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Shell Shocked Veteran / Film

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Animated

  • Skipper, a WWII Corsair, from Planes is this, having lost his entire squadron on their first mission. It traumatized him so badly, that he cannot even bring himself to fly any more, which is pretty significant considering he's a plane.
  • Thoroughly played for laughs in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, where the traumatized and cynical mercenary hired to help La Résistance is not discernibly older than the protagonists, themselves nine-year-olds.
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  • Both Calhoun and Markowski in Wreck-It Ralph. Calhoun was designed with a traumatic past by the designers of Hero's Duty, while the unfortunate Mauve Shirt Markowski has gone into shell-shock after only two weeks.
    Ralph: I thought it would be like Centipede! When did video games become so violent and scary?!

Live-Action

  • Major West from 28 Days Later. He starts off as your standard rational-minded, stoic Officer and a Gentleman type but further probing reveals things are much, much worse. After the loss of what remains of his unit — all of eight men — to Jim's Roaring Rampage of Revenge, he just plain goes insane.
  • Across the Universe: By the time the film ends, the former Deadpan Snarker Ivy League frat boy Max has become this, because of Vietnam.
  • In Act of Violence, both Frank and Joe aren’t integrating back into civilian life that well. Frank is able to keep up a happy façade, but eventually breaks down when the memories of his POW life haunt him. On the other hand, Joe could never possibly assimilate until he accomplishes his insane idea of murdering Frank.
  • Spoofed in Airplane!, where the protagonist is a shell-shocked fighter pilot who ends up having to fly a jet airliner.
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    • This was taken directly from Zero Hour, from which Airplane! was adapted.
    • Airplane II: The Sequel—"I lost my squadron." "Over Macho Grande?" "No. I don't think I'll ever get over Macho Grande."
  • Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies (after the first one) is another James Cameron example.
  • American Sniper: Chris Kyle becomes this by the third act of this film, not because of all the people he's killed (or so he insists), but rather due to Chronic Hero Syndrome and Survivor Guilt.
  • Parodied in Anger Management with a Shell-Shocked Veteran...who fought in the Grenada Invasion, which lasted less than two months with very few casualties.
  • Colonel Kurtz is technically still at war in Apocalypse Now, but boy has the cheese slid off his cracker.
    • Also Captain Willard, who is already quite messed up when the film begins and we can only imagine what goes on in his head by the end. Lance eventually shows this as well.
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  • The three protagonists of The Best Years of Our Lives, returning home from WWII. Al can no longer relate to his wife or his children who grew up without him, and is turning into an alcoholic. Fred, a retired bomber pilot, finds himself having nightmares wherein he relives dramatic war scenes. Homer lost his hands in the war and is now ashamed of his artificial hooks which makes him feeling uncomfortable around his family or his girl-next-door sweetheart.
  • Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. Possibly subverted, as a cut scene reveals he was never in Nam.
  • Black Dynamite in Black Dynamite speaks about his past and a his story about a dead Viet Cong child.
  • Roy Scheider's character Frank Murphy in Blue Thunder is a Vietnam veteran who suffers occasional flashbacks of an NVA soldier falling out of a helicopter that he was piloting. This turns out to be plot-significant, as his nemesis, Colonel Cochrane, is the one who threw the soldier out. The Epiphany Therapy following this realization allows him to defeat Cochrane.
  • Played for laughs in Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke when Pedro de Pacas (Cheech Marin) takes Man (Tommy Chong) to meet his cousin Strawberry (Tom Skerritt), the comedic epitome of this trope. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Frankie Dunlan in Combat Shock is a Vietnam veteran who has flashbacks of being ambushed by an NVA squad and being tortured as a POW.
  • The Deer Hunter centers around three men who go to Vietnam and end up very traumatized by the experience. Steven lost both his legs, Michael is downright catatonic and triggered by seeing joking threats with guns, and Nick couldn't even return home, as while he wandered through Saigon he was roped into a Russian Roulette gambling den - when Mike returns to bring him back, he's a shell of his former self, indifferent to everything.
  • Desert Heat features Eddie Lomax, a Returning War Vet who's Driven to Suicide at the begining of the film.
  • All four main characters in The English Patient.
  • In The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Hugh Grant plays a cartographer visiting the small and idyllic Welsh village of Ffynnon Garw. Many people there go by their nicknames alone: for example Thomos Twp and Thomas Twp Two, a pair of brothers with mental disabilities; Thommy Twostroke who fixes motor engines; Evans the End of the World; and poor Johnny (Shellshocked) Jones, normally referred to as Johnny Shellshocked. A good portion of the film dedicates itself to his difficult recovery from the War to End All Wars, as he overcomes his terror of large hills, starts talking again and joins the rest of the town in climbing it. Grant's character is also one; though largely recovered, he says he came back from the trenches much like Johnny (which is how he knows to treat Johnny's panic attack partway through the film).
  • In The Final, Parker is a Vietnam vet who is haunted by he experiences in the war. He eventually reveals to Kurtis that he believes he won his medals for cowardice: he hid while the rest of his unit got wiped out, making him the sole survivor.
  • Scourge in Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough has a PTSD attack in which he imagines his room turning into a war-zone and starts choking his mother.
  • Firefox protagonist Mitchell Grant, a Vietnam vet forced into stealing a plane from the Soviets. He even has nightmares about the children who died because of his actions in the war.
  • Flags of Our Fathers is the true story of the aftermaths of the five Marines and Navy Hospital Corpsman who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
  • Godzilla (1954) gives us Daisuke Serizawa, a brilliant but quiet scientist who wears a eyepatch. The reason he does so is because he's fought in World War II. The end result is losing his left eye and a horrible scar. And as the creator of the Oxygen Destroyer, he makes it clear he did not want to use it as a weapon, but the titular monster utterly destroys his hometown of Tokyo, forcing him to change his mind and use it against Godzilla.
  • The Guardian (2006): Senior Chief Randall wasn't in a war, unless you count the constant battle against the elements, but he still has flashbacks to one mission in particular in which he was the Sole Survivor.
  • Steve Butler (played by Tommy Lee Jones) in the 1993 movie Heaven & Earth, based on the Vietnam War.
  • Tydeus in Hercules (2014) is an extreme example. His war experiences left him unable to speak, but Hercules tells us he relives them every night.
  • Spoofed again in Hot Shots! with Tug Benson (Lloyd Bridges). At a soldier's funeral, he mistakes the 21-gun salute for an enemy attack... and responds in kind. Also, every possible part of him is a replacement to a war loss (exception: "My skin's made of asbestos. Tanning parlor accident at Dien Bien Phu.").
  • Katniss in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Being in two Hunger Games and a civil war will do that to you. The very first scene even opens with her in a Troubled Fetal Position, desperately trying to calm herself before she's given tranquilizers.
  • Jacob Singer in Jacob's Ladder appears to be this at first, but instead it's an aversion: he's already died, and has to come to terms with this fact and ultimately forsake his former life.
  • Quint in Jaws, who after seeing his ship sink and the survivors be eaten by sharks in World War II resorted to becoming an eccentric fisherman to cope with it.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • It's made clear in The Lost World: Jurassic Park that Malcolm does not want to go anywhere near Isla Sorna and although his Foreshadowing is delivered in a joking manner, viewers also know that he's remembering the brutal deaths of Muldoon, Nedry, Arnold, and Gennaro whenever he utters a warning.
      Malcolm: Oh, yeah. "Oooh, ahhh." that's how it always starts. But then later, there's running, and screaming.
    • In Jurassic Park III, when Grant discusses how the raptors are smarter than they ever guessed, Ellie looks downright terrified and admits that she'll never forget the sounds the raptors made when hunting her.
    • Like Malcolm and Ellie, Grant makes it clear that he never wants to return to Isla Nublar or Isla Sorna. When Billy blows the raptor whistle, he freezes up like the raptors were right there with him, and then later has a nightmare on the plane.
      Eric: I read both of your books. I liked the first one more. Before you were on the island. You liked dinosaurs back then.
      Grant: Back then, they hadn't tried to eat me yet.
    • This Character Blog twitter feed, depicting a hilariously traumatized grown-up Tim, who is compelled to mention how he was almost killed by dinosaurs when he was nine at every given opportunity.
  • Last Christmas: Though it isn't evident at the beginning, Kate is revealed as having been very deeply traumatized by her near death from a heart condition, which necessitated a transplant. Despite surviving, she's felt depressed ever since, and even tells Tom it might have been better if she'd died. Her parents appear to know her cheerful, snarky demeanor is a facade and worry about her, though aren't aware she's that depressed. She starts to get better in the course of the film.
  • The Last Command: Sergius, former general of the Russian Empire, now a struggling movie extra.
  • Nathan Algren from The Last Samurai.
  • Late Phases: Ambrose has killed a children during war. Even if blind, he keeps seeing the kid's face. The fact that he had no other choice and might very well invoke I Did What I Had to Do doesn't help him to forget and forgive himself.
  • Will in Leave No Trace is traumatized by his experiences overseas, likely in Afghanistan. Noises in general, and especially helicopters, spook him. He's also driven to stay away from even medium-size groups of people.
  • Let There Be Light is a 1946 U.S. Army documentary film by John Huston showing the therapy given to traumatized veterans returning from overseas. Although the film is actually quite optimistic, with all the soldiers fully recovered after an eight-week stay, the portrayal of deeply damaged veterans so displeased the Army that it shelved the movie. The film wasn't made available until 1980.
  • Frodo becomes one at the end of The Lord of the Rings.
  • In the 2015 film of Macbeth, Macbeth is portrayed as having PTSD, which gives a different angle to some of the story's supernatural elements: vision or hallucination?
  • Goodnight Robicheaux in The Magnificent Seven (2016). A legendary sharpshooter during the Civil War, his wartime experiences have left him struggling with panic and hallucinations even years later.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark is traumatized by the events of The Avengers — where he not only spent hours fighting an alien horde, but nearly died destroying their mothership. As a result, he barely sleeps, has nightmares when he does, and has panic attacks every time someone asks about "the battle of New York."
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap and the Falcon are "wounded warriors" who become friends through their mutual trauma of losing a close friend on the battlefield.
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron shows Tony still had traces of it. Once Scarlet Witch makes him see his worst fear, that would be evil aliens attacking and killing the other Avengers dead but leaving him alive. This inspires him to revive an old idea for defense against superpowered invaders — and it all goes down from there.
    • Avengers: Endgame shows that after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, everyone who survived has shades of this. The Snap was just that traumatizing. It's not at all unusual for people to just suddenly break down crying at random points in the day. The surviving Avengers deal with it in various ways:
      • Tony outright quits and retires to be with his new family.
      • Steve starts a support group to help other people deal with their grief.
      • Natasha throws herself into hero work and rescue work to distract herself and still breaks down on occasion.
      • Clint lashes out by becoming a Vigilante Man who kills criminals because he thinks it's unfair that scum like this survived The Snap when his family did not.
      • Bruce seems to cope better than the rest, but he still blames himself. Particularly because he lost to Thanos twice as Hulk and as Banner. This is what pushes him to finally accept the Hulk as part of himself and merge with him for good.
      • Thor suffers the worst of it due to having already lost so much and because he didn't go for the head. He ends up drowning his sorrows in beer and junk food and Fortnite for five years, becoming a fat slovenly mess as a result.
  • Agent K from Men in Black. In the third movie, we find out this isn't because of his career fighting aliens, but because he saw Agent J's father die and had to comfort J, who at the time was just a little boy named James looking for his father. And this was after he had met grown-up J, who had time-traveled from the future, and realized that he was talking to his future colleague.
  • M.F.A.: Noelle and Skye are both shown as traumatized by their rapes to different degrees. Skye cuts herself, and eventually it escalates to suicide. Noelle has painful flashbacks and is triggered by a memory of what her rapist did while engaging in consensual foreplay with another man.
  • In Midwinter Night's Dream, Lazar was conscripted into the Serbian army during The Yugoslav Wars and forced to commit atrocities against civilians. Ten years later, he still suffers from flashbacks and Catapult Nightmares.
  • Miss Meadows: It's gradually revealed that Miss Meadows actually has deep-seated trauma due to seeing her mother murdered as a child, with vivid hallucinations showing her still alive. She deals with it by killing criminals as a vigilante, plus her eccentricities. Most of the time, she puts acts very cheerful and proper, but in private we see that she's very depressed. She also wonders, after becoming pregnant, whether it would be right to have a child in this world.
  • Parodiednote  in Not Another Teen Movie, with Randy Quaid's character. Doubles as a Casting Gag: Quaid played a shell-shocked Vietnam Vet in the 80s teen film The Wild Life.
  • The Patriot: Benjamin Martin is still haunted by his service in the French and Indian War, particularly what he and his men did to the French at Fort Wilderness.
  • Addressed briefly in Patton, when the title general lambasts a traumatized soldier for what was then called "Battle Fatigue" but which Patton calls cowardice.
  • In Preservation, Sean is a discharged veteran recently returned from Afghanistan who is suffering from PTSD.
  • Rambo was a POW in Vietnam and was tortured thoroughly. In a scene in First Blood, cops have him locked down in the cell block and torture him with a firehose before restraining him to try shaving him. Rambo has a flashback to getting partially flayed in Vietnam and freaks out, beating his tormentors and escaping.
  • Major Randolph Doryan, the commander of the British Army base near Kirrary in Ryan's Daughter, is a shell-shocked veteran of the trenches in World War I; in one scene, village idiot Michael is absently tapping his leg on a pub bench, and the noise causes Doryan to flash back to his war experiences and temporarily go into a catatonic state.
  • As summed up by world & war-weary Kambei in The Seven Samurai after the good guys have won at the cost of the lives of four of the seven comrades: So. Again we are defeated. The farmers have won. Not us.
  • In Stag, Dan Kane's on-screen introduction describes him as a Gulf War veteran suffering from PTSD.
  • In Stalag 17, Joey suffers from this and for much of the movie has a blank look on his face, Only when he is playing his ocarina and watching the mole get his well-deserved fate does he smile.
  • Stop-Loss is considered a Spiritual Successor to The Best Years of Our Lives, highlighting the troubles of returning Iraq War soldiers. One character in particular is an alcoholic who can't relate to his wife, and she opts to just slap him with a restraining order rather than deal with him. The protagonist also has hallucinations and nightmares over all the people he's killed.
  • Ax-Crazy character Bronson in the movie Street Trash is an extreme example of this trope.
  • In The Substitute, Shale clearly has some hangups about Vietnam and uses his experiences to discipline students. "You had to be resourceful in Vietnam!" - Said after injuring a student with a soda can.
  • Asshole Victim Harry March in Sweet Country is a veteran of the Boer War, and is hinted to have PTSD which contributes to his alcoholism and erratic behaviour.
  • Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day embodies this, and all its positive and negative connotations.
    • In the first movie, Kyle Reese fits this trope, having come from a post-apocalyptic Bad Future where a brutal Robot War rages between killer machines and the few human survivors. He even gets a flashback to fighting in the war from a crane in a construction site.
  • Trench 11: Berton is a Tunnel King during World War I who survives a tunnel collapse, digging himself out after he was thought to be dead. He becomes The Alcoholic and has to be pulled from a bar by military police and pressed back into service against his will for a mission that needs his expertise.
  • The character Parker in Troma's War, who seems to be a spoof of director Oliver Stone(apparently an old friend of the film's director Lloyd Kaufman).
  • Parodied, then subverted with Tropic Thunder's Four Leaf Tayback, who it's later revealed made everything up, including his amputated hands.
  • Pretty much every survivor from Bingo Crepuscule trench in A Very Long Engagement. Except Manech has amnesia; he might not be scarred.
  • The War: Stu's dad suffers from this and the prejudice people have toward it.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior:
    • Tommy is a veteran of the Iraq war.
    • Paddy as well. If his drunken ramblings are historically accurate, he was reliving his closest friends and coworkers heading toward certain doom courtesy of a dumbass leader.
  • In The Windmill Massacre, Jack is a Royal Marine recently returned from Afghanistan. Suffering from PTSD, his squad mates take him to visit a prostitute, where he suffers a flashback, freaks out and commits Accidental Murder.
  • One of the news segments in WNUF Halloween Special is about a shellshocked Vietnam veteran, who shot a kid whom he mistook for a Vietcong insurgent when he appeared on his door for trick or treat.
  • The film Windtalkers begins by showing Sgt. Joe Enders fighting the Imperial Japanese Army in WW2, which also shows events that leads to him being shell-shocked; events that would play a major role in developing his character throughout the film and how events proceeds.
  • Charlie, the team's Friendly Sniper in Wonder Woman (2017), has been officially discharged, but Steve convinces him to return for One Last Job. When liberating Veld, the team comes under fire from a sniper in a bell tower. Charlie takes aim... and has a nervous breakdown. At another point, he wakes up screaming "Don't go in there!" He suggests he go home, but Diane (having even less concept of PTSD than anyone around her) suggests he stay, because they wouldn't have anyone to sing for them (Steve mentions he hadn't heard Charlie sing in years).
  • Exaggerated in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in a bedroom exchange between a traumatized Logan (whose healing powers make him well over a hundred years old) and his lover Silver Fox.
    Silver Fox: Was it the war?
    Logan: Yes.
    Silver Fox: Which one?
    Logan: All of them.note 
  • You Were Never Really Here: Joe is a severely traumatized man who has frequent flashbacks to his time overseas. One particular moment that haunts him is giving a local boy a candy bar and then watching that boy get murdered over the candy bar only moments later.
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