The film is Very Loosely Based on a True Story of Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (Williams), assigned to host radio programs for the Army during The Vietnam War. Cronauer is brash, off-color and sexually offensive — and the troops can't get enough of him! He meddles in the affairs of the Army, annoys his superiors to no end, and makes friends with a young Vietnamese boy and his sister while teaching their English class.
Robin Williams got nominated for an Academy Award (and won a Golden Globe) for Best Actor for this film.
"GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING, TV TROOOPES!":
- Acronym and Abbreviation OverloadAdrian Cronauer: Excuse me, sir. Seeing as how the V.P. is such a V.I.P., shouldn't we keep the P.C. on the Q.T.? 'Cause if it leaks to the V.C. he could end up M.I.A., and then we'd all be put out in K.P. Translation
- Bar Brawl: Instigated when Cronauer takes very justifiable offense at two soldiers using racist slurs about Tuan, then pushing him to the floor. Adrian gets in a headbutt on one of the rednecks and knocks him down! Then another turns out like a Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh... complete with Oh, Crap!, but fortunately, Cronauer's fellow radio personnel back him up. The commotion earns him a dressing down at the hands of Dickerson.
- Bittersweet Ending: Cronauer is kicked out of the Air Force for his unwitting friendship with a Viet Cong guerrilla. Despite his obvious shock and sadness, he does have a few more hours with his beloved English class playing softball with citrus and bamboo, he gets to say goodbye to Trinh and leaves a comedic farewell message for Garlick to broadcast the next morning. Also, Dickerson gets transferred to Guam because his superiors are fed up with his pettiness.
- Blithe Spirit: Adrian Cronauer, to the constant frustration of his superiors.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Remedied, when Cronauer teaches English to a class of Vietnamese. One sample quiz:Adrian Cronauer: Okay, if someone is not telling the truth, you say that they are full of...
Vietnamese Class: Shit!
Adrian Cronauer: If someone has made you angry or angrier, they have...
Vietnamese Class: Pissed me off!
- Bowdlerize: In a television broadcast, much of Robin's blue humor was bowdlerized. Ironic, considering the plot.
- Butt-Monkey: Lieutenant Hauk seems to exist for no other reason than to be disrespected by his subordinates, laughed at, mocked, ridiculed, and to make a joke out of his bad humor.
- Captain Obvious: Noel, the army chaplain."This great Godly miracle of radio really gives me the opportunity to speak to you on the air!"
- Camp Gay: Jimmy Wah
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Hauk's one broadcast is a complete trainwreck and prompts floods of hate mail.
- Catchphrase: "GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!" Best wake-up call ever.
- Comically Missing the Point: After Hauk's disastrous broadcast prompts Taylor to remove him and bring Cronauer back, Hauk suggests he could remedy his abysmal reception by playing less polka music, completely oblivious to the actual problem.
- Could Say It, But...:
Cronauer: (of the blood on his shirt) Where do you think THIS came from, shaving?! It's the truth, I'd like to report the truth; it'd be a nice change of pace!
- Cronauer broadcasts an unapproved news report in this fashion and is yanked off the air because of it.
- Cronauer was firsthand witness to the destruction of Jimmy Wah's and the death of at least one serviceman, so we can understand his need to report on it.
- Despair Event Horizon: Adrian hits it in the village, after Trinh bluntly rebuffs his advances of friendship."... Great week..."
- Don't Call Me "Sir":
Dickerson: You stay out of my way, there'll be no problem... but if you toy with me, I'll burn you so bad, you'll wish you'd died as a child. Am I being fairly clear?Cronauer: Yes, sir.Dickerson: Sir! I work for a living, airman. You will address me as Sergeant Major Dickerson.Cronauer: Yes, Sergeant Major Dickerson.Later:Dickerson: Cronauer, you better stay cool. You better not get involved in anything. You better not even come in range of anything that happens. Or your ass is grass and I'm a lawnmower. Am I being fairly clear?Cronauer: Yes, sir.Dickerson: Do you see anything on this uniform indicating an officer? [Pointing to his rank insignia] What does three up and three down mean to you, airman?Cronauer: End of an inning?
- Sgt. Maj. Dickerson is particularly insistent on this point, taking excessive pride in his non-commissioned status. Ironic, considering the times he tries to pull rank on Cronauer.
- General Taylor also seems relatively nonchalant about military protocol.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Hauk spends the entire movie trying unsuccessfully to be respected by his own subordinates and later failing to get almost anybody to like his broadcasts.
- Evil All Along: It's revealed that Tuan, aka Phan Duc Tho, is a VC terrorist. Bomber of, among other places, Jimmy Wah's.
- Evil Is Petty: Dickerson spends the entire film actively sabotaging Cronauer and at one point tries to get him killed simply because he doesn't like the DJ. By the end of the film Taylor has had enough of Dickerson's behavior.
- Marty pulls a rather epic double-facepalm at Lt. Hauk's...err, jokes.
- Implied in poor Garlick's tone when hopelessly telling Cronauer he needs very specific family-sanctioned introductions to talk to his love interest, before posing as a teacher in her English class.
- Fire-Breathing Diner: It's Vietnamese cooking!Adrian Cronauer: Shit! This stuff is burning the hair off my feet!
- Giftedly Bad: Hauk has certain opinions on what is and isn't funny, but his routine falls flat. He even goes so far as to use a squeaky horn for comedic interrupts and bleeping.Hauk: In my heart, I know I'm funny.
- Gilligan Cut: Tuan arranges a date between his sister, Trinh, and Adrian, but warns Adrian that he won't like it when he gets there; he'll say it's ridiculous. "Why? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." Cue Trinh in front of a dozen of her family members serving as chaperones and greeting Adrian, and his looking less than pleased."Oh, God, this could be very ugly."
- Gung Holier Than Thou: Dickerson."That is humor. I recognize that. I also recognize your species of soldier."
- Harmless Villain: Hauk spends the film as little more than an annoyance. He berates Cronauer for his taste in both humor and musical programming but nobody takes him seriously.
- Hate Sink: Dickerson, so very, very much. There's absolutely nothing redeeming about him despite serving in the military. Taylor even lampshades it when reassigning him as punishment for his vindictiveness. This portrayal is partly because of the residual disdain in that period for "Regular Army" (i.e. The Military in general) since the Vietnam war. This disdain wasn't fully purged until the Baby Boomers finally grew up and we had a war we could be "proud of". At about that time very short haircuts and shaving one's head suddenly became cool. This movie is more balanced on that topic than most movies from that time, but even it occasionally slips an anti-military dig or two.
- Heroic BSoD: Cronauer gets into a bit of a funk following his suspension (see Could Say It, But... above). He's reluctant to return to the radio even after Gen. Taylor revokes the suspension, until...
- He's Back: ...Edward, driving Cronauer, pulls over near a troop convoy and convinces him to do an impromptu session to prove that Cronauer really is loved by the troops, come what may.
- Hollywood History: The real Adrian Cronauer readily admits he was nowhere near as funny or outrageous as Williams (of course, who could be?). Most of the movie, in fact, is fabricated. Cronauer just played rock music with no commentary and was sent home when his tour was over.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Cronauer refers to his slot as 'the Adrian Cron-hour'.
- Insult Backfire: When Jimmy tells Adrian of his fetish, soldiers' ankles, and offers Adrian his bar for pictures of them, he says, "You're a very sick man, you know that, don't you?" and Jimmy takes it as a great compliment.
- Karma Houdini: Downplayed. On one hand, Taylor purposely reassigns Dickerson to Guam for being a petty, vindictive asshole. On the other hand it never comes to light that Dickerson intentionally routed Cronauer through a Viet Cong-controlled highway with the intent of getting him killed. In real life this would almost certainly result in Dickerson spending the rest of his life in prison.
- Knight of Cerebus: Dickerson, a monumentally hateful villain who seems imported from a much more serious movie.
- The Last DJ: Cronauer, quite literally. The troops love him, most of his superiors don't.
- Meaningful Name: Sgt. Maj. Dickerson, Cronauer's bullying superior.
- Meaningless Villain Victory: Sgt. Maj. Dickerson does manage to get Cronauer off the air (and out of the military to boot), but in doing so, he shows himself to be such a petty, mean-spirited asshole that Gen. Taylor can't stomach him anymore and has him reassigned to Guam. Taylor also puts Garlick on the air as Cronauer's replacement, knowing full well that he will keep things going the way Cronauer would have.
- Mickey Mousing: A minor example: an establishing shot of soldiers de-boarding from a carrier plane is synced up to another of those polka records Hauk loves so much.
- Mood Whiplash: The movie starts off very funny and irreverent, as Cronauer adjusts (or doesn't) to life in South Vietnam with characteristic hilarity. Then he's almost blown up by a Viet Cong bomb, and finds out that the Vietnamese kid he'd become friendly with is actually a Viet Cong guerrilla trying to kill as many Americans as he can. Cronauer eventually becomes horribly disillusioned with the whole situation. Needless to say, the movie ends on a bit of a downer.
- The Neidermeyer: Sgt. Maj. Dickerson, Cronauer's despicable superior.
- No Indoor VoiceCronauer: (faking like he's taking a phone call) Hi, who's this?Cronauer: (faking like he's calling in): MY NAME'S BOB FIBBER!Cronauer: Hi Bob, what do you do?Cronauer: I'M IN ARTILLERY!Cronauer: Listen, can we play anything for you?Cronauer: ANYTHING, JUST PLAY IT LOUD, OK?!
- No Sense of Humor: Hauk's sense of humor is so abysmal that it nearly counts as this. Dickerson recognizes humor but disapproves of it.
- OOC Is Serious Business: As Garlick tells McPherson when Cronauer leaves the station, "A man does not refer to Pat Boone as a 'musical genius' if things are all right."
- Passing the Torch: A middle scene has Cronauer messing with Garlick to see what he'd be like as a radio host. After he's reassigned because of his unwitting friendship to a VC, Garlick takes his place.
- Polka Dork: Lt. Hauk is the only member of the United States Armed Forces in Vietnam who thinks it's a good idea to play three hours of Polka over the radio. It's not the only reason why General Taylor kicks him out of host duties and reassigns Croanuer, but even Hauk agrees that it was too much (he still offers to cut down on it if he stays as a host, not get rid of it completely).
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Hauk, so very much.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: General Taylor is a pretty nice guy and is willing to give Cronauer rather a lot of latitude compared to the rest of the brass. As he sees it, Cronauer keeps the morale of the troops up, so Taylor doesn't really care if he bends or even breaks the rules a bit to do so.
- Reassigned to Guam: Sgt. Dickerson's ultimate punishment for his vindictiveness towards Cronauer.
- Running Gag / Book-Ends: Garlick keeps trying to start a jeep whose engine is already running, especially when he drives Cronauer from the airfield at the start of the movie and back to it at the end.
- Shaped Like Itself: Cronauer defines "groovy" as "it's like 'hey, groovy'" to his English class.
- Something Only They Would Say: "FLIP THEM THE BIRD!"
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," played over a montage of a village being carpet-bombed, suspected VC members being shot, antiwar riots in the streets of Saigon, and troops on duty at a firebase.
- As it happens, the use of that song also counts as Anachronism Stew since it was only recorded in 1967, two years after the events of the film.
- Stalking Is Love: Cronauer runs after a woman he likes the look of, then bribes his way into getting close to her. Of course, this is seen as fun, romantic, and not at all creepy.
- Take That!: Hauk asks who they can get for entertainment, and wants to know why Bob Hope won't come, to which Garlick replies, "He doesn't play police actions, only wars. Bob likes a big room, sir!" Reportedly, Hope himself was offended by the line and remonstrated with Robin Williams over it when they met face-to-face on The Tonight Show.
- Title Drop: Cronauer regularly shouts the title, used with regularity to greet on-air listeners.
- Uriah Gambit: Dickerson issues Cronauer a pass to interview troops in the field, without telling him that the only road into the area is held by the enemy and dotted with landmines. He aims to Make It Look Like an Accident.
- Use Your Head: Cronauer headbutts a man in the Bar Brawl, then tries to do the same to his companion, only to find he's One Head Taller. Oh, Crap!.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The real Adrian Cronauer says the movie is inaccurate. In truth, pretty much everything except the basic details was fabricated. For example, instead of being the staunch liberal, antiwar, anti-military Robin Williams (despite being in a volunteer-only branch), he describes himself as a "lifelong card-carrying Republican" and was a vice-chairman of the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign, was sent home when his tour ended and states that much of what Williams did would have gotten him court-martialled in a heartbeat. He was also a Sergeant, not an Airman First Class.
- Cronauer really did teach an English class but didn't lie his way in nor use it to chase a local.
- Wiper Start: Garlick keeps trying to start jeeps that are already running.[the third time Garlick attempts to start an already started car]Adrian: Staggers the imagination.Garlick: Makes me unique?Adrian: What a plus.
- You Need to Get Laid: "You are in more dire need of a blow job than any white man in history." (Cronauer, to Dickerson upon being discharged from the Air Force)General Taylor: Goddammit that's funny.