Apocalypse NowAFI Rank: #28
Year Released: 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Actors: Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Frederick Forrest, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford
Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite war movies and is just as powerful now as it was at its release. This is not a typical war movie where a team of soldiers plows in to take out an enemy objective and achieves it despite challenging odds. Instead, it is much more psychological. It is about a lone assassin who is sent out to take out one of his own - an intelligent, well respected colonel who has tipped over into the edge of madness. And as Sheen heads up-river towards his goal, he encounters enough madness in the daily course of war to make him wonder just who is sane in this chaotic world.
It seems that every single character here is played by a stellar actor, even the tiny parts. Harrison Ford is an aide. Laurence Fishburne managed to sneak on set when he was barely 14! Look at the things this character is doing in the movie - mowing down innocent women and children - and imagine a fourteen year old boy taking on that part. Interestingly, the film took so long to make - 3 years - that by the time it finished Laurence had actually aged in real life to finally be 17 years old, the age his character was supposed to be in the film. It's sad enough thinking of a 17 year old having to go through those things.
The scenes parodied in other films such as Tropic Thunder originally had their power and glory here. The blast of napalm on the trees. The fleet of helicopters thundering towards a village while Ride of the Valkyries plays. Martin Sheen rising up out of the murky water, only his eyes showing at first. There are so many scenes and phrases here that are iconic, that are used and copied and referenced in numerous other books, TV shows, and movies. Watching this film is almost a requirement to understand the many other works which play off of it.
Clearly this was made to be a men-only film. The only three women who show up are the three Playboy bunnies who are sent in to entertain the troops - and they barely have begun to dance before the stage is mobbed and they have to run for their lives. So the movie is strongly focused on men, the chaos they deal with in war, and how it affects their sense of self, right, and wrong.
Definitely a must-watch movie.
AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100