toughest initial training of the American military branches. The only one the audience really sees it as being "from hell" for, though, is Pyle.
  • Trainee from Hell: Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence becomes this to Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The Sergeant did not consider the dangers of teaching a mentally instable person how to shoot a gun. Lawrence kills first Hartman and them himself.
  • Traitor Shot: There are two scenes in which Sergeant Hartman talks about Marines being killers, and we get a close-up of Private Pyle's face. Pyle eventually shoots Hartman.
  • Try Not to Die: Otherwise, "You'll be in a world of shit, because Marines are not allowed to die without permission!"
  • Two-Act Structure: The Parallel variation. The first part is boot camp, the second part is Vietnam.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: The film ends on this note; Animal Mother takes over as the new squad leader.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is the Trope Codifier for Drill Sergeant Nasty in American film, but rather than being portrayed as a necessary evil whose methods come through in toughening up the recruits, his methods lead to one of the recruits snapping and killing him in return, then committing suicide, while the rest are decidedly unhinged afterwards.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • "Tubesteak."
    • Lt. Lockhart refers to a combat kill as a "weenie."
    • Also somewhat inverted by Hartman's threat to, "Gouge out your eyeballs and skullfuck you!"
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: All of the soldiers who ambush Pyle with a blanket party. Alongside Hartman's intense abuse of him, it plays a direct part in leading to Pyle's gradual mental breakdown, which leads to his murder of Sergeant Hartmann, his near-murder of Joker, and then finally him taking his own life.
  • Urban Warfare: Rather unusually for a film set in The Vietnam War, most of the combat scenes take place in an urban environment.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: During the scene with a mass grave of Vietnamese casualties, Joker says the bodies are being covered in lime, a comment that might confuse viewers unfamiliar with chemistry. It's also known as "quicklime" or calcium oxide, a powder that readily absorbs water from moist air or skin, quickly destroying body tissues and helping to reduce the rotting smell of decomposition.
  • Vomiting Cop: Military flavor. Coupled with motion sickness from riding in a helicopter, the door gunner ruthlessly killing defenseless civilians and boasting about it causes the rookie Rafterman to have to hold back his heaves of nausea.
  • War Is Glorious: During his speech upon meeting the new recruits, Hartman tells them that if they get through boot camp, they, "Will be a minister of death praying for war." The events that follow say otherwise.
  • War Is Hell: "Ain't war hell?" Asked by the door gunner in regards to shooting civilians, but done so in a manner that clearly doesn't match the question, laying bare just what kind of guy he is. The mass grave at Hue City demonstrates that the communists are at least as bad, if not worse. And the Marines realize quickly just how out of their depth they really are. And they don't even get a glorious, brave hero's death, being picked off by a skinny sixteen year old girl.
  • Well-Trained, but Inexperienced: The two halves of the film illustrate this trope nicely. The first half shows how well-trained the Marines are for conventional warfare, while the second half shows that they can still suffer heavy casualties in battle with an irregular enemy that uses tactics like ambushes and booby traps.
  • Where da White Women At?: While in the barracks, a white Marine called Stork jokes with a black Marine called Payback, "How do you stop five black men from raping a white woman?" Answer: "Throw them a basketball."
  • Worthy Adversary:
    Crazy Earl: These enemy grunts are as hard as slant-eyed drill instructors... These people we wasted here today... are the finest human beings we will ever know. After we rotate back to the world, we're gonna miss not having anyone around that's worth shooting.
  • Wrong Turn at Albuquerque: Cowboy leads the squad in a wrong direction after a control, directly into the realm of a sniper.
  • You Are in Command Now:
    • Cowboy after his squad leader is killed in action. He's shown to be badly suited for command, as he leads the squad to an incorrect location, has to rely on Eightball to amend his mistake, and is ultimately killed for not taking proper cover.
    • Animal Mother as Cowboy gets killed in action.
    • It is implied Joker will eventually become the squad leader.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Joker calls Pyle by his real name, Leonard, when he's trying to help him and steer him away from his Despair Event Horizon. It doesn't work in terms of preventing Leonard's suicide, but did keep him from shooting Joker.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Said by Hartman to Joker, as he's reading off the new Marines' MOS's (jobs), and sees that Joker's is basic military journalism.
  • You No Take Candle: The Vietnamese prostitute.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: After the final fight, Rafterman is jumping with joy and Donlon gives Joker a sarcastic congratulation. Joker just stares back.
  • Zerg Rush: The Tet Offensive at the Marine Base. The VC break down the gate with a truck, followed by several waves of unsupported infantry charging right into an open field of fire. It's bold, but incredibly futile: the fortified marines slaughter them.

"My thoughts drift back to erect-nipple wet dreams about Mary Jane Rottencrotch and the Great Homecoming Fuck Fantasy. I am so happy that I am alive, in one piece, and short. I'm in a world of shit... yes. But I am alive. And I am not afraid."


Video Example(s):


Me love you long time.

Full Metal Jacket is arguably the Trope Codifier with its infamous line "Me love you long time". The second half of the movie takes place in Vietnam, yet the sex worker saying this and a few more lines still constitute the majority of Vietnamese characters' dialogue. Note that the soundtrack just happen to be about a woman breaking up and getting revenge.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / AsianHookerStereotype

Media sources: